Aurora Bearealis is a colorful benefit for Habitat for Humanity. Its artists are Miriam Hughes, Timothy Day and Betty Sebbins. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
This is the 15th year of statues in a “public art walk” outdoor display spread along the mile-long Main Street, starting in mid-May. By Sunday, they were removed ahead of their auction which is at the Henderson County Historic Courthouse Square.
Bids start at $800 in the Bearfootin’ Art Auction. There is no admission fee. The public auction starts at 5 p.m. on Oct. 21 and lasts about an hour. The overall event begins two hours earlier at 3, with browsing of the 20 bears. Also, the jazzy Beryln Trio plays on sax, drums and eight-string guitar. Wine and cheese is available, from the local Poe House.
This is the third year in a row with 20 bears, and 20 more are planned for next year. The peak was 32 bears in 2005. Bears returned after a brief hibernation, during a try of goats (as in Carl Sandburg’s goat herd) in 2008 then slices of apples (the county’s famed crop) in ’09. They were not nearly as popular as bears, organizers determined.
Local efforts join for each bear — an artist, a sponsoring business or organization to offset basic expenses and assign a beneficiary group, then bidders. The artist gets a blank bear, to put artwork on. Some did work on multiple bear statues.
An unusual source of artistry age-wise is Hendersonville Middle eighth-grade art students. They concocted a mountain sunrise as a heart as in a healthy heart, in Baloo Ridge Bear that benefits Blue Ridge Health.
The “Promise” is of a mother’s love for her cub. Bethany Adams created it on behalf of Blue Ridge Humane Society. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Half of auction proceeds for each bear goes to the nonprofit or other beneficiary it is assigned. The other half goes to offset bear statue costs, and for Historic Downtown Hendersonville programs and promotions.
Auction revenue was $38,600 last year, and $240,000 over time, according to Downtown Economic Development Dir. Lew Holloway who oversees the project. He noted $43,050 was received in 2015 to set an event record and outdo the prior year by $8,000. The highest bid in ‘15 was $7,000, benefiting Henderson County Education Foundation.
There are three variations of the statues. One is a standing bear. Another is on all fours. The third shows a mother cuddling her cub.
“Art can be a great way to tell a complex story,” Holloway stated. “The medium of the bears has proven very appealing to our community.”
The overall theme or artistic specifics often represent the beneficiary group and usually with a humorous name and look.
For instance, Bearthoven II with a white wig is a bearable facsimile of conductor Beethoven. Andrew Martin designed it, to benefit Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and its Youth Orchestra.
Bethany Adams created “Promise” about a mother’s love for her cub, to benefit Blue Ridge Humane Society. It reflects nurturing of animal parents, and pet owners and other animal lovers.
Sunshine is bright blue and orange, with a pair of birds. Sandee Setliff designed it, to raise money for the Hendersonville Sister Cities program. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The other 17 beneficiary groups, listed alphabetically, are: Boys and Girls Club, Carolina Village Endowment, Friends of Downtown Hendersonville, Habitat for Humanity, the Education Foundation, Hendersonville Sister Cities, Housing Assistance Corp., Immaculate Conception Catholic School, John L. Boyd Vision Endowment Fund, Melissa’s Voice, Only Hope WNC, Pardee Hospital Foundation for Pardee Comprehensive Cancer Center, Safelight, Salvation Army After School Program, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, The Storehouse, and YMCA.
Downtown’s next special event is on Halloween, Tuesday Oct. 31. A costume contest’s registration starts 4:30 at Main’s 400 block. Trick or treating begins at 5 p.m. at many merchants. For more on city-sponsored holiday and other events, check downtownhendersonville.org.