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Gala success brings art center near to reality

May 28, 2005

A gala to benefit the Columbia Center for the Arts last weekend was termed by organizers as a rousing success — netting $115,000.

Art enthusiasts bid on 27 creations during the “Art and Soul 2005” live auction and more than 100 items in the silent auction. Proceeds from the second annual event will be used to pay for renovation of the building at 215 Cascade Avenue.

“In every aspect, people have stepped forward to make this happen. It just speaks to what a wonderful community we live in,” said Judie Hanel, executive director for the center.

She credited co-chairs Jean Harmon and Marbe Cook for bringing the “Growing the Arts” theme to life with select works in varied mediums.

Please see photo on page A3.

The event showcased six Gorge painters and sculptors: John Mayo, “Skate Form II”; Ellen Dittebrandt, “Still”; Mary Rollins, “Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon”; Peggy Ohlson, “Maupin North”; Judith Cunningham, “The Wildness”; and, Karen Watson, “Don’t Fence Me In.”

The silent auction included vintage wine bottled by prestigious area vineyards, dinner for eight cooked by the executive chef of Mt. Hood Railroad, a week in Ireland, and much more. Since the center — the former home of the American Legion — has been gutted for a total remodel, the benefit was held at the Expo Center. Hanel said Bill Sturman, facilities chair, transformed the cavernous room into an intimate setting, even though it held 225 people. He was aided by Donahue Construction, which donated a scissors-lift to the decorating effort.

“It is truly amazing how much volunteer labor and money has been donated to this project,” she said.

The work on the center is almost ready to begin, with a recent $175,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver added to about $500,000 banked from previous donations since 2003. Hanel said if the center scores an additional $150,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust in Portland by early June then all of the necessary funding will be in place. If not, she said it will be back to the drawing board to find the last remaining dollars.

“We’re just thinking very positively that we’ll get it and making plans,” she said.

She anticipates the architectural designs for the 10,000 square foot structure will be put into play by late summer. The blueprints features art gallery, theater, studio, and storage.

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