Rita Argen Auerbach started her art career at a young age.
“My sister and I shared a bedroom when we were about 9 and 11 years old,” Auerbach said. “We discovered that we were both pretty sneaky. We would take our pencils and do little doodles behind the furniture.”
One day, her mother found the illustrations and instead of reacting angrily, she gave them permission to draw whatever they pleased on the walls. That set Auerbach on a track that would ultimately lead to a decades-long career in art, featuring and teaching art around the United States and other countries such as Latvia, Germany and Spain.
The award-winning artist is also a longtime Chautauquan. For the second year in a row in the store Pat’s at Chautauqua, in the lower level of the St. Elmo, she is selling her watercolor Chautauqua- themed Giclée prints to raise money for the Chautauqua Fund.
Auerbach has been a volunteer for the fund, in addition to being a member of the Bestor Society. She has also donated to the Institution outside of the fund. After attending the Chautauqua conference on U.S.-Soviet relations in Latvia, she donated many of her sketches and paintings of the Soviet Union to the Chautauqua Institution Archives.
Auerbach paints anything on the grounds from architecture to lectures; these Chautauqua images are the ones she has chosen to display in Pat’s. She sees the Institution as a place that inspires her, and she values the educational environment.
“I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the summer,” Auerbach said. “(Because) of what’s going on here. … This year, I had an epiphany, and I wanted to learn poetry. So, what better place? I took a poetry workshop this week, and I’ve been encouraged to write about my art.”
Pat Finson, owner of Pat’s, has been selling Auerbach’s prints at her store for the last 18 years. A longtime Chautauquan and member of the 1874 Society, Finson has been running the boutique for 30 years, selling a variety of clothes and other products.
Like Auerbach, Finson said she is happy to raise money for the fund.
“There’s no place like Chautauqua,” Finson said. “For me, it’s like having your very own high school reunion. People come back (every season) and they’re not customers, they’re friends.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the prints will be donated to the Chautauqua Fund. Finson and Auerbach raised $9,000 last season and are looking to sell the remaining $11,000 in inventory this season.
“I’m looking forward to next year,” Auerbach said. “We can go forward with another project, (and) maybe this will help other shop owners to see that you get such a wonderful feeling when you give.”