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4 Keys to Success with School Auction Art Projects

Hand Painted Ceramic Tile Tray and Coaster Set for School Auction Art Project

School auction art projects are an ideal way to get students involved in your next school-wide fundraiser!

School auction art projects help your art program to thrive

With all the funding cuts in education these days, programs like art and music are forced to compete for an increasingly small share of their school’s budget…. if they make it into the budget at all.

In many schools, art and music wouldn’t exist without the sponsorship of their Home & School Club. Yet these programs are essential for providing a well-rounded education for our students. They develop so many important skills, like problem solving, invention, and self-expression, just to name a few!

Parents have had to get creative to find ways to keep these programs alive and flourishing in their schools. More and more schools now host auction events in the spring to raise funding for programs, equipment, and supplies.

A school might stay low-key with an online auction or a silent auction. Or they might pull out all the stops for a fancy dinner and live auction event. Either way, school auction art projects can be among the most sought after items. 

But school auction art projects are very different from the art lessons you teach the rest of the year. Here are four things to keep in mind for a successful auction project that will drive parents into bidding wars!

1. EVERY child in the class must be represented.

When scheduling your project, allow plenty of extra time leading up to your deadline. This way students who are absent the day you do it can have a chance to make it up and be included in the project. Sending a letter home in advance can help avoid appointments being scheduled during that time.

Also, make sure parents can easily locate which part (or parts) of the project their child created by placing a “map” or “legend” on the back, or in a folder that goes with it. In more complicated projects, you can take a photo and write each child’s name with an arrow pointing to their contribution. Don’t assume students will remember which part they did…. I learned this lesson the hard way!

2. Expect to invest some money to create a quality product that will endure and stand the test of time.

This may come in the form of purchasing higher quality supplies than you normally use, investing in a new medium or material, or having your project professionally framed or mounted.

Keep in mind that you are creating a keepsake for a family to enjoy for years to come. Quilts, ceramic tile tabletops, and collages on canvas are all examples of popular auction projects that would be too costly to do in a typical art curriculum.

You’ll want to estimate what the project will cost to produce and how much it would need to sell for to be profitable. Consider the families in each class and the level of participation and support they may (or may not) be able offer… and don’t forget the grandparents!

3. Begin with the end in mind.

I’m generally not in favor of placing too much emphasis on the outcome of my students’ artwork, but auction projects by necessity are a different story.

You’ll need to find the balance between allowing room for each child’s creativity to shine through, and still ending up with a cohesive, high-quality finished piece. Good planning on the front end is essential.

Work backwards from the size of the completed project to determine the size of each part the students will create. Colors must work together, so consider using a limited palette. And you’ll want to be specific about the subject or theme that each student illustrates.

Only then, keeping all that in mind, allow room for creativity and individual style…. therein lies your challenge!

4. Enlist outside help.

Parents are a natural source of help for auction projects. Even if you don’t typically have many parents who volunteer, they will often be willing to come into the classroom for a one-time visit to help with an auction project.

Consider any special talents or interests your students’ parents may have, like sewing or construction. Parent participation also brings the added benefit of generating excitement about the project! Talk it up and keep parents updated on the project in your newsletter or on your website.

I’ve also enlisted the help of my own friends and family for important projects like this. When you really need to ensure a good outcome, a few extra adults in the room can make all the difference. Just be very clear about the kind of help you want them to give and be sure they know not to draw or paint directly on a child’s work!

Looking for ideas for your next school auction art project?

Check out my Masterpiece Mosaics project in my TPT store! You’ll also find loads of ideas on my Auction Project Ideas Pinterest board.

Below are some of the school auction art projects I’ve done with my students over the years. Each of these projects raised important funding for our art program…. and taught me a lot in the process. (See the tips I wrote about above!)

But whether we made mixed media collages, ceramic tile projects, Masterpiece Mosaics, or fabric quilts, our students were so proud and their parents were delighted with the charming results!

Note: Hand-painted ceramic tiles can be used to make unique tables, trays, and many other fun items. If you’re interested in trying this type of project for your next auction, I used Aftosa products, which are now being sold by Clay Planet.

They specialize in everything you need for ceramic tile projects, including bisque ware and glazes, and products in both wood and metal that you can customize with hand-painted tiles. (If your school doesn’t have a kiln, you can google ceramic studios in your area to find someone to do the firing for you.)

What school auction art projects have been most successful at your school? What new ideas will you be trying this year?

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