ectricity in the atmosphere is palpable, with pieces featured that could cost as much as February’s rent.
But in a digital world, anything is possible.
The Missoula Art Museum’s annual art auction, also known as “MAM’s Big Night,” is taking place entirely online on Feb. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event, which also features raffle items, meal deals and an exclusive digital album highlighting songs from local musicians, has grown into more than just an art auction.
Carey Powers, marketing and communications coordinator at the museum, said that the necessary decision to move the event online was made back in October.
“It’s hard to emotionally move away from the electricity that comes from being at a live auction,” Powers said.
But moving the event online comes with the added bonus of free admission for participants, allowing people who aren’t art collectors or the uber-wealthy to experience something they may have never had the opportunity to see.
The auction is the museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and the event has been a Missoula mainstay since 1975. After the recession in 2009, the museum had to adapt, pinching pennies and putting its money where it mattered most—back into the community. Powers, who joined staff at the museum a year and a half ago, says that the auction has always had to grow and change with the times.
“At its heart, [the auction] is a time for the public and the museum to come together and support contemporary art and artists,” Powers said.
All of the 125 artists who submitted their art for the auction were accepted, Powers said, citing the difficulty of the past year as a driving factor. Of the artists, 25 were brand new.
At least three of the artists are graduates of the University of Montana: Jasmine Beul (BFA, 2017), Jesse Blumenthal (MFA, 2019) and Amanda Jaffe (MFA, 1978) are all featured in the auction.
While many of the artists are located outside of Montana, the businesses sponsoring the event are all in-state. Sponsors include local arts organizations such as the Montana Repertory Theater, Missoula Broadcasting Company and multiple art galleries, including the Radius and Relic galleries.
The museum is also partnered with the Montana Area Music Association to compile the exclusive album, “Getting Thru: A Compilation.”
The album features songs from popular local artists, including Bombshell Nightlight, Shakewell, the String Orchestra of the Rockies, Cory Fay and Brit Arnesen. The compilation is available to stream on Bandcamp and the digital download is available to purchase for $50.
Local restaurants—Biga Pizza, James Bar, Marianna Forrest Catering, Rumour and Sushi Hana—have exclusive discounts and menu options to pair with MAM’s Big Night, including 20% discounts or a three-course meal.
And while some of the options may still be outside a college student’s budget, splitting a pizza, jumbo salad, tiramisu and a bottle of wine from Biga with roommates sounds close to a college kid’s dream.
“Top to bottom, this event is based in the strength and resiliency of the different aspects of Missoula,” Powers said. “And no donation is too small.”