An Interview with Barbara Abelson and Dave Wigodner, Co-Chairs of the Recycled Art Sale 2022

An Interview with Barbara Abelson and Dave Wigodner, Co-Chairs of the Recycled Art Sale 2022

As the co-chairs of the Recyled Art Sale, Barbara Abelson and Dave Wigodner are integral to making the sale a success. We spoke to them about why the Recycled Art Sale matters so much to The Art Center and the North Shore community at large. Their answers shed light on how Recycled brings people together, sparks interest in the arts, and helps raise funds for programs, classes, and exhibitions.

Ready to join us for this year’s sale? Tickets are now available for the VIP Preview/Opening Night on October 13 and general admission during the opening weekend!

Interested in volunteering for the Recycled Art Sale? Please email staylor@theartcenterhp.org for more information.

Recycled Art Sale Co-Chairs Barbara Abelson and Dave Wigodner
Barbara Abelson and Dave Wigodner pose together at last year’s Recycled Art Sale (photo by Robin Subar).

The Recycled Art Sale is a community favorite. What do you think draws people from all over Highland Park and the wider North Shore area together to volunteer for, donate to, and shop at the event? What do you think keeps people coming back year after year?

Barbara: “It is very exciting to see how our community responds to the Recycled event with so much enthusiasm. Donors appreciate this great opportunity to pass on pieces they have outgrown in one way or another or perhaps come from family estates that are being broken up while getting a tax letter acknowledging their generosity. Those who volunteer for the event enjoy the camaraderie within the group, as we all work to research the value of the goods we receive, and get the vast array of artwork and decorative items ready for sale. And, of course, those who come to shop look forward to the hunt. Will they find a treasure that has been overlooked by everyone else and will be just perfect for them? There is an undeniable thrill in finding a piece—or several pieces—that truly speak to you, at prices that are within reach, all while helping to raise money that supports The Art Center’s mission.”

Dave: “For volunteers and shoppers – I think it’s the thrill of the search: for a treasure, a bargain, an opportunity to brighten a spot in their home or find an unusual gift. To find the gem that will bring in buyers and make more money. For donors – it’s not always easy to part with something you once loved, no longer need or that has connections to family and home; donating to Recycled puts those things you’re done with into new hands where they’re reborn. It’s a more tangible donation than just dollars. Your stuff isn’t really lost. And it supports The Art Center.”

Our VIP Preview event takes place on October 13, what are the perks of attending the opening night of the sale?

Barbara: “Simply put, it’s the chance to get a first crack at the beautiful and inspiring works that we have collected all year long. Of course, the Opening Night party is always a good time—food, drinks, music, friends, and the chance to be surrounded by beautiful things. Opening Night is a great way to kick off the 10 days of this well-loved event.”

Dave: “First look, more stuff, fun time. The action of flipping through artwork, talking with friends and strangers, with a drink in your hand, good food, and a pulsing beat. It’s pretty electric.”

Recycled is a lot of fun, but it’s also one of The Art Center’s biggest fundraisers with sales from the event going towards our programming, education, and outreach. What do you think makes the arts such an important aspect of our community, one that is worth funding?

Barbara: “Art education and awareness enrich a community by encouraging the imagination to expand, to see the world and its people in new ways, and to give voice where perhaps there are no words.  If creative expression is at the heart of what makes us human, as I believe it is,  we cannot afford to disengage from agencies like The Art Center, as it seeks to reach out with exciting classes, energizing exhibits, and other creativity awakening programming, all the while working to make art available to all through scholarships. We owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to support the arts.”

Dave: “Recycled touches such a wide range of people, art interests (or not so interested) and at such varying price points that it doesn’t exclude anyone: people buying $2 beaded bracelets, $2,000+ artwork, antique prints or objects. We get kids stopping to buy on their way home from middle school, people living in mansions and people in public housing, entrepreneurs looking for bargain art to resell online, designers chasing deals for clients, serious collectors. All shopping together, sifting through bins, looking for something to catch their eye. Or their heart. How many places does all that happen?”

What’s your favorite find from the Recycled Art Sale—either from this year or in the past?

Barbara: “About 70% of the art in my home is from a Recycled event, so it would be hard to pinpoint my favorite piece from so many. I love the Richard Haas print of the Dakota, valued at four figures and for which I paid $100, but I also love the small, unsigned ceramic bowl, delicately painted with flowers that I found last year for $5. And then there is the carved ivory ring from several years ago that I gave one of my daughters for her birthday and the stunning abstract oil that hangs in another daughter’s dining room. See? It’s hard to pick just one piece!”

Dave: “Well – I totally dug unearthing the Lee Godie piece, finding more information on her, talking with gallerists that knew her, discovering the unseen sketches that are part of the artwork.”

“A couple of years ago I bought two colorful desert prints in lurid pink frames that oddly went great with the 1950s pink bathroom wall tile in my daughter’s Tucson apartment, and a couple of small bronzes by Jack & Alice MacLean whose work I’ve admired for years that are now hanging in my home. I have a stack of projects to do with frames and old prints from Recycled. But my favorite now – last year I realized that this big, garish frame held a record album jacket and I bought it. The album is autographed by the performer – Steve Earle – I’ve been a fan for years; we went and saw Steve perform recently. The cover artwork is by Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick and this copy is actually signed by Tony. There was a great retrospective of his work last year in Glen Ellen and through a bunch of odd coincidences, I met Tony by his studio and had a conversation that included how Steve Earle’s dog Beau made it into the album cover artwork. The album is “Washington Square Serenade” and one song on it is “City of Immigrants”; I’m planning to reframe it in a beat-up old wood frame that belonged to my grandparents – immigrants that made it across Europe and the Atlantic to the lower east of NYC more than a century ago. And worked in garment factories around the corner from Washington Square. Talk about recycled. It’s not worth a lot of money. It’s not an original. But it’s a story I’ll hold on to.”

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