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MassArt’s annual auction, virtual this year, supports student scholarships

Before the auction begins, visitors will be able to attend free preview parties.Emily Eveleth

A year of unemployment and shutdowns coupled with tuition costs and living fees has left many art students struggling to stay afloat — and enrolled. The 32nd annual MassArt auction can help address those challenges.

“This year, we have a particular mission in mind to try to get our seniors over the finish line,” said Elizabeth Lowrey, auction co-chair. “Because too many of them wonder, ‘How will I pay this tuition bill?’ every semester.”

Derrick Adams's "Party Guest 1" was inspired by COVID-19.Derrick Adams

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s the second year that the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a public arts college in Boston, will host the annual event virtually. The silent auction officially opens at noon on Saturday, March 27, and ends at noon on April 11, while the live auction takes place online April 10 at 8 p.m. Together, the two auctions will feature over 325 works from renowned MassArt students, graduates, and faculty. Several pieces are inspired by COVID-19.

Artists with works in the auction donate either 50 percent or 100 percent of the profits to support MassArt scholarships. A “Raise Your Paddle” event at the end of the live auction is a chance for attendees to support MassArt seniors who need financial assistance.


While putting together last year’s auction virtually was a last-minute adjustment, this year’s planning was much easier. If anything, the benefits of holding the auction online became clearer, organizers said.

“The world has changed the last auction, and we’re not going back,” said Daren Bascome, the other auction co-chair. “The team has really tried to use that first year as a learning experience as to how to make this bigger and better. The market that we’re looking to target for the event doesn’t even really have geographical boundaries any longer.”

"Futures Friday Court 4, Cloudy (Balls)"Pelle Cass

Over the last decade, MassArt had to constrict the size and magnitude of the auction based on physical space, said Bascome, founder of Proverb brand agency and a MassArt trustee. This year’s auction is all about accessibility — for the first time, guests will not need to buy tickets to attend the auctions or preview parties.


Preview parties offer a chance to meet artists and see their work, tour studios, and hear from experts on topics like how to curate prints or use art in interior design.

"Yellowness is Non-Materialistic"Neetu Singhal

Organizers hope the event will boost appreciation of public arts education. “I hope people take away how important an arts education is to our economy,” said Lowrey, principal and director of interior architecture at Elkus Manfredi Architects and a MassArt Foundation board member. “That it really is a career and a passion. I want people to understand that MassArt plays a really integral part [in] Boston’s creative economy. The school is training and educating these young creators and innovators.”

"Drawing Class"Bret Woodard

“It always has been one of those events that everybody kind of knew about,” said Bascome. “But now the world can know about it.”

For more information about the schedule, including preview parties, visit https://massart.edu/auction.

Natachi Onwuamaegbu can be reached at natachi.onwuamaegbu@globe.com.