ELKTON — While art enthusiasts are accustomed to finding paintings and other artworks inside of the Cecil County Arts Council, this month they will discover some unexpected masterpieces in time for the holiday season.

For the first year, the arts council has partnered with the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce to display and auction off wreaths made by members of the county community.

“Usually when you go in art galleries, you see art. These are all art obviously, but they’re different because it’s so holiday-themed,” said Annmarie Hamilton, executive director of the arts council.

VIPs will get a sneak peek of the wreaths on Dec. 12. Then on Dec. 13, the exhibition will open to the general public.

The Cecil County Chamber of Commerce will also be sponsoring a business card exchange from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the arts council where people can network with other community members, enjoy refreshments and music, view and bid on the wreaths, and get into the holiday spirit. Chamber members and guests are invited. Members of the public can attend by registering on chamber website at cecilchamber.com.

There will be a silent auction for the wreaths from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 15. People can bid in person or by phone by calling the arts council at 410-392-5740 during those timeframes. If people are bidding by phone, they can look at images of the wreaths on the arts council’s and chamber’s Facebook pages, according to Bonnie Grady, president and CEO of the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce.

Awards for the wreath-makers and the highest bidder for each wreath will be announced at 3 p.m. Dec. 15.

Grady said the chamber has done something for the holidays every year for at least the past five years that she has been there, and they wanted to continue that tradition with their arts council partners.

Before coming to Cecil County, Grady managed the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce for several years, where that county hosted a festival of wreaths. Since the event was so popular there, Grady thought it would be a good idea to start the tradition here in Cecil County.

“We wanted something that would be unique and that both organizations could get behind and support and invite our members and the general public to take part in,” she said.

So, after the two organizations decided to hold a wreath auction, the “Wonderland of Wreaths” was born.

“Annmarie came up with the name ‘Wonderland of Wreaths” which is sort of cute,” Grady said. “We call it ‘WOW’ for short.”

Grady hopes people will walk away from the auction saying “Wow” too.

Hamilton estimates that so far, the arts council has received approximately 25 wreaths. Grady expects that the auction will grow as time goes on.

“It may be that we start out small and grow as the years go by. But everybody starts somewhere, right?” Grady said.

Each wreath creator took their own creative license with the craft.

“There’s some upcycled ones, there’s some brand-new ones, there’s some that have been repurposed. A lot of them are traditional with something you could put right on your wall or your grandma’s wall or your mom’s wall,” she said.

One wreath is made entirely out of strips of fabric, another from book pages, and yet another from coffee filters.

A wreath from the Hollywood Casino in Perryville is adorned with playing cards and other gambling-related decorations, while a nautical wreath is festooned with a crab, shells, and an anchor.

For the arts council’s own wreath, Hamilton said they searched the building’s basement and were inspired by the leftover supplies they uncovered.

As the wreaths get dropped off, Hamilton said it’s exciting to see what people have come up with.

“It’s almost like we’re getting them as a gift … It’s like our own little surprise with what comes in the door. We don’t know what to expect,” she said.

Holly Carhart, owner of the Captain’s Quarters for Pets boarding kennel in Elkton, dropped off her business’s wreath Monday morning.

Carhart said she and her family wanted to make a wreath as a way of supporting their community.

“We own a local business, so when the chamber of commerce let us know they were having a wreath thing, we decided it would be good for the community to make money for them and the arts council. My kids are all artists in one way or another,” she said.

Carhart’s wreath is decorated with a stuffed animal dog, bones and paw prints, and it includes a $40 gift certificate for owners to board their pets while they’re on vacation.

“We’re a home away from home,” she said.

Just as the wreaths themselves are unique, Hamilton said the future owners will also have their own individual uses for the decorations.

“Some of these are going to be last-minute Christmas gifts. Some of them are going to be keepsakes forever and ever. People are going to say ‘I got the first wreath from that the arts council and the chamber ever hosted.’ Some of them are strictly for the value,” she said, adding that many of the wreaths include gift certificates.

Proceeds from the wreath sales will be split between the arts council and the chamber. Hamilton said the arts council’s portion of the proceeds will help fund their regular programming like the children’s summer art camp and other activities.

For the county chamber, their portion of the proceeds will be used to support special projects in 2019. Grady said the chamber will announce further details about those projects at the beginning of next year.

With this partnership between the arts council and the chamber of commerce, Grady said the “Wonderland of Wreaths” is just one representation of the growing relationship between the arts and businesses in Cecil County.

“Any artist who sells his or her creations is a businessperson. They’re in business, they’re selling something and receiving something in return for it, so they are businesspeople. The chamber supports all businesspeople and all businesses of all types,” she noted.

Grady said the expansion of arts — both on Elkton’s Main Street and in smaller communities across the county — is good for business and good for Cecil County as a whole.

“The chamber promotes quality of life in every aspect, whether it’s business, philanthropy or the arts,” she said. “The chamber is all about helping make Cecil County a better place to live, work and play, and the arts are certainly a major factor in quality of life in any community.”

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