‘Diamonds in the Rough’

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The Salvation Army in San Francisco offers emergency housing and other necessities.

By Gina Lindsey – 

Fifty local artists recently scanned aisles of fabric, lamps and furniture at The Salvation Army Family Store in Anchorage, shopping for “Diamonds in the Rough,” an annual challenge to refashion ordinary thrift store items into resellable works of art.

The artists’ finished pieces will be auctioned off at the eighth annual Transformed Treasures fundraiser on May 9 at the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage.

Participating artists receive vouchers for items from The Salvation Army’s local thrift store. They take a “before” picture of their items, and then deliver completed works of art to The Salvation Army Alaska Divisional Headquarters on April 10. Favorites are then voted on at an auction preview ahead of the May 9 luncheon.

Over 100 artists have registered to transform a thrift store item into a treasure, with several more on a waiting list.

According to Deanna Teders, event committee co-chair, the most important guideline is that the products have “some kind of salability. You have to imagine somebody can take it home and enjoy using it.”

Proceeds from this live, silent auction benefit The Salvation Army Alaska Division. Last year, the event raised over $35,000.

“I like to give back to my community,” said artist Kimberly Sikora, who raised over $1,000 in previous auctions. “I hope everything I do, people love it enough [to buy].”

Each year, artists have an option to compete in a special challenge project. This year, the two challenges involve filing cabinets and purses or bags.

“Sometimes they may just be repurposed purses, or it might be something completely different,” Sikora said. “I like the anticipation.”

Different artists “transform” their items in different ways. For example, neckties, telephones and dishes may return as skirts, lamps and stained glass wall art.

“We prefer that the items not come back in the same condition they left,” said Major Jeanne Baker, divisional director of women’s ministries. “We want that purse or bag to come in as something that we will not even recognize.”

Transformed Treasures promotes responsible recycling as well as the ministry of The Salvation Army, and unites the local art community with businesses and philanthropists. Current event sponsors include BP Exploration AK Inc., Color Art Printing Co. and Udelhoven Oilfield System Services, Inc.

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