VIP photographer Rob Sprague’s picture of piled up tires
Submitted photo
VIP photographer Matt French took this picture of the Scoby Dam from the north side of the Cattaraugus Creek for the Great Visions of Springville gala Friday evening.
VIP photographer Pat Thoman’s picture of The Bread of Life church
VIP photographer Liz Melock’s picture of a park bench

By Pam Morley

Greater Visions of Springville is the most recent event from Springville Center for the Arts, and you can see what visions there are during a gala this Friday.

Sixteen notable figures in the community, from local government and churches to schools and other organizations, were chosen as photographers to take the pictures that will be auctioned off.

“The reason for the diverse selection is so notable people from different pockets of the community — a mix of backgrounds — can see things from a different perspective,” said Seth Wochensky, Executive Director of the Springville Center for the Arts.

The event begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 with registration, refreshments and music followed by the auction at 8.

“We’ll be rolling out the red carpet and the searchlights will be on,” Wochensky said. “This helps to build a community, getting dressed to have a swanky night on the town.”

Inspired by an event at the CEPA gallery in Buffalo, it seemed interesting, different and fun. It was a new and yet retro concept and it seemed fitting to try at the arts center.

The center first held the event was back in 2007 under the name Hard Hat Fundraising Event. It was the first event done at the church and it went over really well It got the community involved in many ways so they thought they’d try it again.

The process for the event seemed fun, but tough for the art staff to decide on what they liked best.

First, the VIPs were distributed disposable cameras. Second, all the roles of film were processed. Third, the art staff reviewed and then decided on one from each participant.

They looked at what represented a more artistic view of things, Wochensky explained, as well as looked at iconic areas and how they were captured in an image. There were 16 images altogether, each matted, framed and put on display.

Proceeds from the auction will support the spring programs, plays, concerts, children’s programs and workshops.

“This is really an honor, this is so cool,” said Rob Sprague of SouthTown Tireman, one of the VIPS. With no previous photography experience, Sprague said he kept forgetting to take the pictures. “With so much on my mind, it forced me to focus.”

“I wanted to take some care fee shots, relative to my business,” he continued. “My shop is a staple in this town and that’s why I took the pictures of the tires.” He also went on to say staying relaxed, not stressing and good lighting, are all things he looks for when taking a photo.

Sprague said he’s always supported the arts center and wanted to help out and give back. “I’m happy that this is a way that I can do that as well as meet more people,” he added.

VIP Photographer Ang Shaver, of Route 39 Salon, said she felt good about being picked even though her only photography experience was using her smartphone.

“It was good, I wasn’t stressed and it was fun to do,” she said.

Shaver said the only thing she kept forgetting to do was wind the camera, but she loved taking pictures of the girls, flowers and sunsets.

She said she looks for the way the snow sits, nature in general and the little things people wouldn’t think to take pictures of that catch her eye.

And what does she hope to get out of the experience?

“The enjoyment of looking at everyone’s pictures, and meeting new people.”

Pat Thoman from The Bread of Life said she was excited and delighted about this new experience. Like a lot of the VIPs, she too doesn’t have much photography experience except for the occasional children’s birthday party or family gathering.

Thoman said the process wasn’t easy for her because she wasn’t blessed with sunny skies when she had time to take pictures.

But taking photos on dank, dreary days clearly worked in her favor. Even though she lacked the sun she wanted, Thoman said at least she didn’t feel pressured.

The only problem she had was keeping the camera steady.

“With today’s technology we are spoiled, we don’t even hold the camera up to our eyes anymore … It’s been a fun experience,” she said, hoping to represent The Bread of Life at the gala and even possibly bid on her own picture.

Whether it’s the Hard Hat Fundraising Event or Greater Visions of Springville, the title doesn’t matter because the concept brings this small community together.

“Different groups are now connected through this event and are networking,” Wochensky added. “You never know what good  things can come from this event.”

The event begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 with registration, refreshments and music. At 8 p.m., each piece is individually auctioned with the proceeds benefiting the Center’s spring programs.

Tickets to the event are available online at, by phone at 592-9038 or in person at the gallery space. Admission to the event is $10 presale and $12 at the door. Bidders will scan their credit card during the registration process to enable auction payment.

It’s an excellent opportunity to meet with new people and reconnect with those you may have lost touch within the community. Come down and support undiscovered talent and maybe next time you’ll be the VIP!