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Auction helps paint a brighter future for physically challenged

Updated: 2023-12-07 08:43 ( China Daily )
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A visitor looks at paintings that went under the hammer at a charity-oriented auction, titled "Dreams Come True in Shandong", held in Jinan, Shandong province, on Nov 18. [PHOTO BY CAO JIAYUE/CHINA DAILY]

There was no initial indication that the price was to more than double. After all, 13 bids of around 200 yuan ($28) had been made without the asking price rocketing. The subject of the bid was the painting Magpies on the Branch. Then, suddenly, after a hectic spell of bids and counterbids, a price of 520 yuan was accepted at an art auction held at a gallery in Jinan, Shandong province, on Nov 18.

The painting, showcasing two magpies perched on a branch surrounded by light-colored flowers and leaves against a dark blue background, was heavy with meaning as magpies in China symbolize hope for future prosperity and good luck.

Created by Shi Zaitao, a junior student at the School of Art of Shandong Agriculture and Engineering University, the magpie painting was one of a collection of more than 100 that went under the hammer at a charity-oriented auction, titled "Dreams Come True in Shandong".

All the paintings were donated by professional artists, teachers and students at the art school of the university, with over 50 auctioned. The sale raised a total of 50,000 yuan.

The gains will be used to purchase facilities for organizations in Shandong for people facing physical challenges, says Benjamin Hammer, who initiated the auction and is now an associate professor at the Advanced Institute for Confucian Studies, Shandong University.

"The charity art auctions represent a new way for us to uphold our social responsibilities and they provide good opportunities for our students to contribute to society with their artworks," says Han Lu, dean of the university's School of Art.

After the auction, members of the public were able to view the artworks, and many expressed their interest in buying them.

"It would be great if the proceeds from my purchases could benefit people with special needs," says Xing Hongbo, an IT professional who learned about the event from an artist friend. "Seeing the paintings created by students, I truly believe in the strength of the youth."

Hammer is pleased with the outcome of this year's auction. "At this charity auction, the event gained even more momentum, thanks to the heartfelt support of attendees. This allows us to extend our assistance to an even larger number of people with disabilities."

Years ago, Hammer had the idea of raising money to help people with special needs. His previous fundraising attempts through WeChat sites had limited success. Then, he realized that it would be better if he could organize an art auction.

"People can get artworks and they will be happy that their purchases help the disabled," he says.

Supported by the Shandong Foundation for Disabled Persons, his first charity art auction was held in 2021, where over 70,000 yuan was raised. The funds benefited two organizations focused on assisting people with special needs.

Hammer demonstrated an interest in Chinese culture as he was growing up in the United States. His bustling neighborhood had many Asian Americans, particularly Chinese, who ran businesses, and he began to learn Chinese by himself. During his college years, he delved deeper into Chinese language studies and found himself enamored with it.

He came to study in China in 1998 and pursued his Master's degree in classical Chinese documentology at Shandong University, followed by a PhD in the same field from Peking University.

Having lived in Beijing, Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and Shandong, he discovered a deep connection with Jinan, and he says that the city's genuine hospitality and the enduring presence of traditional culture resonated profoundly with him, creating an instant and heartfelt bond.

He is planning another charity event to help more people with special needs. "I'm still considering the best approach to take," he says.

Cao Jiayue contributed to this story.

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