School uses art to show support for teachers

By Michael Kinney  

It can be nerve-wracking for almost any artist watching their work be auctioned. Whether it’s at a luxurious gallery in the heart of Los Angeles or a school fundraiser, they never know what the response will be when their work is displayed. 

Yet, in 2019 watching one of her paintings be auctioned is exactly what Oklahoma native Beth Hammack found herself doing after she donated it to Heritage Hall for its annual Heart of Gold Gala and fundraiser.  

“When it’s your art and the bidding has started, it’s really sensitive,” said Hammack. “Like maybe somebody won’t even pay $500. You don’t know.”  

 In the end, Hammack didn’t have too much to worry about. Her painting, which was originally valued at $3,800, sold for more than $10,000.   

For Hammack, it was a great moment for her to see that her value as an artist was growing. But she also knew the money was going to a great cause. She credits the success that her children have had in life to their time at Heritage Hall.  

“It was allowed to be in the live auction, and it got lots of attention. I had a happy ending,” Hammack said. “I figured my value went up that day at the auction. I’m not going to complain. It had a big bidding war. It was a good deal. I can do that again. It’s more money for the school.”  

Heart of Gold Gala co-chair Julie Leclercq shows off ‘One Fab Falcon’ from Wes Moulton, a student at Heritage Hall. Photo by Michael Kinney

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Hammack will once again have one of her paintings auctioned at the Heart of Gold Gala.

“Heart of Gold is Heritage Hall’s fundraiser, and it benefits our teachers,” said gala co-chair Julie Leclercq. “The majority of it supports faculty endowment, which helps Heritage Hall retain, recruit and reward excellent teachers. Committees select the endowed chair recipients, with the remainder of the money raised funding teacher bonuses.”  

The gala has been around for decades and used to be held every year. In 2019, Heritage Hall’s 50th year of operation, the school decided to rebrand the gala and changed the name to the Heart of Gold Gala.   

That same year, organizers decided to change the format to every other year to make it bigger and better. They wanted to add something special to go along with the gala festivities and auction.

“Our acquisitions team was gathering up packages for all sorts of things,” said gala co-chair Margo Ward. “We kept getting a lot of art. A lot of us know a lot of artists. And there are so many local artists. All of a sudden Julie said ‘this is turning into an art gallery. Wait, a Heart Gallery.’”  

From that epiphany came The HeART Gallery, which will make its debut this year.  

While the Roaring 20s themed gala and its $250 per ticket price tag are nearly sold out, the HeART Gallery is open to the public.  Anyone from the community can visit the Heritage Hall Embree Gallery (1800 NW 122nd Street) to view the donated pieces of art.   

It will give community members a chance to not only view the art but also to learn more about Heritage Hall.  

“I want people to take from our event a sense of community,” Leclercq said. “I want them to love Heritage Hall. I want it to pull at their heartstrings. I want everybody to be so appreciative that we have an opportunity to send our children here. That is not something Margo or I take for granted. Not everybody is able to provide an opportunity like this for their children. So, what an awesome thing we can do to give back to the teachers. It takes a village to raise children and they are really raising ours.” 

For those not able to attend, they can also view the art online (Heritagehall.com/heartgallery). It will allow prospective bidders to bid and view the tallies of what the highest bids are for each piece of work.  

The viewing and bidding will begin March 27 and run through April 9, the evening of the Heart of Gold Gala.  

According to Ward, the gallery will contain 40 pieces of art along with 20 pieces of jewelry, sculptures, and ceramics.   

Hammack has put forth a large 48×60 abstract painting that she has titled Telluride. Bidding will begin at $3,200, but she is hoping for another bidding war.   

Above, ‘Telluride’ by Beth Hammack. Top main photo: Brent Learned’s ‘Buffalo Hunt’

Along with Hammack, some of the featured artists include Brent Learned, Poteet Victory and Dennis Heimbach.   

One of the more unique items that will be auctioned comes from Robert Smith, the lead singer of the band The Cure. Smith is also an artist and a limited edition print of one of his paintings was donated by a Heritage Hall patron.  

‘When she purchased his piece of art, Smith contacted her and asked if he could do a limited number of prints of this piece of art before he gave it to her,” Leclercq said. “He wanted to continue to raise money for a heart association. But she asked if she could have a couple of prints for her to donate to nonprofits that are important to her. That is how we ended up with this print.”  

Heritage Hall art teachers and students have also created a variety of different commissioned pieces that will be auctioned as well.   

Leclercq and Ward are aiming to have this year’s festivities surpass 2019 when they took in a combined $200,000. With the addition of the HeART Gallery, they are optimistic they can make that happen.   

So far this year, Heritage Hall has raised over $100,000 just from the online auction. They are hoping to exceed $100,000 at the live auction and at least $60,000 at the HeART Gallery.  

“We are hoping to beat 2019 by $50,000, $100,000 just in acquisitions alone,” Ward said. “There is just a different excitement coming out of the pandemic and all that our teachers went through. To keep us online and then safely in the classroom all last year. I think this is the best way to say thank you to teachers.  It helps us retain and attract amazing teachers. I don’t want to be a teacher, so I love giving back to teachers. I learned at home, I am not a good teacher.” 

While the gala and surrounding festivities are a chance for the Heritage Hall Community to celebrate together after two years of battling the pandemic, at the end of the day, this event is still about celebrating the teachers who spend their days educating the hearts and minds of their students.

“I think sometimes we take for granted our teachers are going to stay here forever and they love the school as much as we love it. A lot of schools have endowment funds, but we didn’t start them until 2014,” Leclercq said. “So, we’re on a mission to have at least 15. We have about seven right now. So it shows our teachers that we care enough about them to watch who the best of the best are and get them rewarded. Hopefully, that helps them stay here and attracts new teachers to come. It can be really hard to find good teachers that want to stay.” 

Story by Michael Kinney Media

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