HOUSTON, Minnesota – The International Owl Center kicked off the fourth round of its Ukrainian Art auctions on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
This auction will run until June 26 and is a continuation of past Owl Center auctions, which raised a total of approximately $225,000 for UNICEF. Thanks to UNICEF, the money raised will be used to help Ukrainian children.
“We never intended the contest to be what it turned out to be,” said Karla Bloem, executive director of the International Owl Center.
International Owl Centers has ties to Ukraine through its International Owl Art Competition for Children. Launched in 2004, the International Owl Art Contest began as a coloring contest aimed at getting young people interested and involved in the Owl Festival.
Over the years, the art competition has grown to receive more than 2,000 entries from various international countries each year.
Due to the volume of entries, there would be no way to return all of the artwork submitted for the contest to the children due to shipping costs and the time it would take for center staff, Bloem said. . The center decided to make the contest a term that entrants consent to have their art become the property of the center and can be used for future fundraisers or publicity.
“We have thousands of works of art in storage, and they don’t do anyone any good to be in storage,” Bloem said. “It seems like a really good way to get more people to see and appreciate these amazing children’s works.”
The team that organizes art auctions typically consists of two or three Owl Center employees and two other volunteers, Bloem said.
1/2: A young Ukrainian artist paints a picture for an international art competition hosted by the International Owl Center in Houston, Minnesota.
2/2: A young Ukrainian artist poses with a photo sent to the International Owl Center for an art competition.
Taking photos of the artwork, resizing and renaming the images, importing them into Dropbox and software, and setting up payment systems is all the groundwork needed to put the art up for auction online.
“Jane Overstreet does it as a volunteer for us, which is wonderful,” Bloem said. “She’s in Northfield, so it’s not even close. She literally drives here to take all the pictures.
According to Bloem, there are 50 original artworks and four of the pieces have been printed with 25 copies of each available. Bloem said something new with this auction is that some of the pieces have a connection to the artist’s photo.
“What’s very special this year is (for) some Ukrainians, we have pictures of the artists with their artwork,” Bloem said. “You can buy one that really speaks to you and frame it and hang it in your home and then feel a connection to that artist.”
As of Wednesday, June 23, the highest bids at auction sit at $425 and $1,000 with three more days in the bidding process.
“I think a lot of people who have been in these (auctions) before are now waiting towards the end to bid so it doesn’t go up so fast, so soon,” Bloem said. “There are a lot of auctions happening just before the close, but so far this one has started very slowly compared to the others.”
After the auction closes, volunteers will work to organize the pieces and ship them to buyers.
“The huge part of the work comes when the auction ends and then we have to ship it all out,” Bloem said. “Oh my God, that’s a lot of work.”
People will be able to access the online auction at one.bidpal.net/ukrkidsart4ukrkids until June 26 and can donate to UNICEF through the auction page without bidding on the art.
The International Owl Art Center aims to increase its current fundraising total from $225,000 to $400,000.
According to the UNICEF website, the organization works with its partners in Ukraine “to provide vulnerable children and families with essential services – including health, education, protection, water and sanitation – as well as vital supplies”.