Art for Auction initiative supports Harrisburg nonprofits

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Local art for auction — art prints, a handcrafted wooden bench, tie-dyed items, a handmade vegan leather clutch, acrylic coasters, earrings, and more — is being used to benefit local Harrisburg area nonprofit organizations.

Much like Exercise Change, the initiative started small and on Instagram.

Tie Dye Dress | art4auction717

The woman behind the account (@art4auction717) is local artist, Sara Sweger.

“My mom was an artist and growing up that’s how we would spend time together is her teaching me how to draw. I stopped for a long time, but over the past few years, I have slowly started to get back into experimenting with different mediums and techniques,” Sweger said.

“Early on in quarantine, I like everyone else, just felt kind of anxious and aloof and putting that energy into more artwork and then giving my pieces away to friends. It was an outlet for me and I really didn’t want any money from anyone.”

Sweger said she observed the discussions on social media about bail funds and community services and programs that could lessen or eliminate the need for police presence in some neighborhoods.

“It got me thinking about the community programs within the Harrisburg area,” Sweger said. “I decided that any art I would make going forward, if someone insisted on paying me it could just be as a donation to one of the local organizations in the area.”

Sweger then reached out to other local artists to gauge interest in the premise: Offer a service/piece for auction; payment to be in the form of a donation to a local organization.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and Sweger launched art4auction717.

Painting | art4auction717

How art4auction717 works

Pieces are posted a few days in advance on the Instagram account and include:

  • Item for auction
  • Length of auction
  • Artist
  • Item value
  • Starting bid
  • Organization for donation

To bid on an item, you simply comment with your bid. I did this just yesterday on a tie-dyed t-shirt from Kids In Color (I’ve been coveting their styles and was thrilled to donate to a good cause for the tee).

The auction runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., so bookmark that page and be sure to check back. After 7 p.m., Sweger direct messages the winner with the direct donation link for that auction’s charity. For me, it was the Dauphin County Bail Fund. I made my donation online then sent the screenshot confirmation to Sweger.

We’re arranging pickup for this weekend.

Local artists making an impact

I spoke with Sweger about her initiative, how she sources artists and chooses nonprofits to work with.

SB: How are you sourcing the local artists? 

SS: Initially, the artists involved were made up of a small group of people that I know personally or know of who live in the area. Other artists that have been included were found on social media or suggested by those already involved.

Now that the artist pop-ups are starting to happen on Friday and Saturdays, I’m going to try to go to each of them to speak with the artists in-person which I think is more approachable than essentially doing “cold calls” via Instagram.

How are you choosing the nonprofits? 

A lot of the organizations were suggested by friends who have worked with them previously and is based on the organizations’ goals for the community.

I think it’s being highlighted now more than ever the importance of communities having spaces and programs available for its members and those programs/spaces don’t normally have the biggest budgets.

My hope is that this auction can help with some of the finances as well as making people aware of organizations are within their neighborhoods.

Bid recipients of art4auction717

How has the reception been so far? 

So far, the reception has been great. There has been a lot of positive encouragement from everyone involved including the people who are bidding on the art.

What are your goals for the future? 

Ideally, I want to start to reach out to other areas to do the same. I know of a few artists in Lancaster and Philly that I would like to do the same thing with, and proceeds would go to local organizations in those areas. I’m still working out some of the logistics with Harrisburg but once I have that figured out, branching out into other communities is on my list.

Any items you’re particularly excited about? 

As cheesy as it is, I’m excited for every item. Handmade items just have so much love and care put into them and are true expressions of the artist.

It’s been interesting to get such a different variety of items from handmade furniture to wearable things like jewelry or clothes, paintings and photography. I’m excited to see what else will be apart of the auction going forward.  

How long do you expect to continue the auction? 

I’ve decided to run the auction for four weeks stretches with an “off week” in-between so I can rest and regroup. As of right now, I think I have enough items to run for at least another two months or so. I still haven’t received all the items from the original donors and am still reaching out to other artists as they pop up so I’m hoping that this will be a long-lasting auction.

To see past and current items for bid, or to donate your goods or artwork for art4auction717, visit Sweger’s Instagram profile.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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