Monroe Chamber hosts Artis Gras

Looking for something different to do for Valentine's Day? Monroe's Arti Gras, a New Orleans-style event, coordinated by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, might be exactly what Cupid ordered.
Meant to highlight and celebrate art in all its forms, the event will raise money to support the enhancement of the arts in the Monroe community.
"Monroe, the Sky Valley and Washington have an amazing wealth of artists,GÇ¥ said Monroe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Una Wirkebau-Hartt. "Celebration of art in all forms is a great way to bring community together, as well as raise awareness for our local needs to improve upon our current art facilities and incorporate more art into our community.GÇ¥
Starting on Thursday, Feb. 12, Arti Gras will include three days of artistically-themed festivities, culminating in the chamber's masquerade ball that will take place in downtown Monroe. Events will include an art show at Saaski Gallery (17161 Beaton Road S.E.) on Thursday, Feb. 12, a tasting festival and art walk on Friday, Feb. 13 in Monroe's historic downtown core and on Saturday, Feb. 14, a masquerade ball will be held at the Junction Co. (114 N. Lewis St.), which will include an authentic New Orleans-style dinner and live musical entertainment.
Thursday's art show is hosted by Leonie Saaski from 6 to 9 p.m. at her gallery near the Fryelands. Art created by 33 local artists will be on display, and refreshments will be provided. The event is free. Artists participated in a juried art show in January for the opportunity to display their work.
"We had to cut it off because we have over 90 pieces of work and there's not enough room left in the gallery,GÇ¥ Wirkebau-Hartt said. "It's going to be amazing.GÇ¥
On Friday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., an art walk and tasting festival will take place in downtown Monroe. All mediums of art will be represented, including performance art, visual art and culinary art. There will be beer, wine and spirit tasting, as well as musical entertainment. Guests will be invited to purchase 10 tickets for $20, which will buy 10 tastes.
Wirkebau-Hartt estimates that more than 70 percent of downtown businesses will participate in the event; volunteers will be passing out Mardi Gras-style beads.
"It's very authentic,GÇ¥ Wirkebau-Hartt said. "All the beads are coming up from New Orleans.GÇ¥
Additional artists at the art walk event are welcome. Artists can display their work for free, provided they donate a percentage of any sales back to the event.
Finally, on Saturday, Feb. 14, the masquerade ball and fundraiser auction will be held at the Junction. Tickets to the ball are $50 per person or $90 per couple, and will include a New Orleans-style dinner, beverages and live music from the Zydeco band Fil+¬ Gumbo.

"They're out of Seattle, and they're fabulous,GÇ¥ Wirkebau-Hartt said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It is a masquerade ball, so we're expecting people to dress up and wear masks.GÇ¥
Materials for guests who are interested in creating their own masks can be purchased at Ben Franklin Craft and Frames in Monroe. And My LA Fashion in downtown Monroe has a selection of ready-made masks available for purchase.
The event will include both a live and silent auction, and Wirkebau-Hartt is seeking local artists who can provide a brief testimony at the event, to talk about how art has touched their life. Doors will open at 5 p.m., dinner will be served at 6, and at 7 p.m., the auction will start.
"Hundreds of one-of-a-kind pieces of art will be auctioned off,GÇ¥ Wirkebau-Hartt said.
Proceeds from the event will support art in the Monroe community. Wirkebau-Hartt would like to contribute a portion to the Monroe Arts Council, to help it complete the construction of the bathrooms at the Wagner Performing Arts Center. Additionally, if funding permits, she would like to fund scholarships for youth interested in pursuing some sort of artistic endeavor, or purchase a sculpture for the downtown area.
Tickets to the masquerade ball must be purchased online in advance of the event and will not be available at the door.
For more information on Arti Gras, visit For information on being a part of Friday's art walk and tasting festival, please call the Monroe Chamber of Commerce at 360-794-5488.


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