Big Names Sign On to Mystery Art Sale

Taylor Murphy, left, and John Pinos, Springs School students
Taylor Murphy, left, and John Pinos, Springs School students, worked on small canvases for the Springs Mystery Art Show during art class on Tuesday. Student work will be displayed and sold alongside that of professional artists from the community. Carissa Katz

For Sara Faulkner, the origin of the Springs Mystery Art Sale came from attending an event at the Royal College of Art in London, where big-name artists created postcard-sized pieces of artwork that were sold anonymously alongside student-created works — and all for relatively small amounts of money.

“The idea always stuck with me,” said Ms. Faulkner, an artist and native of the United Kingdom, whose family moved three years ago from Wales to Springs, where her 7 and 10-year-olds now attend school.

 “Owning an original piece of artwork is not always affordable, it’s not always within people’s reach,” said Ms. Faulkner. For the Mystery Art Sale, which will benefit the school’s Visiting Artists Program, each piece of 5-by-7-inch artwork, no matter the artist, will cost just $20. As in the Royal College of Art show, all works will be displayed anonymously. “You’re getting people to buy stuff, rather than fixate on the name,” Ms. Faulkner said.

That said, some pretty big-name artists have agreed to participate. Among them, according to organizers, are Ross Bleckner, Eric Fischl, John Alexander, Dan Aykroyd, William King, Connie Fox, Eugenio Cuttica, William Quigley, Jim Gingerich, Peter Dayton, Scott Hewett, and Almond Zigmund, with the list growing every day. The deadline for submitting artwork is April 7.

For others who want to contribute, packets are available for pickup at the Golden Eagle Art Store on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. Nancy Rowan, its owner, is a Springs parent who is one of the Mystery Art Sale’s organizers. She said she will happily email instructions as well. Any piece of similarly-sized canvas or cardboard will do, she said.

Finished pieces can be dropped off at the Golden Eagle or sent in an envelope to the school. Artists have been encouraged to sign only the back of their submissions. Writers, photographers, and sculptors may also submit pieces of the same dimensions.

The Mystery Art Sale will convene from April 23 to 27 at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. A closing party is planned for the afternoon and evening of April 26, when the identities of each artist will be revealed. Buyers can claim their pieces on April 27.

The show’s organizers see the potential for the Mystery Art Sale to become an annual event. Orange posters with white question marks, created by Colleen Bothwell, a graphic designer, adorn several local storefronts. Limited edition silk-screened T-shirts, which will also include the trademark question marks, are also in the works.

“When budgets are tight, the arts are the first to go,” said Ms. Rowan. “The school is actively fighting to keep the programs that matter going — and we’re not just relying on taxpayers to fund it. It’s in everyone’s best interest for the school to be strong and for the kids to thrive.”

The Visiting Artists Program brings professional artists into the school to help teach new and different ways of making art. Every year, each grade gets access to a different artist who instructs them in various techniques — be it printmaking, drawing, or illustration. Ms. Faulkner, whose background is in fine art and has worked as a set painter, has served as one of those visiting artists.

Additional proceeds will also help purchase new art supplies and equipment, while also funding art enrichment programs.

 In past years, parents have gone door to door asking local business owners to donate to the program. This not only frees them of that obligation, but organizers say the $20 price tag is proving a far more palatable alternative — with a potentially much wider reach. With more than 700 students and the anticipated participation of 250 artists, organizers are hopeful that the Mystery Art Sale might raise a significant amount of money.

 “We’re sitting in one of most richly artistic communities in the country,” said Ms. Faulkner. “Let’s tap into that.”

 “It’s a small ask,” said Ms. Rowan. “A little bit from everybody adds up to a lot.”