After 10 years of successful downtown beautification through the Downtown Banner Art Project, the annual auction associated with the event grossed record-breaking proceeds that will benefit Garden City’s downtown area and local artists.

Garden City Downtown Vision Executive Director Myca Bunch said a total of $12,825 was raised at Saturday’s auction at the Clarion Inn, which featured 46 banner paintings by 21 artists with local ties to Garden City.

Bunch noted Monday that artists receive 65 percent of proceeds for their work, while Downtown Vision receives 35 percent to be used for general improvements to the downtown area.

Of the 21 participating artists, Robin Valenzuela grossed the most money through the two pieces she submitted, which garnered both of the highest bids at auction. Her portrait of an owl was sold for $625, and her portrait of a rabbit went for $575.

Other top earners included Brent Nuzum, who sold two pieces for a total of $1,050; Kate Fitch, who sold two pieces for a total of $850; and Amy Warfield, who sold three pieces for a total of $850.

All 46 paintings were successfully sold at auction, and Bunch said two artists, Valenzuela and Carole Geier, have been contributing to the program since its inception 10 years ago.

"I am honored to have been part of this annual event. It's my favorite fundraiser," Valenzuela said. "Having been a part of this for 10 years, I've witnessed great talent from this area and beyond. It thrills me most that we have such diverse creativity, which is accepted by so many. My congratulations to Downtown Vision on another successful fundraiser."

The auction also yielded some much needed funds for two Garden City High School seniors, Kaci Bunch and Elizabeth Unruh, who soon will be making their way to college. Bunch sold two paintings for a total of $850, and Unruh sold two paintings for $800.

“It’s definitely a huge honor to be able to be in it, being one of the only two high schoolers in it,” Unruh said. “I thought it was really cool that they reached out this year and wanted high school artists to join it, and I hope that we have even more high school and juco college members that do it.”

Unruh said the proceeds from the artwork and related prints are a good incentive for college-bound students to get involved.

Her highest-selling piece, a painting of sugar beets titled “Roots,” was sold for $550. Unruh said the painting was inspired by the Garden City sugar beet industry that gained a foothold in Finney County in the early 1900s with the local factory.

“It was really cool to see just how much the history impacted people who were there and how much they wanted it because of that history,” she said. “Five-hundred and fifty dollars is amazing, I think, for it, especially being a high school senior who hasn’t really ever had a chance to sell their work before.”

Unruh said she has been painting for about three years now after getting her start at GCHS during her sophomore year in a Painting I class taught by Lisa Neely. She said Neely’s class was “a blast,” and she decided to take Painting II the following semester. Since then, she has been independently studying with Neely and now plans to pursue a BFA in painting or mixed media at a school in Kansas.

“I’ve grown a lot in these past three years,” Unruh said. “By picking high-schoolers to be in this, they really start their audience and the artist base young to continue to grow it.”

She added that she plans to continue contributing paintings to the program while away at college.

“It’s neat that I can do that and still be far away, not living in Garden City, but still contribute to Garden City, my hometown,” she said.

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