CIA Holiday Sale provides students an opening into the art world


A work that will be sold during the CIA Holiday sale

Veronica Madell, Staff Reporter

While winter and the holiday season are just starting to cross the minds of Case Western Reserve University students, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) students have been preparing for months. Long before the cold weather started, CIA students were molding pottery, designing stickers and painting canvases in preparation for Nov. 22 and 23, the annual student-led Holiday Sale.

On Friday, Nov. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., almost 90 CIA student participants will fill tables in the CIA building on Euclid Avenue with their art, hoping to sell pieces they have been working on for months. The sale is the largest student-run event at CIA; it had sales grossing over $30,000 last year and has hopes of exceeding that number this year. Ninety percent of sales go directly to the students, with the remaining 10 percent used for advertising and the food and beverages available during the show.

As Heather Dickey, ceramic maker and the student-leader of this event, says, “This is a huge number, professional art shows or galleries can keep as much as 50 percent.” She continued, “I am not sure exactly how many people attended last year or how many we expect this year. However, many students completely sell out. We advertise all over Cleveland, and last year the sale grossed over $30,000.”

Student participants Natalie Tirabassi and Teagan Ferraby could not agree more about the accessibility of this event for students. Tirabassi and Ferraby are both second-year students at CIA and are attempting their first Holiday Sale this year. After going to the sale as first-years, picking their majors last spring and finally doing some of their own design work, both artists are looking for a chance to enter into the art world.

“Doing the sale is of course about money, but also about getting to experience selling,” Tirabassi explained. “I don’t have any experience at shows and this is an opportunity that is already set up for you and advertised.”

Tirabassi is an animation major, which is not an easy skill to sell at a Holiday Sale. However, she has put her illustration skills to work, designing celebrity stickers that include Gordan Ramsey, Kanye West and Barack Obama. Tirabassi soon discovered that selling your art is not just about making it, but about pricing it and generating profits. The sale provides students with the opportunity to learn the business side of art that is not always taught in the classroom.

While Ferraby grew up going to craft shows with her parents, this Holiday Sale will be on a much larger scale. As a graphic design major, Ferraby has a wide variety of skills. From ceramic mugs to paperweight ceramic snakes to eco-dyed scarves and postcards, she has a little bit of everything. For Ferraby, this show has been quite an investment in time and also money. All she can do now is wait and hope they receive a good table placement and lots of buyers. 

Ferraby and Tirabassi never dreamed of or planned on being art students—it just happened. Ferraby planned on becoming a paramedic, but as days dragged on during her home-schooled high school education, she found that art was the only answer to her boredom.

Tirabassi never took an art class in high school and had no idea what to do after high school—her only idea was to become a pharmacist. Then, on a whim, she decided to apply to one college: Cleveland Institute of Art. When she got in, she could not believe it. Now, she dreams of working for Disney and designing the characters that people fall in love with. However, her decision to go to art school still confuses some of her family.

“My parents are still mad at me about that. They still say you should have been a pharmacist,” Tirabassi shrugged. “But here I am. I did not picture this, but I love it.” 

Dickey reminisced on her favorite memories of the Holiday Sale, saying “It’s a blast to see people buy your work. I make ceramics, so I’d like to believe that people are purchasing my work for their loved ones and that my work goes into someone’s home and is loved for decades. That thought makes me really happy.”

“This year, we have almost 90 participants and we expect a very large turn out,” Dickey commented. “Students spend months preparing sellable items and gifts that are great for the holidays, so you should definitely come and check it out!”