This weekend is your last chance to get a gander at a pair of public art projects that won’t be seen in Greene County again for at least the next two years.
Auctions will be held in Coxsackie and Greenville to sell fiberglass owl and duck sculptures created by area artists. The sculptures were posted in public spaces around the communities in late spring and remained up all summer. They have been removed and will go on the block Saturday.
The What A Hoot in Coxsackie and QuackQuackGreenville public art exhibits are fundaisers for local nonprofit organizations, with a portion of the sales’ proceeds going to the artists.
Both art projects will not return in 2022 and a comeback in future years is up in the air.
“There are not going to be owls in 2022,” What A Hoot Committee member Ellen DeLucia said Friday. “At the end of 2018 we skipped 2019 intentionally to give everyone a break, both the committee and the sponsors.”
Owls were created and posted around Coxsackie in 2020, but due to public health concerns during the COVID-19 outbreak, an auction was not held last year. Instead, the 2020 owls went back up on the street this summer, DeLucia said.
“We knew we could not put together a safe auction in 2020 so we used the same owls in the exact same places this year as last year,” DeLucia said. “This gave people a chance, if they were afraid to come out and look at them last year, they could have the chance to really get to see them, and it gave the sponsors two seasons of exposure, so it was win-win for everybody.” It is unclear what will happen in 2023 or subsequent years. Organizing the art exhibit and auction is time-consuming but rewarding, DeLucia said.
“The committee will have to make its decision probably around July 2022 to get a jump on the next year if they are going to do it,” DeLucia said. “They need a lot more people with free time to do this. It is not something a handful of part-time people can do.”
The future of the project, which launched its first exhibit in 2017, depends on volunteers.
“It will depend entirely on whether people want to join the committee and make this happen,” DeLucia said. “It’s one of those perfect examples where many hands make light work. We need people to get involved.”
Public art projects like What A Hoot are a boon for communities that host them, DeLucia said.
“Especially this past year, this gave people a reason to come out and see something happy,” she said. “They weren’t risking their health going around and visiting these works of art. And I think it also brought a lot of people a lot of pleasure doing something they never thought they would try.”
Some of the artists are professionals, but others are first-timers trying out something new.
“One of our artists who had never painted before and participated in the first What A Hoot picked up paint brushes for the first time in 2018,” said DeLucia, an artist with three owls of her own in this weekend’s auction. “This time, she had a beautiful owl that won a People’s Choice award.”
Twenty-five percent of the sale price for each owl goes to the artist, with the remainder donated to seven local charitable organizations — the Coxsackie-Athens Foundation for Education, Helping Hands at Sleepy Hollow Lake, Friends of Heermance Memorial Library, Coxsackie Food Pantry, Coxsackie Police Athletic League, Village of Coxsackie Cemetery Restoration Project and the Greene County Region 13 Blue Star Mothers.
“These owls, like all the critters in these festivals, are one-of-a-kind works of art that people have poured a lot of time and creativity into,” DeLucia said. “They are not just cutesy things you can get anywhere — these are honest-to-God works of art.”
The What A Hoot auction will be held Saturday at the Coxsackie Yacht Club on Noble Street Extension in the village. Tickets are $25, with previews beginning at 1 p.m. and the live auction starting at 2 p.m.
QuackQuackGreenville was first held in 2015, hosted by the Greenville Beautification Committee, and the next one was five years later.
“We did this in 2015 and again in 2020, but that spilled over into 2021,” organizer Barbara Walter said. “We don’t do it every year so this is our second one.”
It is unclear when the next duck auction will be held, but there will definitely not be an exhibit in 2022.
“We don’t know when the next one will be,” Walter said. “It depends on volunteers’ willingness to do the project. We rely on volunteers for the committee.”
This weekend’s auction might be your last chance for a couple of years, she said. The ducks went on display at sites around Greenville in June and remained up until Labor Day.
“We are encouraging people who want ducks to get their ducks this year while they still can,” Walter said.
This year there will be 30 small ducks and three large ducks up for bid in Saturday’s auction. Many of the participating artists have also had pieces in some of the county’s other public art exhibits, such as the owls in Coxsackie, the cats in Catskill and the bears in Cairo, which held its auction earlier this month.
“Some of the artists who did cats, owls and bears also did ducks last year,” Walter said. “Because of COVID we didn’t have the auction last year so we put them up again this year for the summer season and we are auctioning them off Saturday.”
Unlike some of the other auctions around the county this summer, QuackQuackGreenville will hold a silent auction to facilitate social distancing in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Walter said.
The ducks will be on display at the North Barn in Vanderbilt Park off Route 32 on Saturday beginning at noon, with bids wrapping up between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. A suggested $5 donation for entry to the auction will be contributed to the Greenville Food Pantry, and auction proceeds, other than the amount that goes to the artists, will be used to support the renovation project at Prevost Hall and the 2022 summer concert series.