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Arts Council Will Sell Artwork Donated By R.J. Reynolds

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County has acquired $700,000 worth of artwork that it plans to sell for the benefit of council programs and funded groups.

The artwork consists of about 3,000 pieces from the corporate collection of R.J. Reynolds cheap cigarettes Co., which announced the donation Thursday.

The public will be able to view and bid on at least 25 pieces in the collection from Aug. 11 through Sept. 24. The rest of the collection's pieces will go on sale in February.

"After more than 100 years of purchasing art to enhance the work environment of our employees, we have far more art than we can display," said Mark Peters, the chief financial officer at R.J. Reynolds. "We were faced with the decision of whether to continue to store the pieces indefinitely or get them back into the community where they can be enjoyed by others."

State and national artists and craftsmen of note created the collection's pieces, which include dulcimers by Edd Presnell and paintings by Claude Howell ("Howard's Fish House," 1976), Maud Gatewood ("Barn in Snow," 1977) and Catherine Ryan ("A Maddening Chess Set, Wonderland vs. Looking Glass," 1977), along with prints, sculpture, pottery, ceramics and textiles.

Milton Rhodes, the council's president and chief executive, called the council's acquisition of the artwork "significant and very meaningful for several reasons."

"Fundraising is extremely difficult in this economic environment," Rhodes said. "So the generosity of R.J. Reynolds will benefit ultimately a host of local arts organizations and individual artists who received grants from the Arts Council."

He said the council intends to make at least $700,000 from selling the collection's items and that at least 1,500 pieces in the collection are worth less than $200.

Rhodes said council board members will decide in late August or early September how the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will be spent.

"There are multiple ways that the trustees of the council can use that money," he said, adding that these include the council's endowment, operations and annual fund drive.

Catherine Heitz New, the council's director of major gifts, spoke of a multipronged plan to sell the collection. During the plan's first phase from Aug. 11 to Sept. 24, the public may bid on at least 25 premier pieces during an online auction. Those pieces also will be on display at the Womble Carlyle Gallery of the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts on Spruce Street. An opening reception for the display will be 5-7 p.m. Aug. 11 in the gallery.

The group is setting up a website, WinstonSalemArtAuction.com, where bids may be placed, and it will go live Aug. 11. The reserve or starting prices for the auction pieces have not yet been determined, council officials said.

New said works selected for the display and auction beginning Aug. 11 are designed to "show the breadth of the collection."

"They're not necessarily the most valuable pieces, but they are considered highlights," she said.

The second phase of the plan will entail a public sale of the collection's remaining pieces Feb. 10-12 in Reynolds Place at the Rhodes center.

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