A warm breeze rolls through Turtle Mountain Winery, granting reprieve from the hot, albeit cloud-covered, midsummer night in the North Okanagan.
The elaborate winery is full of patrons dressed both in elegant garb and casual attire discussing the extensive collection of breathtaking artwork on display for the Vernon Public Art Gallery’s 31st annual Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts Wednesday.
Classic rock sounds of Vernon’s Fleet First are carried on the summer breeze, weaving throughout the tents playing host to the 44 multimedia pieces that will be sold at auction later in the night.
“I thought that it was diverse,” says Cheryl Stevenson, who purchased three pieces of artwork — two in the live auction and one in the silent auction.
“I plan on coming again,” Stevenson says, adding that it was her first time attending the event.
Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts is VPAG’s primary fundraiser, raising more than $60,000 this year compared to last year’s $51,000.
“We had its best year ever,” says VPAG executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant. “It’s more than just purchasing the art, it’s supporting the art gallery.”
The crowd traverses the elaborate displays with drinks from Okanagan Spring Brewery, Gray Monk Estate Winery, and Okanagan Spirits in hand as volunteers cart around hors d’oeuvres from Cracked Pepper Catering, The Fig Catering, Italian Kitchen, and Wings Bar and Grill.
As the early evening carries on, a light drizzle sweeps through the valley, causing some patrons to seek shelter with the artwork.
Art enthusiasts Colin Barr and Ian Pusey take in the display as they sip Gray Monk wine.
“The drinks are great. The entertainment is great. It’s fun times,” Pusey says, adding that it is the second year he has been at the VPAG fundraiser.
Barr, who is at Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts for the first time, agrees.
“It’s very entertaining and lively. I bid on a tanning package, best $15 I ever spent,” Barr laughs.
Both Barr and Pusey plan on returning next year.
At 8 p.m. sharp, Kennedy Grant calls the crowd to muster for the live auction. After a brief introduction of VPAG staff and volunteers, Don and Peter Raffan of Valley Auction and the Raffan Brothers make their way to the front.
The sound of the Raffan brothers is reminiscent of a bluegrass dittie and Nascar announcer amalgamation, effectively enticing the crowd to cast bids on the pieces.
Don and Peter take turns as auctioneer and spotter, working in unison to keep spirits high. Lots are moving quickly as the Raffan brothers fire off numbers and VPAG volunteers walk through the audience, showing off the pieces on auction.
Lot 25 is contemporary impressionist Rick Bond’s The Rail Trail. Bond is a crowd favourite who creates designs from every day life in a dynamic and relaxed style. The Rail Trail is listed at a fair market value of $2,100, but the bids quickly surpass the benchmark, and the bidding ceases at $2,700.
It looks as though Bond’s piece will be the highest ticket item, but minutes later, the Raffans call out lot 38 — Luis Fuentes’ A View of Kalamalka Lake.
Peruvian-born Fuentes is an internationally-renowned artist who was the 2016 Mackie Lake House artist in residence. While A View of Kalamalka Lake didn’t reach its fair market value of $4,320, it was the highest ticket item, selling for $2,800.
The Raffans continue to run the show as the final lots are called, and the crowd continues to bid high.
“It was excellent,” says VPAG marketing and programming coordinator Laura Ashton. “We are thrilled with the community support. There was a lot of enthusiastic involvement in the live auction.”
Kennedy Grant agrees.
“We are really happy with the outcome. It helps us to continue to move forward and provide the community with the art gallery.”