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Ben Ahlvers layers a sense of humor into his artwork. Specializing in ceramics, Ahlvers tries to express wittiness and cleverness in some of his pieces while adding an edge to it.

Ahlvers poses a different question with each piece leaving the viewer to decipher the meaning.

“I like straddling that fence,” Ahlvers said.

Ahlvers is one of four featured artists in the Lawrence Arts Center’s Benefit Art Auction. The Art Center’s 33rd annual live benefit auction will be April 13. The non-profit organization uses the auction as the primary funding source for the exhibitions program.

Ahlvers said that college students should take advantage of the exhibitions programming because it’s the only one that is free and open to the public.

Jessica Conner is the education coordinator for the Lawrence Arts Center. Beginning her work in Lawrence in 2006 as a ceramic artist in residence, Conner is now in charge of the seven visual art studios at the Arts Center.

Conner said that students at the University can benefit from attending the educational programs because it gives them something to divert their minds and take a break from studying.

“In order to flow, one must ebb,” Conner said. “It’s important to give yourself time, take a break and do something creative – it opens up more doors.”

Conner said Lawrence was always the destination for her because it is a less restrictive environment to grow in as an artist. She said that the artist in residency program has evolved tremendously the past few years. Because of its evolvement, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the Lawrence Arts Center an NEA Art Works Grant to support the Visiting and Resident Artists program last November.

When Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission in 2011, the Lawrence Arts Center had to change the way they ran things in order to continue to thrive. Ahlvers said that they have a huge marketing system that has evolved and has helped with revenue.

Conner said that while there has been an increase in youth programming at the Arts Center lately, she can’t decide whether it is because of the decrease of artistic activities in schools or the increase in marketing for the Arts Center. She also said that the summer programming has gone up exponentially.

The silent auction of the Arts Center’s Benefit Art Auction began March 15 and online bidding concluded today. Ahlvers said that about 15 pieces have already been bought, but he expects most of them to be sold at Saturday’s live auction.

Over 150 artists donated original works. Forty-one pieces will be sold during the live auction and 101 pieces will be bid on silently. Ahlvers, one of the four featured artists, donated three pieces.

One of his sculptures depicts an innocent-looking young boy with two birds perched on top of his head. Ahlvers said this piece derived from the song “The Story of Isaac” by Leonard Cohen which is based off the story from the Old Testament of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.

The song is written from the perspective of Isaac, who is unaware that his own father is about to sacrifice him. The two birds represent Isaac’s confusion: one is a vulture and one is more friendly-looking. Ahlvers grew up in a strict Pentecostal house and said that while this is a more direct metaphor to religion, his experiences usually show through his work.

Archie Scott Gobber, Kent Michael Smith and Lisa Lala are the other three featured artists in the live auction. These four artists were exposed in the VIM Exhibition earlier this year, which featured works that suggest energy and momentum through color and varied mediums.

Ahlvers said that being a featured artist from the community gives him a chance to get feedback from people he respects.

“There are a lot of creative people that call this place home,” Ahlvers said.

The live auction will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center, located at 940 New Hampshire St., beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $40, food and beverages are included and all proceeds go to the Arts Center.

Video Transcript: 

Me: Even on a rainy day, people of Lawrence express interest in the Lawrence Arts Center

The Arts Center, located at 940 New Hampshire St., will host its 33rd annual live benefit auction this Saturday. The non-profit organization uses the auction as the primary funding source for the exhibitions program.

Ben Ahlvers, exhibitions director, has worked with the Arts Center for eight years. Four years ago he decided to change up the way the live benefit auction worked. Ahlvers took the initiative to make the auction an invitational.

Ahlvers: “We don’t have the audience to divide 400 pieces of art so it doesn’t make sense to have 400 pieces of art. It makes sense, better sense, to have fewer pieces for that audience to select from.”

Me: They expect to raise $120,000 which Ahlvers says is feasible with the amount of retail being auctioned. About 150 artworks were donated from artists all over the world, but the auction features four specific artists from the area.

Ben Ahlvers, Archie Scott Gobber, Lisa Lala and Kent Michael Smith donated art that was featured in the VIM Exhibition earlier this year. The exhibit featured work that used color and varied techniques to create energy and momentum.

The live auction will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center on April 13. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $40. This has been Hannah Barling, with Anything Artsy.