Oh, Christmas tree! Waterloo Arts branches out with "Art of the Ornament" auction

Every time someone buys an ornament to benefit Waterloo Arts, an angel gets its wings.


Just ask Waterloo Arts executive director Amy Callahan, who is spearheading the second annual “Art of the Ornament” auction featuring handmade ornaments by local artists. Last year’s installment raised $2,500 for the Collinwood-based nonprofit, which she says was cause for celebration.


“When we did the in-person auction at our gallery in 2019, we rang a bell very loudly and made a lot of noise whenever someone made a donation,” says Callahan with a laugh. “We also put wings on the wall to symbolize an angel getting its wings.”


Waterloo Arts and the local arts community This year, Callahan is calling all angels once again as Waterloo Arts and the local arts community work to rebound from a difficult year. (COVID-19’s impact on arts and culture nationally clocks in at approximately $14.6 billion, according to Americans for the Arts.) “This year, I’ll be happy if we can raise $2,000,” says Callahan of the now-virtual auction. “We’re at $859 so far.”

The bidding began on Saturday, Dec. 14, and continues through Friday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. Participating artists include fine artist Scott Pickering, illustrator Angela Oster, CAN Journal’s Michael Gill, and many others—with unique finds such as a “Cleveland Pothole” ornament by photographer Audrey Warrenfeltz and a mini mid-century modern sugar house by self-proclaimed “frustrated architect” Gordon Van Metre (who earned the highest bid of last year’s auction).


“I call them little miniature swinging pieces of art,” says Callahan. “It’s such a fun idea for Clevelanders who know a lot of these artists and can fill their tree with these mini art pieces.”


Though this year’s auction is all-virtual, Callahan says that has helped to broaden exposure for the participating artists—with bids coming in from states like Massachusetts and Connecticut. Callahan says that creating a website for the auction has also enabled Waterloo Arts to share more information on the artists’ backgrounds.

“In the gallery, we just had a sign with the artist’s name next to their ornament, but with the virtual auction, we can provide artists’ bios and links to their websites,” says Callahan. “It’s nice to be able to provide a bit more exposure than the in-person show did.”

All artists will also be entered into a raffle as a thank-you for donating an ornament for auction, with prizes including gift certificates to local businesses such as Beachland Ballroom, Six Shooter Coffee, Faber Castell, and more.


With 2021 around the corner, the proceeds from the Art of the Ornament auction will fund Waterloo Arts’ classes and community programs next year. Callahan expects to debut the second phase of the Green Palette, a “guerilla gardening” and beautification project for the flower beds on Waterloo Road. The organization also hopes to bring back Waterloo Arts Fest in some capacity, since COVID-19 necessitated the cancellation of the 2020 event.

And, in spring, Callahan hopes to once again mount in-person art classes for kids, like the limited-capacity course held this past fall in tandem with MOCHA (Museum of Creative Human Art). The recent installment featured a whirlwind instructional tour of various art disciplines at nearby spots such as Photocentric Gallery, Praxis Fiber Workshop, Brick Ceramic + Design Studio, and Deep Dive.

"Waterloo is a really walkable neighborhood," says Callahan. "We want people to feel like this neighborhood is their art campus and plug into the district and the opportunities it offers."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.