ArtsOn Exhibit

On Exhibit: The 51st Annual Art League Patrons Show

Ticket holders employ both the Art Thief app and the less techie pen and paper to prioritize their picks.
(Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

The Greatest Show

By Kelly MacConomy

The 51st annual Art League Patrons Show was held February 17 at the Torpedo Factory with some controversial changes to the legendary art spectacular. Upwards of 700 works of art donated by Art League and Torpedo Factory members as well as local artists were the main attraction of the most anticipated art center fundraiser of the year.

In decades past the collected art was informally raffled with eager patrons queuing up to get coveted “first numbers” enabling them the first choices from the donated artwork.

As recently as 2004, dedicated veteran Patron Show conquerors camped out in arctic-cold temps, determined to score the best in show. (Photo: The Art League)

At one time tickets cost merely $50. The atmosphere was relaxed, fun for all and open to the public spectators. This year even studio artists who normally attended gratis, assisting in the five to six-hour circus and with some hosting open house soirées, were required to purchase a ticket. Studio parties were discouraged with the City of Alexandria now mandating ABC alcohol permits to serve libations. Even Girl Scout cookies were under threat of prohibition.

The show nonetheless must go on. The Art League never fails to bring razzmatazz to the seemingly insurmountable challenge of exhibiting scores of artworks in small display spaces. As late as 4:00 pm on the day before, ticket holders continued to make their pre-raffle wish lists, while tourists who had inadvertently wandered in scored the last two raffle tickets for the “First Choice” prize.

Decisions, decisions! A ticket holder deliberates on her next choice. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)


The goal is to get some really cool art for the price of admission and better still, the coveted “First Choice” raffle ticket which could be obtained for as little as $12.50. The breadth of original art available is enormous. At $250 per person, the event remains a real bargain. First Choice raffle tickets are sold in advance of the main event for $15 each or two for $25. The First Choice raffle winner, drawn just before the start of the ticketed name selection, then picks first, capsizing more than a few flow-chart strategies.

The Main Event: Wall to wall, floor to ceiling art on display for the 2019 Art League Patron Show.
(Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Names are then randomly drawn, precluding the need for camping gear and frostbite treatment, sometimes eliciting screams from somewhere in the building. The Art Thief app introduced in 2016 made the decision-making process relatively expeditious and far less vexing. But die-hard luddites of the pen-and-pencil set coupled with the absence of WiFi in the art center during the event require back-up contingencies.

Despite the more formal, restrictive organization for this year’s greatest art show on earth, smiles and cheers versus the jeers of anxious patrons of shows past, when the selection process could take far longer than the crowd tolerated, prevailed. Final names drawn are compensated with special door prizes. Remaining artwork after all the names have been selected is then auctioned off at the After-Auction where audience antics during the spirited bidding are as much fun as a barrel of clowns.

This year the curator’s choice for the Marian Van Landingham Best in Show award went to Wendy Donohoe for her exquisite photorealistic carbon pencil drawing of the iconic Flatiron Building in lower Manhattan titled “Market Day”. Wendy’s technical mastery of the pencil is a mystifying feat. It’s not merely her skilled draftsmanship that astonishes the eye; her expressive composition and subject matter mesmerize the imagination.

Crayon the next Art League Patron’s Show, February 16, 2020, on the calendar now. Get your tickets early. Sales begin mid-January. It’s a really big show and always a sell- out crowd.

Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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