Artists of the World online auction for water sanitation projects starts tomorrow

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In the 1980s, the Rotary Club of Denver held massive Artists of America auctions, which raised more than $2 million for charitable projects around the world. Those annual events stopped in 2000, but the concept has now been reborn as Artists of the World, an online auction that will raise funds for clean water and sanitation projects. And it begins tomorrow night.

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Skip Ahern, who came up with the idea to re-energize the auction using the Internet, explains that Artists of the World chose this cause because of the effect that unclean water has around the globe. In third world countries, about 6,000 children die each because of issues related to unclean water, he says: "The water projects also get into the areas of sanitation and personal hygiene in these countries, education on hygiene, etc. And that sort of evolves into economic development."

The proceeds of the auction will go to various charities, but will also help fund future AOW projects. "We think that Internet art sales for a good cause will be a very unique pitch for us," Ahern adds. "And the AOW will be a self-sustaining business model, as opposed to the normal fundraisers where you're always asking the same people every year after year for more and more money."

The first online auction will begin at 9 p.m. Saturday, September 15, and will continue until October 10. The main pieces come from such established, well-known artists as Sam Scott, Alyce Frank, Larry Bell and Lawrence Sisson. "There is also the ability, through participating Rotary clubs around the world, to source indigenous art in underdeveloped countries and create a market for those indigenous artists online," explains Pete Warzel, CEO of AOW.

The biggest piece in this auction's collection is Mary Mito's "Not Until Then," a 42-foot-wide display of five paintings that depicts the same body of water at five points in time. "The work that we got from her is truly a monumental piece," Warzel says.

The painting took Mito four years to complete and this is the first time she will see it completely assembled, due to its size. The bidding on this one piece will begin at $775,000, but Ahern hopes it will bring in close to $1 million.

There are 83 pieces up for auction on the AOW website, some of which will be displayed at private events at Rotary clubs in Denver and Santa Fe tomorrow night.

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