The Great Northern Arts Festival’s 29th year was a perilous one in some ways, with funding challenges almost pulling the plug on its signature summer event, but spirits are high going into the organization’s 30th anniversary and local vendors must be happy with the cash that came in at the recent Christmas craft fair.

Katie Boyd smiles during conversation at the wine and cheese fundraiser Friday, Nov. 24.
Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

“At least $150,000 changed hands,” said Marie Horstead, executive director of the Great Northern Arts Society.

That’s on par with previous years for the event, which does not serve as much of a fundraiser for GNAF itself.

“We make a few grand off it just through administration, but really all that money goes from individuals to vendors and those vendors go home with it,” said Horstead. “For some people, they go home with $10,000 and that’s a really important part of their income for the entire year.”

A wine and cheese fundraiser, which also served as a chance to show off the community’s art exchange projects in an auction, served as Horstead’s last hurrah with the society. She led two summer festivals in her tenure and will be leaving her position in mid-December.

“We have an amazing new executive director who’s going to be coming in that I think a lot of people will recognize,” said Horstead. “I know she will be wonderful and I feel very comfortable handing over the festival functions to her.”

The wine and cheese fundraiser is an annual event for adults to get together, eat cheese, drink wine and bid on auction items, which included donations from artists as well as collaborative canvases created by community members.

“I start with blank canvases, people sign up, I put them into teams of three or four and then the canvas gets passed around anonymously,” said Horstead about the art exchange program, which has been running for three years. “People add to it as it goes along and so the end is surprise product for everybody.”

Lori Armstrong and Mark Jeffery took part in the exchange for the first time this year.

“We tried to use different materials every time,” said Armstrong, who described her artistic style as very eclectic. “We did a lot of collage, painting and glitter. We had a lot of fun experimenting, playing around and making art with other people.”

Jeffery said it was more fun than he thought it would be.

The wine and cheese fundraiser once brought in some big-ticket spenders for GNAF, but with the slumping economy it has become more of a modest revenue source.

This year, the auction raised $3,480.

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