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Virtual Woodson Warriors scholarship art auction is Sunday

Bill DeYoung



Artist Jane Bunker cresated the the Woodson Warriors Scholarship Auction in 2019.

The second annual Woodson Warriors Scholarships Auction takes place, virtually, this Sunday, March 14.

It’s actually the third year for artist Jane Bunker’s program, which raises scholarship funds to help young Black students attend college. Bunker does it in partnership with the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

Here’s the thing: There was no auction in 2020. The coronavirus temporarily scattered everyone to the wind.

Still, Bunker sold several paintings that had been earmarked for the auction-that-never-was, and through positive word of mouth, donations poured in. And when all was said and done $43,000 had been raised – almost exactly the same amount as 2019, the inaugural year.

As if that weren’t astonishing enough, philanthropists Kevin Milkey and his wife Jeanne then pledged $50,000 per year, for 10 years, to the Woodson Warriors program. Their donation from 2020 hasn’t yet been touched.

Which means that the 2021 auction – which will award full four-year scholarships to as many as 10 qualifying high school seniors – is starting off at full gallop. “And I did find a wonderful mentor in Cape Cod who just sold $25,000 worth of my paintings from my old website,” Bunker enthuses. “So we have a good start – we have this year’s $50,000, we have last year’s $50,000, and $25,000 from paintings …”

“Flora,” oil on panel by Steven Kenny

For the first time, Bunker’s luminescent oils of flowering lilies will have company on the auction block: Original works by notable Pinellas County artists Brenda McMahon (ceramics), Steven Kenny (painting), Duncan McClellan (glass art) and Mark Aeling (sculpture).

In other words, the cream of the crop.

“They were so generous, because normally in most auctions the artists get 50 percent,” Bunker says. “But we asked for 100 percent and they agreed. The only one I really knew was Brenda; the others, we were meeting personally for the first time. I’ve been to their galleries and seen their work, of course, but I didn’t know them. They’ve just been incredibly generous.

“Duncan actually is hoping that we can get some applications for a glass artist that he would like to support, with a full scholarship for their college experience.”

“Dancing Dragonflies,” glass sculpture by Duncan McClellan

The works from the guest artists (plus one of Bunker’s) will be auctioned online at 5 p.m. March 14. See the work, and register, here. Twenty more of Bunker’s paintings are to be sold in a silent auction.

They can all be viewed in person, by appointment, at the Woodson Museum.

Bunker, a retired clinical psychologist from New England, relocated with her husband to Gulfport in 2017.

Putting together the Woodson Warriors Scholarship Auction, she explains, gave her a renewed sense of purpose and pride.

“It’s the most soul-healing experience I’ve ever had,” Bunker says. “These scholars, I love them and they inspire me every day. I’m learning a lot about how ignorant I was of the extent of racism in our country. And I don’t really think there’s anything more important to do than whatever my piece can be to begin to make reparations, you know?

“It’s the best I can do. I don’t have a lot of money, and I love to paint. And somehow, this was able to work a little bit. It just brings me great joy every day.”

Learn more about the Woodson Warriors here.



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