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The student art project "Navigating These Challenging Times."

For over 20 years, the SweetArt Gala has served as Continental Elementary School District’s annual fundraiser, but the pandemic will shift it to an online format for the first time this year.

Instead of the event they have held at CPAC Community Performance and Art Center for the last few years, the Continental School District Enrichment Foundation who runs the fundraising event, will host an online auction from Feb. 6-14.

The auction will include items like gift baskets from local businesses, artwork, a tablet and their traditional middle school art project.

CSDEF Vice President Julie Ciruli said this year’s youth project was pandemic-themed, reflecting what students’ experiences were like this school year.

“The question we asked is how has the pandemic affected you — the joys, the sorrows, what it meant to them — in an essay, poem or picture,” she said. “It was a challenge to put that into an art piece but their stories are amazing. That was really enlightening.”

About 100 middle school students participated with 75 writing essays and 25 doing poems.

With the work, they created a collage and included lines from youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb.”

The piece will stay at the school alongside previous years’ collaborative school art projects and people can donate $20 to be listed as a sponsor on the piece.

“We have multiple art pieces displayed at different areas around the school including the specialty piece, and there will be a lot of other fun things in the auction too,” Circuli said.

Ciruli said they began thinking about options for the gala back in October when they had a feeling the pandemic would not allow an in-person event come February. She reached out to their sponsors and contacted other local organizations to learn how they had set up similar events.

“We didn't know how it was going to go. We were a little nervous about the technology learning curve,” she said. "We chose an online auction company and it was a big learning curve. You have to get items, take pictures of those items, get it online...but it was kind of fun too.”

Bidding opened for the online auction at 10 a.m. Saturday, and will be open until Feb. 14.

Those interested in bidding can create an account on CESD’s online auction site. An account is not needed to browse the available items.

Proceeds from this auction will support teacher mini-grants, an outdoor music classroom, the library, dance residency for third- and fourth-graders, art programs and more.

For more information, or to see the items available for auction, visit 32auctions.com/ContinentalGala2021.

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 

Reporter

Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.