Discovery Southeast will auction an $18,500 bronze bear sculpture - the most expensive piece ever - at its 15th annual dinner and auction Friday.
The sculpture - one of more than 100 auction pieces - will help the organization fund a nature studies program for Juneau elementary school students. Discovery Southeast is a nonprofit organization geared toward hands-on learning of natural science, nature and outdoor activity.
Bidding starts at Friday's auction, but the public will be able to submit sealed bids until June 25, board president Mike Stanley said. The nonprofit gets half the proceeds from the sculpture as long as a bidder meets the reserve amount - a confidential minimum bid.
"It's a good deal for us," Stanley said. "It's an interesting experiment for us to see how it's going to go."
Rinascere Studios in Lake Oswego, Ore., donated the piece after its researcher found out about Discovery Southeast's auction through the Internet, said charity director Guy Durham.
"It sounded like they were working on a nice event," Durham said. "We just try to help organizations that are willing to give it a try."
The piece, "Cantankerous," weighs 58 pounds and is 13 inches long, 21 inches wide and 19 inches high. It includes a tiny field mouse that incites the bear's ire.
The artist, Lorenzo Ghiglieri of Portland, Ore., created 250 limited editions. Ghiglieri, 72, has encountered the grizzly bear in his exploration of Alaska and has lived with Eskimos, sharing their way of life for months.
Discovery Southeast will accept live and silent auction items up to the day of the event, Director Larry West said. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The chicken and salmon barbecue dinner is $20 for adults, $5 for children and $45 for a family.
Other auction pieces include a $1,000 homemade split bamboo fly rod, a $120 homemade crepe dinner for six, a $400 bear-viewing experience on Admiralty or Chichagof islands, a $50 wooden doll house, one hour of accupressure valued at $50 and myriad homemade desserts, including peanut blossom cookies, Palm Beach mint brownies and rum cake.
The auction is Discovery Southeast's biggest fund-raiser that helps support a nature studies program for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in Juneau. Students spend 12 hours in the fall, winter and spring getting hands-on study of local nature. Discovery Southeast pays slightly more than half the cost of the $60,000 program and area parent-teacher organizations pay the remainder, West said.
After the auction, Discovery Southeast officials hope to display the bronze sculpture somewhere in the city to garner more bids, Stanley said.