Some people might think of an art auction as being a bit stuffy and formal.
That’s not the case with the annual Echo Valley Art Auction, happening Sunday at Rader Park in Lancaster.
“This is all about having fun. It’s an experience where you get to meet the artists, enjoy live music, have great food and possibly get a great piece of art at a great price,” says Carol Toner Shane of Echo Valley Art Group. “It’s outdoors in the park and benefits artists and local art education programs.”
The Echo Valley Art Auction also has lots of history. The group began more than 75 years ago by a highly esteemed group of local artists and art educators. The auction has a long history, too, though its exact start date is unknown.
The setting at Rader Park is relatively new; this year’s event will mark the sixth time the event has been held at the park tucked away near the Church of the Apostles at 1850 Marietta Ave., Lancaster. Shane considers Rader Park a well-kept secret; it was created as an outdoor ministry of the Church of the Apostles, encompassing some 20 acres developed with an eye toward stewardship of the earth and faithful ecological practices.
Many of the artists in the Echo Valley event have been in the group for 25 years or longer; attendees can snag an abstract painting by Susan Gottlieb or a stunning piece of pottery by Dick Ressel. Even relative newcomers are honored to be invited to join, like Jerome Hershey or Rob Evans, who have both been members for about five years.
Current membership includes Abby Rudisill, Ann DeLaurentis, Becky Blosser, Brant Schuller, Carol Morgan, Claire Giblin, Daniel Burns, Dick Whitson, Debbie Sigel, Ellen Slupe, Jeff Geib, Jim Gallagher, K.K. DePaul, Lou Schellenberg, Marlin Bert, Milton Friedly, Peg Richards and Scott Cantrell.
“Prices range from very low for artists who are cleaning out their studios to full market prices for paintings you would find in the finest galleries,” Shane explains. “Whether you purchase a great deal or a piece that means a great deal to you, no matter what the price, the real fun is getting to know the artists.”
The Echo Valley Art Auction fosters a relaxed atmosphere. Kids are encouraged to join their parents as they browse at all the work. In fact, Lancaster Catholic High School art teacher Susan Ulrich has free children’s art activities for the younger auction-goers.
“It will be a printmaking activity that’s great for all ages,” says Ulrich, who recently stepped into her role as Lancaster Catholic art teacher, after artist Ressel retired from the position.
Ressel has probably been a member of the Echo Valley Art Group longer than anyone. He joined some 32 years ago, and each year at the auction, he likes to depart a bit from his usual paintings to showcase his other great love: pottery.
“I will have some of my wheel-thrown pieces, which people don’t really expect from me. That’s part of what makes this auction so special. You never know what you might find,” Ressel says.
Ressel warns that art-lovers might just fall in love. Lucky for them, there is a way to make sure no one else gets the beloved work of art that you cannot live without. While most works are auctioned in a semi-traditional auction style, if there is something you must have, no matter the price, you can just bring it up to the table and pay the higher price.
“Or you can wait for it to go up for auction and hope no one else has also fallen in love,” Ressel says.
As for the auction part, that is half the fun. For nearly 25 years, Gottlieb has served as the main auctioneer. She sort of fell into the part, mainly because she enjoys talking and explaining each piece in her best art educator voice.
“I don’t do that professional fast, sing-song auctioneer style,” Gottlieb says. “But this year, we will be getting a little bit of help from a professional auctioneer Karl Boltz.”
Sketches, large-scale abstracts and more
As an artist and art teacher at Stone Independent School, Gottlieb will showcase her richly hued abstracts, as well as some of her sketches, studies, and smaller pieces from her “On the Road” cross-country trip exploring the west with students.
“The head of the school Mike Simpson and I have done this trip five times, together we have logged over 35,000 miles with students. And not highway driving, small road driving,” Gottlieb says. “From this recent trip, I did 72 small recordings of the land, and will have several at the auction.”
Hershey also helps out as an auctioneer, and will feature four to eight of his own card ink drawings that are done on gesso panels. As an artist with an established reputation for large-scale abstracts in bold color combinations, Hershey enjoys doing some smaller black and white pieces for the auction.
Evans usually works large too, but for the auction, he expects to have some smaller versions of his striking contemporary landscapes that play light against shadow in dramatic detail.
Milt Friedly will have a variety of items, such as Raku pottery, stoneware vases, original prints, and bronze sculptures. He has been an Echo Valley member for about 10 years.
“The best part is that we get to meet everyone and talk to the people. There are some very savvy collectors and others who are just starting out,” Friedly says.
In her 25 years with Echo Valley, abstract artist Abby Rudisill has enjoyed displaying her works that often feature vibrant swirling colors. She loves to encourage art-lovers to discover what they see in a painting.
“I love the interaction, not to mention the great food, music, and seeing all the artists after a year off,” Rudisill says.
Last year’s auction— like so many other fun things— was canceled in 2020 for the first time in decades.
“We are so happy to be back, and will be praying for good weather,” notes Shane, hoping that a little grace from the Apostles will bring sunshine for the Echo Valley Art Auction.