Harpswell arts center auctions eclectic items for holocaust center

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HARPSWELL — A giant whoopie pie, a brass diving helmet replica and a cruise.

These are three of the more than 50 items being auctioned at the 2015 silent auction for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, at Captain Morrill’s in Harpswell.

Captain Morrill’s, a community arts center on Orr’s Island, is hosting the event for a second year.

Its founder, Steve Black, is on the board of the HHRC. Last week he said his reasons for holding the auction are also very personal.

“My second wife was an Auschwitz survivor,” Black said.

She died in 2010, within months of both of Black’s parents. He established a garden at the community center in honor of their memory.

He also sees the work of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center, which is based at the University of Maine at Augusta, as another form of remembrance.

According to its website, the mission of the center is to “use the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust and other genocides to combat prejudice and discrimination in Maine and beyond.”

Black said his involvement is a “personal need for my own healing, but also a way to bring awareness of the dangers of prejudice and discrimination and targeting ‘the other.'”

The bidding for this year’s silent auction started July 1, but was officially launched at an open house on July 25. And there are a lot of things to bid on.

So far, Black said, the most popular item has been an artist pencil set donated by Nick Mills.

“A lot of kids are encouraging their parents to bid on it,” he said.

One of his friends, who used to have a “nautical-themed” home, donated a copper and brass replica diving helmet to the cause.

As of July 30, the replica helmet had one bid, at $125. 

A pair of citrine tear-drop earrings from Paris have also been popular, Black said.

But what he’s really looking forward to auctioning, he said, is a full-size Janssen piano and bench, with no-cost moving within 50 miles of Harpswell.

Jordan Bannister, the office manager of HHRC, said gathering the eclectic mix of items was a team effort.

“We put out word to board members who helped find some items,” she said. “I’ve also been canvassing around Portland, Brunswick and Bath.”

Bannister said they didn’t actually have to do much to get two cruise tickets from Royal Caribbean cruise lines, valued at $2,000.

“Someone from Royal Caribbean found out about the auction,” she said. “Nobody thought to go to them and ask, they’d just heard about the organization and wanted to help … it’s a heck of a deal for sure.”

Bidding will continue until Sept. 5, when the auction will wrap up with a benefit concert featuring local musicians.

It will be a way for “old-timers and new locals to have a way to congregate,” Black said. “Art is a good medium for getting people together.”

Bannister said that last year the auction raised $4,000 for HHRC. They’re hoping to raise a similar amount this year, she added.

She said the money will go to educational programming HHRC organizes at schools and at its Augusta center.

She described a popular program examining “propaganda during wartime versus propaganda now,” such as how societal imaging negatively affects the way women see their bodies.

“We talk about how people’s minds are changed by what they see every day,” she said.  

A list of all the items being auctioned can be seen at hhrcmaine.org. Captain Morrill’s is open Thursdays-Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

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The concert at last year’s conclusion of a silent auction for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, at Captain Morrill’s in Harpswell.

A brass and copper diver’s helmet replica is being auctioned off at Captain Morrill’s in Harpswell to benefit the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.