Bird bidders make dough for art at schools

? The Education Foundation has partnered with Fly Bird to auction student-produced bird paintings.

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By DREW CARTER

An Avenue retailer has partnered with Oak Park elementary public schools to auction student artwork to benefit the Oak Park Education Foundation.

Students at Brooks and Julian middle schools art classes painted pictures of birds that are now featured in the front windows of Fly Bird, 719 Lake St.

One piece has fetched a $50 bid. Another has two bidders warring over it, having climbed to $22 from the $10 mandatory opening bid. Bids can increase by any amount $2 or more.

Kristiana Murray, the art teacher in whose classes the students painted the birds, said the project differed from other assignments primarily in that students didn't get to keep their work. That disappointed some, who then went to bid on their own work, she said.

But the pieces have brought in other art enthusiasts and new shoppers, too, said Kate Arnoldt, the "title-less worker" at Fly Bird. Arnoldt estimated that half of the bids made on the student works were from people other than family members.

"It's brought a lot of people in, especially parents who hadn't been to the store before," Arnoldt said. As of Monday, 35 people had bid on pieces.

All proceeds from the auction will benefit Art Start, a project of the Education Foundation that provides guest artists and materials for students at District 97. The auction of 124 pieces is expected to raise a couple of thousand dollars, said the foundation's Deb Abrahamson. Art Start's annual budget is approximately $40,000, she said.

Murray and seventh graders at Julian will benefit from Art Start next year when Oak Park sculptor Margot McMahon will help on a two-month project that will result in a huge sculpture installed in the middle school's atrium. The piece will be created by 270 students, who will also make smaller sculptures as part of the class.

Fly Bird owner Julia Nash and foundation board member Dan Vulinovic developed the idea for the collaborative bird project. The time between idea and installation was one month.

"Things just fell into place really quickly," Vulinovic said.

Abrahamson said Art Start would be open to similar projects with other retailers.

"We're very pleased with how professional it looks," she said.

Murray said the project helped her students push harder to finish their pieces that would be on display publicly. She said they've been eager to find out what bids have been made on their pieces, too.

"The business side of it is exciting to them," Murray said.

The paintings can be seen day or night in the windows of Fly Bird. For more information on the show, visit the store or email headbird

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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