PORTLAND — Carla Cutting started out Friday evening looking for vintage needlework, but she was just as happy to pick up an Egyptian-style painting on papyrus.

If that sounds similar to a trip to a Goodwill store, where one might go looking for one thing and find a great deal on something unexpected, there’s a reason: Cutting was shopping at Goodwill’s biannual art sale.

Along with the outgrown jeans, the old kitchen mixers and the out-of-style dresses, people drop off a surprising amount of artwork at Goodwill stores and collection centers.

A few years ago, Goodwill’s Bob Parker figured there was an opportunity to do more with the art than prop a frame in a corner of a store and hope that someone who strolled by would like it.

So Friday night — Portland’s First Friday Art Walk night — Goodwill held its biannual art sale, with seascapes, impressionists’ pieces, prints and some crafts hung on the walls of Goodwill’s headquarters on Cumberland Avenue.

“I’m often amazed at the art we receive,” Parker said. The sale “is like being in one of our stores — you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

Jane Driscoll, Goodwill’s vice president of public affairs, said the sale has grown more popular every year — the line outside this year was the longest yet.

The sale raises about $5,000, she said, with the money earmarked for “extras” for Goodwill’s 23 group homes in Maine. She said that means an extra trip for the residents, or a gas grill or even snowblowers to make winter a little easier.

Parker said he researches the art that comes in, trying to track down websites about the artists so he can determine prices based on what similar pieces have brought.

Most have fallen into the $20-$35 category, but he priced a set of six 1776 hand-painted London prints of the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers — dressed in 18th century garb — at $250, the highest price for Friday’s sale.

As with many Goodwill finds, Parker said, the price doesn’t reflect the value. “They’re worth three times that,” he whispered.

Barney Schneider browsed the walls, intrigued but not persuaded to buy. After all, his wife, Judy Schneider, is an artist and her work covers most of the walls of the couple’s home in Falmouth.

Schneider said his wife taught him about art — including the revelation that “you don’t have to put your college-era posters on your walls” — so he appraised the work with perhaps a slightly more trained eye than the others in the Goodwill hallway.

“There are some things that are quite skilled art,” he said. “It’s the kind of stuff that overstayed its welcome at someone’s house, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t leap off the wall and speak to someone else.”

That’s what happened to Cutting, who arrived nearly two hours before Friday’s 5 p.m. opening to make sure she was at the head of the line, which grew to about 50 people by the time the doors were unlocked.

Cutting said that first spot in line has netted her some of the needlework that she cherishes, but there was none to be had Friday. So she went with the papyrus painting, as a Christmas gift for a niece who loves all things Egyptian.

Cutting said she treasures the castoffs she has picked up at the sales.

“Their families didn’t appreciate them,” she said of the framed needlework that hangs on her walls. “I believe they need to be respected and honored.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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