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There are barn raisings, and then there are art raisings.

And the Holter Museum of Art’s Gala & Auction, June 7, is definitely the latter.

It’s a night for art lovers to gather at the Helena Civic Center to celebrate the Holter, Helena’s beloved contemporary art museum, which is now in its 32nd year.

Gala-goers are urged to wear something in red-- echoing the gala’s art logo and its slogan, “Listen to Your HeART.”

“The look and feel is a modern museum event,” says Holter board member and gala organizer Nicki Goettel.

The festivities -- a dinner, live jazz by Equinox Trio and auction -- run from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., followed by an after-party with Matt Strachan & the Hoot Owls at the Montana Club’s Rathskeller.

“We have some great items this year for auction,” says Holter executive director Chris Riccardo. “It’s a great party we throw. People love it.”

All funds raised go to the Holter, since 25 community sponsors are paying the gala’s costs and all 60 artists are giving full donations of their works.

A few of the tantalizing art auction items include:

“Birdhouse” by Dillon artist Cathy Weber. This sculptural wall piece brings together Weber’s iconic ceramic birds perched on a cluster of dead aspen branches.

The work is a small-scale preview of a much bigger piece -- “Understory Overstory” slated for the Baucus High Gallery in July, when aspens and birds will create their own artistic biome filling the gallery

“The Holter in the last decade has faced a lot of pretty serious challenges,” Weber says of why she’s donating.

“We’re having a renaissance. This museum has really pulled out of the hole we were kind of stuck in. We have great energy, great leadership and always wonderful shows. Things are really looking good…. We’re definitely headed in the right direction...and it’s very heartening.”

Another donating artist is Doug Jeck of Seattle, an art professor at the University of Washington.

He’s gifting “Sisters,” two ceramic heads of a much larger body of work he created for a previous show, “Body,” at the Traver Gallery in Seattle.

In August, Jeck will be part of a Holter exhibit “In Sight,” featuring works by national and international artists.

Jeck, who first came to Helena to visit the Archie Bray Foundation has also stopped at the Holter on these trips.

“I think it’s a great regional museum,” he says. “It’s a first-rate museum for the scale of the town it is. I think it’s a really dynamic place.”

Helena sculptor Richard Swanson is donating a small whimsical sculpture,” Loopity Loo Too.”

It’s one of a series of 20 sculptures he’s created from his iPad doodles. He likes to think of the sculptures as “short visual poems.”

The beauty of the small metal works, he says, is he can be more spontaneous and do things that would be very hard to do at a large scale. “I’m having fun with it.”

“The Holter is such a big part of the artistic culture of Helena,” Swanson says of why he supports it. “It’s the manifestation of contemporary art in Helena. It’s so important for the artists to not only have a place to show their works but for us to get inspiration, so we like to support it.”

The Holter is coming off a great fundraising year, says Riccardo.

It’s also preparing to launch a capital campaign to fund Holter Re-Imagined, to create more interactive visitor experiences at the Holter and also to expand programming and staff.

To pursue this, the Holter board has hired Joe Wedding, a professional fundraising consultant from Portland.

And it’s in the midst of hiring a development director to steer the Holter’s overall fundraising.

While hesitant to “jinx” the gala by setting an absolute goal, Riccardo hopes to bring in at least $75,000, which is what the 2018 Holter gala raised.

The gala comes just a few weeks before the end of the 2018-2019 fiscal year June 30.

Last fiscal year, the Holter had an income shortfall of $36,624 (excluding depreciation) that spurred the Holter board and community to really step up.

“It’s been a real exciting year for us,” says Riccardo. “If we meet our budget expectations for the gala, we will have a very good year.

“It’s been a great fundraising year. We’ve exceeded our goal in fundraising.”

Tickets are $75 per person, or $600 for a table of eight and are available at https://www.holtermuseum.org/gala-auction-2019, where you can also get a sneak peek at the auction items.

An auction preview event is 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at the Holter.

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