Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon painters and photographers all over the Merrimack Valley next weekend. They’re busy working for a good cause: It’s time for the annual New Paint fundraiser to benefit the Essex Art Center in Lawrence.
The images captured by 30 participating artists on Saturday quickly will be turned around for auction at 6 p.m. in the main fundraiser for the center. Last year, the event brought in more than $48,000.
“That’s a big chunk of change,” said Leslie Costello, executive director of the center.
Most of the money raised at New Paint will be used to support the Essex Art Center’s after-school programs, which last year delivered art classes to more than 1,500 students from around the region.
To create the work to be auctioned that night, 30 artists will gather at the center at 8 a.m. on Saturday. After breakfast, they go out to paint and photograph scenes. All of the artwork must be created that day, and the artists are due back with their ready-to-hang work by 4 p.m.
“I am blown away every year by what people can produce under pressure,” Costello said, noting that many artists paint scenes from the area, although some work further away.
“The only restriction is that the work must be created on that day,” Costello said.
While the center does receive grant funding, New Paint is important because the funds can be used anywhere within the organization, whereas most grant money is earmarked for certain purposes.
“It’s great because we get unrestricted funds and we can use them wherever we need them,” Costello said.
Beyond being an important fundraiser, New Paint is a popular social event.
“It’s a great opportunity to get dressed up. You can come however you want, but for those of us who like to get dressed up it’s perfect,” Costello said.