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Panning for Gold of a Different Color

"When I got the email, my immediate thought was, ‘oh, yeh, another get rich quick scheme.’ It was the unusual email address that made me look further."

Pam Coulter Blehert, of Reston VA, is one local visual artist who has set up a web page (www.blehert.com) in the hopes of attracting attention to her work on the World Wide Web. Most of the attention to date had been in the form of invitations to show her work on other web sites and pay for the privilege. This looked like it might be more of the same.

But this turned out to be a plea for art "painted on a gold pan." The plea came from a woman living in a very small rural fishing village in Alaska called Ninilchik who had a plan to raise money for the local senior center by passing out gold pans to be painted or embellished by well-known, professional artists and then holding an auction of the results.

The Ninilchik senior center provides a hot lunch daily to local seniors (the only hot meal some of them get), going so far as to take hot meals to the homes of those who are home-bound. In addition, the center helps seniors fill out forms and take care of paperwork and provides a place where they can come and socialize. Each year, raising the funds to support this center has become more and more difficult, and this year they came up with the idea of "The Great Gold Pan Gala." The gold pans are scheduled to go on a traveling show to several cities on the Kenai peninsula, ending with an auction in Anchorage.

Coulter (her signature name) was charmed by the proposal and crafted a scene of Great Falls, Virginia on a gold pan. "It had the dual purpose of giving me a subject and sharing a very beautiful area of Virginia with a scenic area of Alaska," she says. How did she know what Ninilchek looked like? Well, the Web helped here too, as you can see at Ninilchek’s Chamber of Commerce web site, http://www.recworld.com/ncoc.

Hear more about the progress of the "Great Gold Pan Gala" AS IT UNFOLDS ....

Latest news, Received 7/29/99 (in response to the proposed Press Release which I mailed to Joann)

Oh, Pam!
It came through beautifully and was a great release...I'm sending it on to
Ruby as she will enjoy it,too.
We WERE out rushing around Friday! We took the goldpans to Anchorage
and had a radio interview and a TV spot Friday, then took flyers to
all the larger hotels and left at the desk...picked up the copies of the
artists bios that PB EXPLORATION printed up for us...two BIG boxes, all
printed, collated and stapled!
Saturday AM I picked up one last goldpan in Anchorage, went to the ARCO bldg
to start setting up, and got a FED EX delivery of Governor Tony Knowles
goldpan! Yes! He and our two senators and one representatives sent one in!
Really surprised us! They were not nearly as lovely as YOURS but we were
surprised they even bothered to 'do' them.
The auctioneer came by and told us what HE needed, and he is such a VERY
nice person....he did this for us for NOTHING, and his mom and dad even
came. Quite a few people came in during the day to see the goldpans, and
EVERY ONE was absolutely amazed at them! Not ONE negative comment from
My friend, who is a professional photographer, came in and started taking
photos of each one. She is also going to help put up a web site with ALL of
them. She had not seen them before and also said she did not ever imagine
how beautiful they all were.
That was the good news. Now the bad news. We did not have a very good
turnout, and not as many people came to bid as we hoped. We were on all
three TV stations, had good articles in ALL the papers, were on all the
radio stations, but we did not get a big number of people who came for the
auction. I just don't know what else we could have done.
As a consequence, the bids were not as high as we wanted or expected. The
auctioneer told us that we should NOT let these goldpans go cheaply, as they
were worth a LOT more, and so we did not let about half go at the prices
that were bid. He told us that he would like to use his experience as an
auctioneer of collectible and antiques, etc, and get us a better audience,
and he would do this for NOTHING, again. He said he had associates that
would run some ads for us and that we should hold back on letting the ones
by outside artists sell for less than they were worth. And so we agreed.
Your goldpan was one that we held back and would not let it be sold for less
than we felt it was worth. We put a minimum bid of $300 on yours and were
not able to get a bidder, so we held onto it. It's worth MUCH MORE than
that, so we will offer it again when we have a better audience.
We still made all expenses and had $2057 profit...BUT we still have about
half the goldpans and we ARE going to do it again and WE ARE going to see
higher prices for them.
We did have a 'learning experience'. Although I don't know why more people
did not come. We will study on this and ask around and see what we can do
to get more people next time. So....Del Flowers, the auctioneer, said give
him 3-4 weeks to develop a strategy, and he would help us do it again...and
we ARE going to!
He was blown away by them, and I think he now has a special, personal
interest in making sure they bring what they are worth.
For what it is worth...I asked one man who bought four...why he bought them,
and he said "For Investments. I read the artists bios and I KNOW these will
increase in value"...so those who bid and took home some, were aware of that
fact. And he got some terrific bargains.
The ones who sold were mostly local artists that we felt we could let go for
the $200 range. But NOT yours!
Pam, We can't thank you enough for doing that beautiful goldpan for our
seniors. I hope you are not upset that we held it back...it was WORTH more
than we would have gotten Saturday night, and truly hope you know that. We
WON'T ever forget the artists who sent us their wonderful work, and when we get the photos online, I'll be sure to let you know where you can see them all.
I think you will also be amazed at the beauty and variety created from those
little goldpans!
Please let me know how you feel about this...as I am worried that the
artists will feel we have let them down somehow. And also any suggestions
that you may have, we would welcome your input.
We are sad that our audience did not feel the love and appreciation that WE
had for these unique works of art. I have two other interesting events about
this, but will send them later, this is getting too long!
Warm hugs to you, joann


Just wanted to touch bases with you and let you know that we are getting a start on the web site for the Goldpans....and I have some of the photos now. While they are just plain photos on a page, I thought you might like to see some? Just a preview...the lady who is doing this does BEAUTIFUL work, but since I promised to let the artists see the other goldpans...thought you might like a sneak preview?

I get excited all over again when I look at them. They were ALL so beautiful, and each one VERY SPECIAL to me, as I remember each wonderful artist when I see their work!

I'm attaching ONE set for you to see...if you want to see more, let me know, otherwise I'll probably wait until they are ALL online.

Do hope you had a great summer, we got our first light snow last night, otherwise it has been a glorious fall here.

Every time I think of the goldpans, I HAVE to thank you again, for helping us...and you DO have a standing invitation to come up and visit.

Warm regards,


P.S., there are five pages, four to a page.

  Big Cats in Snow
Tuesday, July 11, 2000