Each time principal Sean Bailey raised his hand and waved bidder card number 246, they broke out in screams and applause. 

Students and teachers from Beattie Elementary School were caught in a friendly bidding war for "Heartland Values," one of 89 Nebraska By Heart fiberglass statues auctioned off Friday at Haymarket Park.

The school, which collectively raised nearly $5,700 through art sales, lemonade and music stands, and online fundraisers won the bidding for the statue at $5,000. 

Art teacher Holly Group-Weber had the idea to raise money for the heart by placing coin jars in classrooms at the school at 19th and Calvert streets.

Then students, such as 7-year-old Elle Friesen, held lemonade stands and art sales.

"Kids love the community art; they light up," Group-Weber said. "I've always embraced it as a teaching opportunity."

Josephine Lehman, 11, is excited to see the heart outside her school: "I really like how it represents Nebraska," she said.

Lehman raised money by playing her clarinet with her sister for passers-by outside her Lincoln home. 

Friday's auction raised more than $250,000 from hundreds of bidders, according to Nebraska By Heart project director Liz Shea-McCoy, despite thunderstorms that forced the auction to take place under the Haymarket Park concourse. 

Ashland native and astronaut Clayton Anderson spoke before Ritchie Bros. auctioneers kicked off the proceedings, with the bidding starting at $1,500 per heart.

"After you have a big event like that, you think of all the positives that resulted because of that and the locations statewide that are going to get these hearts," Shea-McCoy said Saturday. 

The money is split equally between the artists, the academic support group Lead Up, and Sadie Dog Fund, a nonprofit committed to protecting dogs.

Both Lead Up and Sadie Dog Fund sponsored the Nebraska By Heart project.

The biggest seller at the auction was the heart statue "Western Gothic: Big Skies and Big Hearts," by Broken Bow-teacher Roberta Barnes, which sold for $10,000.

The heart depicts a ranching couple in the Sandhills reminiscent of Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" painting.

The Nebraska By Heart public art project drew artists mostly from around the state who painted the 89 fiberglass hearts perched on Nebraska-shaped pedestals. 

The hearts were placed on or near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln city and east campuses, in the Haymarket and near Centennial Mall and the state Capitol.

The hearts depict different aspects of life in the Heartland, from Husker football and agriculture, to more abstract designs.

"This project opened it up to the vision of the artist," Shea-McCoy said. "They could have abstraction in their design, or they could create what they saw outside their window.

"It's a forever piece of art."

Group-Weber said the heart Bettie Elementary School came together to raise money for will hopefully be installed next week on the Stockwell Street side of the school.

"I told the kids, everybody wins in this," Group-Weber said. "It helps us and the community. Now it's going to be on display and giving back to the community who can visit whenever, and that's special."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or zhammack@journalstar.com

On Twitter @zach_hammack 

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