WaterWorks Art Auction: 42 years and counting

Denise Hartse
Star Staff Writer

The WaterWorks Art Museum (WAM) staff members are gearing up for the 42nd Annual Art Auction in September. 

“This event is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Dixie Rieger, executive director of the museum. “It funds future exhibits and our outreach that covers 30,000 square miles. We go to 11 counties, Custer, Carter, Powder River, Garfield, Prairie, Fallon, Dawson, Rosebud, Treasure, Valley and McCone. We have plans to go into Sidney in Richland County this year too.”

According to Rieger, artists across the nation send art to help support the museum’s programs.

“WAM would not be able to offer this event if it were not for our local sponsor, First Interstate Bank,” added Rieger. “They not only help monetarily, but also volunteer to be the auction clerk and help in other areas the night of the big event.”

Additional support for the event comes from the Montana Arts Council, Montana Cultural Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts.

WAM will hold two opening receptions for the exhibit, according to a news release from the art museum. The first is a WAM Members Only Exhibit Preview on Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. The second reception is open to the public and is from 1 to 4 on Sunday afternoon. Refreshments will be served at both receptions.

“This exhibit is unique in that it opens weeks before the actual auction, which is Saturday evening, Sept. 30, in the art museum,” Rieger said.

During the Saturday evening opening, artist Jessica Blankenship and Peter D’Ascoli, a full-time doctor and part-time potter, both of Miles City, will be doing quick finishes. On Sunday, Blankenship and artist Dana Zier of Bridger will share their quick finish skills.

“A quick finish is a little different from the Quick Draw we have during the Bucking Horse Sale,” said Rieger. “The artists have 30 minutes from start to finish with the Quick Draw. With a quick finish, artists can start their pieces whenever they want, but they are to bring them to the specified event ready to finish them there. They will have about two hours to finish their pieces at each opening. They will put in final details and finish their works so people can watch them.”

The Members Only Exhibit Preview reception also marks the start of the silent auction of artworks that will continue until the night of the live auction on Sept. 30.

“The silent auction has approximately 40 pieces,” said Rieger. “Every piece in the silent auction will have a ‘buy it now’ price. If you want a piece in the silent auction, you can purchase the piece for the ‘buy it now’ price and not worry about losing the artwork to a higher bidder.”

Rieger added, “There will be 41 pieces in the live auction, along with the four quick finish pieces that the artists will do that night.” For a list of participating artists, see page 2.

Quick finish artists the night of the live auction will be D’Ascoli and Keely Perkins, both of Miles City, Stephen D. Rathburn of Billings and KJ Kahnle (pronounced Conley) of Hamilton.

“We also have Absentee Bidder Registration forms for the live auction,” said De Nice Curry, administrative assistant of the art museum. “You can pick them up at the art museum, we’ll mail them to you, you can call us at 406-234-0635 and we’ll fill one out for you or you can get them at our website, wtrworks.org, click on exhibits, go to present and upcoming exhibits, and click on 42nd Annual Art Auction.”

According to the form, bidders who are not able to attend the live auction may participate through a proxy bidder. Forms must be completed and returned to the museum by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22.

The WAM is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays and holidays.

Rieger added, “We’re also leaving the art museum’s 40-year exhibit up for the art auction. This is the 40th anniversary for the center and the 42nd Annual Art Auction. Two auctions were held before the art museum officially opened in 1977. The anniversary display is a walk down memory lane.”

The facility was renovated from the concrete water holding tanks of the 1910 WaterWorks that produced drinking water for Miles City for more than 60 years. The WAM is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It received the Governor’s Award for best adaptation of a historic structure in 1979 and was named the 2003 recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Arts. 

“The WaterWorks Art Museum is a cultural leader in southeastern Montana,” said Terri Newby, executive assistant of the Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce. “Its presence in Miles City is, and has always been, a vital component of our region. Permanent collections, traveling exhibits, and quality educational opportunities for children and adults are just a few of its valuable contributions toward building our strong community.”

Attendance at and participation in the 2017 art auction activities will help ensure that the WAM will continue to enrich the lives of residents of Miles City and Montana for many years to come, according to Rieger. 

She also encouraged local and area residents to attend an opening reception or stop at the WAM during its hours of operation saying, “The exhibit looks like a color explosion. It’s beautiful.”

(Contact Denise Hartse at localife@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)