SEMINOLE — St. Petersburg College has taken a cue from eBay.
The college plans to auction donated artwork using the Internet as a way to raise money for a natural wildlife habitat and environmental center.
Potential buyers will be able to see pictures of the artwork and place bids during the monthlong event. Bidders can monitor the site and increase their offer if necessary to make sure they get the piece they want. The entire auction will be at www.spcollege.edu/se/artauction.
For those who prefer a closer look at the artwork, it will hang in the college's University Partnership Building on the Seminole Campus. The public will have the first chance to see the art at a kickoff reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the University Partnership Building, 9200 113th St. N. The auction closes Dec. 12.
The natural habitat that will benefit from the sales is a wetlands area that college officials have long wanted to use as a passive "green zone" or nature park for SPC students, employees and the public to enjoy or use as an informal classroom.
But college leaders have bigger plans for the area. They want to use it as a centerpiece for an Environmental Center for classroom presentations and as an outdoor laboratory for environmental education.
The Nature Park and Environmental Center will also serve as a big part of an Environmental Science Technology Program the college is developing. This fall, the Seminole campus offered its first course in sustainability, which the Environmental Protection Agency has defined as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
"I'd love to say we'll open the Environmental Science Technology program in the fall … but the jury's still out on that," said Jim Olliver, provost of the Seminole Campus.
A lack of funding could delay the new program. Although the college has some money for the center and the program, the effect of Amendment 1, which added $25,000 to the homestead exemption, and other fiscal difficulties have made public money tight, Olliver said.
That's why the college decided to try the eBay-style auction. The response from artists was great, he said. Local artists joined students, faculty and staff members in contributing works.
"There's lots of stories in there," Olliver said.
Private money also may be tight in the current economic climate, but Olliver hopes that holding the auction just before Christmas will help raise enough money to get things started.