|17th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction|
|Fundraiser for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department|
In the beginning…
Way back sometime in the 20th century, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, a group of ranchers and other assorted mountain folk decided to band together and form a volunteer fire department to combat the growing fire danger due to a pine beetle epidemic (déjà vu? The pine beetle has recently returned with a vengeance).
In the early years it was hard going since they had decided to avoid the gov’ment revenuers and rely on donations in order to operate. So they did things like convert a World War II bomb tender into a water tanker and hope for tame fire seasons. Their equipment consisted mostly of hand-me-downs from other departments.
A White Knight arrives…
As the years went by, the mountain population grew and changed. In the early 90’s the internationally known artist and author, Richard Schmid, rode into town brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas. When Richard realized that the only organization immediately available to protect his family and property from wildfire still relied on second hand, often out of date equipment, he thought it the perfect time to experiment with a long held philosophy that art could be used to do more than just beautify a community.
His first effort was to help organize a fundraiser in the form of a raffle. He donated a print of one of his paintings, browbeat a couple other artists to do the same, and he even offered to help us sell the raffle tickets.
Since we live in one of the most scenic areas in the west, and arguably the world, we get a number of tourists traveling through during the summer. Many are lost by the time they travel along the miles of winding roads necessary to reach us and they often stop locals asking for directions. So, we decided to sell our raffle tickets at the intersection of two dirt roads where an historic little mountain school had been in operation for over a century.
Every weekend throughout the summer of1995 Richard and a number of volunteers would ensconce ourselves under a tree at that intersection, run into the road to stop every vehicle that drove by, and make our pitch to buy a raffle ticket in order to help us protect the beautiful surroundings from the ravages of wildfire.
At first we were wildly successful. We sold tickets to tourists from Japan to Germany and were excited to meet folks from all over the world while standing in our own backyard. But after a month or so the summer sun grew hot, the dirt roads turned to dust, and local residents began to complain after they were stopped for the umpteenth time and were paying more for raffle tickets than for the fuel into town.
Richard meets the Sheriff…
One day in August, when our dwindling cadre of sun burnt and dusty volunteers was beginning to rationalize that a well equipped fire department was perhaps an elitist notion that shouldn’t be so high on our list of priorities, the Sheriff pulled up. And, he wasn’t looking for a raffle ticket.
He told us that he was sympathetic to our cause but our neighbors were beginning to think of us more as an irritating public nuisance than a beneficial public service. He strongly suggested that we find another way to raise funds. We all agreed.
Was it heatstroke...?
Not one to let a little threat of incarceration dampen his enthusiasm for a worthy cause, Richard then suggested that we simply move our efforts to a meadow beside the road and have an art auction instead of a raffle. I am chagrinned to report that most of us at first thought that Richard’s time out in the sun might have caused some permanent damage. After all we lived in a community better known for cattle ranching than art collecting. The nearest town was miles away, and the full potential of the Internet was well beyond our wildest dreams. However, Richard Schmid is a very persuasive guy, so....
Our Really, Really Humble Beginnings…
In 1996 we hosted our first Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction. It was held in a hay field. The art was hung in an old surplus army tent. Richard personally invited, and may have even begged, some artists to participate. To top it off, Richard sold his own painting by standing in the bed of a pickup truck in order to get reception on his cell phone! Having said all that, we raised more money for our volunteer fire department that year than in any of the previous twenty years of our existence.
Every year since that time we learned a little more and became a little more successful. Although Richard and his wife, Nancy Guzik, moved out of our area some years ago, they both have continued to enthusiastically support our auction every year. Since its humble beginnings in 1996, over 1,250 pieces of fine original art have been auctioned for a total of over $1.7 million, generating over $650,000 to support our volunteer mountain fire department.
We thank the many artists who have contributed to our efforts over the years. We thank the many patrons who have joined us on Sunday of Labor Day weekend and purchased art.
And, most of all, we thank our internationally known artist, author, neighbor, friend and fundraising visionary, Richard Schmid.
The Power of Art to Do Good!