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Buying art without spending a fortune: help select Clay Center's 'People's Choice'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ever want to purchase a significant work of art but just didn't have the resources to spend? The Clay Center Collectors Club has an offer you can't refuse.

The club travels far and wide to find new and interesting art to add to the Permanent Collection of the Avampato Discovery Museum. A membership organization, it plays a prominent role in growing and augmenting the Permanent Collection. Since 1986, the Collectors Club has contributed more than $400,000 and acquired more than 51 works of art for the museum.

Typically, the works are selected by the club members following visits to prominent galleries in major cities. This year, group representatives traveled to Santa Fe, N.M., to select the works to be voted on for purchase by the membership.

But this year, there's a twist:  the public is invited to vote for their favorite piece.

Membership in the Collectors Club is open to all Clay Center members. There are two levels available: introductory (new member) at $150 that allows for one-half vote on new acquisitions and regular ($300/one full vote).

But Friday through Sunday, the only cost to vote is the price of admission to the Clay Center. (That's $7.50 for adults, $6 for children.) While the "People's Choice" vote isn't official, Arif Khan, the Mary Price Ratrie Curator of Art for the museum, said it's a chance for more people to learn about the Collector's Club and to get involved with the art museum. The selection of the artwork to be purchased still lies in the hands of the Collectors Club members, though.

Thursday night, the Collectors Club will preview the works and receive their ballots. Khan will discuss the merits of each piece with the club, and they will vote for the piece to be purchased at a special dinner on Wednesday.

Non-club members can see the works in the gallery and cast their ballot either at the Clay Center or online on the center's Facebook page.

Members who toured the Santa Fe galleries in search of prospective works to purchase appreciated the expertise of Khan, who spent many years working in that area before joining the Clay Center staff. He selected artists for the group to meet, as well as lined up presentations by artists and gallery owners. Works range in price from $7,000 to $20,000.

Does Khan have a favorite work of the selections?

"Everything they get to look at I would be happy to have," he said diplomatically. He added that people still can join the Collectors Club this week and be eligible to vote as long as they become members before Wednesday.

Call the Clay Center at 304-561-3570 or visit www.theclaycenter.org.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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