LOWELL -- For more than 35 years, Joe Pyne has served as a volunteer at the Whistler House Museum of Art.

"I started when I was in college as a studio art major at the University of Lowell. I got into it because my aunt, Marylou Doherty, was involved as president of the Board of Trustees; her mentor was Nancy Donahue," said Pyne, who is now 58.

In addition to his role as the second vice president of the Whistler's board, Pyne also serves as chairman for special events.

The museum hosts two major fundraisers each year: the Spring Interlude, which is a black-tie dinner party, and the upcoming holiday party on Friday, featuring an open bar with cocktails and dinner catered by Erin McMahon, plus a live and silent auction run by State Rep. Tom Golden and piano music in the gallery.

"We're always the first Friday after Thanksgiving week," Pyne said. "This year, we're decorating with a black and gold theme."

Pyne is even loaning the museum some props for the party that are owned by his family.

"My daughter was married in the spring and she had black wrought-iron lanterns," he said. He noted that his son, who also was married in the past year, acquired black wrought-iron candle holders for the occasion. Pyne plans to reuse those, along with the lanterns, as decorations for the Whistler party.

About 40 different works of art by members of the local community, including oil and water color paintings as well as sculpture, ceramics and fiber art, will be among the items offered at auction.


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There will also be a dinner party for 10 people catered by LaBoniche up for grabs in the live auction.

"We doubled our inventory from last year," Pyne said.

The Whistler House, located at 243 Worthen St., is the birthplace of noted early modernist painter James McNeill Whistler, who is most famous for portrait that is popularly dubbed as "Whistler's Mother."

The house was purchased in the 1880s by The Lowell Art Association, which is the oldest incorporated art association in the country. In addition to a collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art by mostly New England artists, the museum also houses original etchings by Whistler and original drawings and paintings by pioneering abstract expressionist painter Arshile Gorky.

"It's an arts museum, but it has historical significance too," Pyne said, noting that Whistler's father, Major George Washington Whistler, was one of the civil engineers for the city's canals.

Pyne currently works for a national payroll company, so his involvement with the museum allows him to keep tabs on the local arts scene.

"I have an appreciation for art, even though I don't participate in creating it any more. I like impressionists; every time I go over to Western Avenue, I buy a piece," Pyne said.

At his home in Belvidere, which he shares with his wife, Mary, a Lowell High math teacher and his miniature schnauzer, Hillary, Pyne said he's running out of wall space.

""People come and say, 'What's up with all the artwork?' Someone has to support the arts, I say, and it might as well be me," he said.

Cocktails and dinner start at 6:30 p.m. There is a $95 admission fee, $85 for members. For more information, call the Whistler House at 978-452-7641.