There’s a mystique to Vernon’s historic Caetani property that cannot be denied. There is a presence felt as you walk through the lush gardens and hear the wind blowing through the centuries’ old trees. You can’t help but look up to the windows of the house’s second floor to see the Italian aristocratic family who once presided over this place – Leone, Ofelia, and daughter Sveva – watching down upon you.
Their presence was certainly felt as revellers from near and far arrived at the Caetani Centre Thursday for the fifth annual Splash of Red fundraiser.
Events such as the Splash of Red help in telling the story of the Caetani family, and especially that of Sveva’s and her intent to one day open her home as a cultural centre for the public to enjoy, said Caetani Cultural Centre executive director Susan Brandoli.
“We have never been able to fully realize our potential to open to the public because we had things holding us back such as a sprinkler system, fire safety and other electrical work. It had to be safe,” said Brandoli, adding that events such as the Splash of Red are integral to the Caetani Cultural Society’s fundraising efforts that coincide with government grants. “This whole project is going to be really beneficial for maintaining the structural integrity of the house and opening it to the public.”
Despite Mother Nature’s windy maelstrom and a cooler-than-usual August evening, the event was a success, with more than 150 artists and art patrons who splurged on the $100 tickets to celebrate the Caetanis’ legacy and the move forward to open the home to the public.
Some clutched programs and auction paddles, along with red-splashed wine flutes, in anticipation of the evening’s four-course sit-down dinner, catered by Basket Case Picnics, and the live art auction, presided over by fast-talking auctioneer Paul Bielby. Others just tried to keep balance while walking on heels, and in guest Tanya Lipscomb’s case, on one metre-high stilts.
Due to the winds, the artwork-to-be auctioned off had to be moved into the centre’s new studio, but the warm and bright room provided guests to get a close-up look of the colourful paintings and sculptures before they went on the block.
After imbibing on antipasti and a main of grilled salmon and butternut squash stuffed lasagna, with all the accoutrements, the artwork was brought to the front and the auction began.
In all, the event helped the Caetani Centre get closer to its goal.
“We’re still figuring it out, but we grossed probably around $50,000 to $60,000,” said Brandoli.
“This community has been amazing. We are getting so much closer to our goal. People want to see the house. They want to see (Sveva’s) art work. They want to know Sveva’s story. It’s not just the Caetani Cultural Society that believes in this place, but it’s the community and all levels of government that are stepping in and saying we are going to do this for the benefit of heritage, tourism and cultural programing. We are just beginning to start reaching our potential. There’s still more work and fundraising to be done.”