It happens at least once a month.

Artists get phone calls and emails from well-meaning organizations that seek donated works of art to help raise money for worthy causes. They’re often efforts that the artists endorse — social issues or projects to preserve important pieces of land.

This month, a prominent gallery in Portland is selling art at auction to raise money and awareness so artists can help themselves. A portion of the proceeds from sales this month at Aucocisco Galleries on Exchange Street will benefit an emergency fund that targets artists in need, said the gallery’s owner and director, Andres Verzosa.

“There could be 35, 40 or maybe as many as 50 annual events hosted by nonprofit organizations that benefit everybody and everything except the artists who donate the work that’s used to raise the money,” said Verzosa. “I just don’t see a lot of things happening to support the artists themselves.”

Through the auction and other events this year, Verzosa hopes to raise as much as $25,000 for the Maine Artists Assistance Fund. It will provide money for professional fine artists and their families during emergencies. It is modeled after the Artists’ Fellowship of New York, and it will be administered by the Maine Community Foundation.

The Aucocisco show, on view through March 10, is hosted by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. In addition to raising money for artists in need, a goal of the exhibition is to re-establish a local chapter of the artists union, said Caren-Marie Michel, a Portland-area painter and the treasurer for the statewide organization.

“We’re trying to revitalize the local Greater Portland chapter. We’ve sort of been on hiatus,” she said. “When we were active, we met monthly and hosted different kinds of events. But we have been without leadership, so we want to get the local chapter going again to find out what artists want and what they need.”

Among the goals of the artists union is to establish a group health-care plan. Aucocisco’s effort to establish the assistance fund dovetails perfectly with the union’s goals, she said.

Michel agreed with Verzosa that artists get frequent requests for donated or discounted work. “I’ve been doing various fundraisers for years, and I am happy to do them” she said. “I think it’s good for artists. It’s a good way to build a client base, establish a following and get some good publicity. But you have to be careful. There is a lot of asking going on.”

The Aucocisco exhibition, formally titled the Union of Maine Visual Artists Portland Chapter Painting Invitational & Silent Auction, features 96 paintings by nearly three dozen artists from across Maine. Paintings are available for purchase or for bidding.

The gallery will host a reception from 5 to 8 tonight as part of Portland’s First Friday Art Walk, and a closing reception from 3 to 5 p.m. March 10.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphkeyes


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