Arts and Entertainment

Art for money’s sake

Pack up the Persian carpet.

Blow the dust off the scrimshaw that might be genuine.

Wrap the maybe-Arts-and-Crafts vase in bubble wrap.

Then come into Winslow for Appraisal Day, Jan. 26.

The Bainbridge Arts and Crafts benefit that enlists experts in seven downtown venues for a marathon day of appraisals of items ranging from furniture to fine art is the brainchild of BAC board President Susan Levy.

To her surprise, she didn’t have to look far to find appraisers.

“When we initially thought of having appraisal day,” Levy said, “I imagined a list of experts we would have to bring in from outside, but I was floored by how many experts we have in the few blocks of downtown - the event seemed like a natural fit.

“And every single appraiser is giving of their time for free to help the visual arts.

Bruce Colasurdo, owner of Gallery of the Peoples, says he is glad to tell people what their Northwest Native American art might be worth.

“I’m happy to do it because it’s also fun for me,” Colasurdo said. “You never know what’s going to turn up. There can be some wonderful surprises; I once had a woman walk in the door with an absolutely beautiful Nisqually basket she had inherited that turned out to be worth a thousand dollars.”

Colasurdo’s own area of expertise is Northwest basketry, an interest that was passed to him by a grandfather along with the old man’s collection of Native American artifacts.

“He was from Nebraska, so it was mostly the arrowheads and stone implements he found out there,” Colasurdo said, “ But there was one Makah basket that had found its way to the midwest.”

The then-20-year-old Colasurdo, an anthropology major, was so taken with the basket that he decided to assemble other examples from Nuchanulth tribes (coast tribes north of Puget Sound).

“I didn’t want a diffuse collection,” Colasurdo said. “I wanted to make a statement.”

The collection

Over two decades, Colasurdo has assembled more than 200 examples of Nuchanulth basketry made between 1880 and 1930, a collection so impressive that half is currently on display in the Makah museum in Neah Bay.

His collection expands conventional notions of basketry, with items that range from basketry-covered moon snails to free-standing basketry sculptures of the first dirigibles encountered by Native basket makers – even a pair of basket-covered deer antlers commissioned on Vancouver Island by Queen Elizabeth in 1940.

Colasurdo didn’t confine his collecting to the west, but purchased many baskets on the East Coast.

“That’s where the baskets went,” Colasurdo said, “because that’s where the money was in the early part of the 20th century. So my big thing is bringing them back here.

“It may sound hokey, but I can almost feel the baskets rejoicing to be going home.”

When Colasurdo brought his collection to Neah Bay, Makah elders recognized certain individual baskets, and told the stories behind making them.

Colasurdo says that each basket tells another kind of story as well, and it is the one he can help people read on Appraisal Day.

“Every basket tells a story, and it’s not only what it looks like but the style of weave and the materials that made it,” he said. “When I first started collecting, I couldn’t tell one basket from another. It takes a long time to develop that knowledge. Now, when I look at a basket, my appreciation has dimension and depth because I can decipher the meaning on so many levels.

“That’s why I genuinely look forward to Appraisal Day, because, besides telling them the monetary value, I may get to tell some people the story of their art.”

* * * * *

For Appraisal Day, a benefit for Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, local professionals and invited experts will be in several locations in downtown Winslow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 26 to give verbal estimates of the worth of treasured items from fine art to furniture.

Tickets can be purchased in advance or on Appraisal Day for $10/single ticket (one ticket per item) or $40/five tickets for BAC members, and $20 per ticket for non-members.

Members joining at the $300 level receive two tickets to a cocktail party with the appraisers for the evening of Jan. 26. Maps are available at BAC. For more information call 842-3132.

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