The Ashland Gallery Association's annual fundraiser will support more than local arts this year. Activities set for the nonprofit organization's 20th celebration of regional art, food and wine also will benefit a local food bank, art students and a sustainable environment.

The Ashland Gallery Association's annual fundraiser will support more than local arts this year. Activities set for the nonprofit organization's 20th celebration of regional art, food and wine also will benefit a local food bank, art students and a sustainable environment.

"We've looked for ways that we can give back to the community," says Jeff Jones, coordinator of the event. The theme is "Taste with a Conscience," and visitors will get a look at a bigger portrait of Ashland.

Leading the event this weekend will be the "Eat Dessert First Taste Gala," to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 24, in the second floor ballroom of the Ashland Springs Hotel. The gala will feature the fourth annual Artists' Quick Draw and Auction, along with desserts, coffees, teas, wines, a no-host bar and live swing music by the Flat Five String Band.

"The gala will be a little different this year," Jones says. "In the past, we've always had the evening catered, and we've never done anything during A Taste of Ashland that has focused on desserts. This gala will give local pastry chefs, bakers and chocolatiers a chance to be showcased."

Admission to the gala is free with an A Taste of Ashland ticket or $10 at the door.

The Artists' Quick Draw will start at 7:30 p.m., and visitors can watch as each of the 17 participating artists complete paintings or drawings in the medium of his or her choice in just one hour.

"A silent auction will replace the oral auctions that have been held at past Quick Draw sessions," Jones says. "At the end of the gala, the art pieces will be moved to their respective galleries so that the silent auction may continue through the weekend."

A portion of the proceeds from the auction will fund scholarships for art students at Ashland High School.

From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26, visitors may taste food and beverages from 17 restaurants and 17 wineries, breweries and distilleries at 17 art galleries throughout Ashland.

Food from Morning Glory Restaurant and wines from Devitt Winery will be featured at Etienne Gallery in the Railroad District; Thai Pepper and RoxyAnn Winery will be at Hanson Howard Gallery on North Main Street; and Pangea and Foris Vineyards will be at Houston's Custom Framing on East Main Street, to name a few.

"Because we're holding A Taste of Ashland at the same time Ashland celebrates Earth Day, we want to try to achieve a 'no waste taste' as much as we can," Jones says. "We'll be using wine glasses saved from past Ashland Gallery Association events, and if visitors don't want to take their commemorative glasses home, they can leave them at the last gallery that they stop at.

"We also want to serve food items that don't require plastic plates or forks, and very little paper," Jones says.

Also new to A Taste of Ashland this year will be a raffle for dinner and entertainment packages. Wineries, theaters and restaurants have donated items for the raffle.

"We've put together seven really nice packages," Jones says. "One of them, for example, includes two tickets to Oregon Cabaret Theatre's 'Mystery of Irma Vep,' along with two dinners at Hanna Sushi and a bottle of pinot noir from EdenVale Winery."

Raffle tickets cost $5 or three for $10 and will be available at the gala and throughout the weekend at the galleries. Part of the proceeds from the raffle will go to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

A Taste of Ashland tickets cost $55, $40 for Saturday only and $30 for Sunday only. Ticket sales are limited to ensure that the event does not become overcrowded. A shuttle will be provided for those unable to walk to the galleries.

Tickets are available at atasteofashland.com on the Web. Tickets will be held for will-call at the kiosk box office on the Ashland Plaza. Bring your e-mail receipt and identification.

Call 292-2302 for additional information.