Almost 200 guests were in attendance to bid on 30 original works of art at the 8th annual Splash of Red event hosted by the Caetani Centre in 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled by COVID-19, but the centre got creative and moved online. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon’s Caetani Centre makes a Splash online

Centre raises $35K with first-ever online art auction in lieu of event cancelled by COVID-19

Caetani Centre’s popular Splash of Red event refused to let COVID-19 stall its fundraising efforts.

The centre, which depends on public programming and community events for generating the majority of its revenues, like all not-for-profits and charities has felt the squeeze from the global pandemic.

As a result, the organization had to adapt quickly and move its popular auction event entirely online.

Typically, the event sees around 200 patrons on the grounds of the heritage site sit down and enjoy a four-course Italian dinner and full art auction. But this year, the organization had the plan and prepare for the first ever online auction.

“In all, although we did fall somewhat short of the live event, we came close to raising about $35,000 in total,” executive director Susan Brandoli said. “It is always gratifying to know that so many people in this community support this cause.

“We cannot thank them enough.”

Splash Committee board member Karen Winsor-Geatros offered thanks to all the artists, sponsors and patrons who “still rose to the occasion with their support.”

“Thirty-five pieces were auctioned off online and some artists donated more than one work,” Winsor-Geatros said. “Because the event was not live, we were able to accommodate a few extra pieces.”

A small wrap-up event for the committee and volunteers was able to be held — with appropriate physical distance, Winsor-Geatros said.

“They watched the auction count down — there was bidding right up to the end, and competition for favourite pieces, so still some excitement generated.”

Highest bids rolled in for perennial favourites by artists Michelle Loughery and Heidi Thompson. A piece by artist Gabrielle Strong saw the most fierce competition.

The centre was able to raise around $20,000. But in conjunction with the Splash of Red event, past-president Angelika Jaeger, a passionate supporter of the Caetani Centre, issued AJ’s Challenge, which raised more than $15,000.

Sponsors Silver Star Mountain Resort, Kal Tire, O’Callaghan Bilodeau Chartered Accountants, RBC Wealth Management and MQN Architects rose to the challenge as the main sponsors, with many other individuals and smaller businesses coming on board.

The novel coronavirus not only stopped the physical party, but it put a hold on the centre opening this spring as an heritage site.

“With tourism so severely reduced this summer,” Brandoli said, “it was just as well and actually a blessing in disguise, if one can optimistically call it that.

“The one good thing is that we will have more time to invest in researching and designing the heritage display and be better able to prepare for opening next year,” she said.

The Caetani Centre expects its grand opening will take place in spring 2021.

“The funds raised will ensure this still happens,” Brandoli said.

The Caetani heritage site is in partnership with the Vernon Museum and Archives.

READ MORE: Vernon’s Caetani Centre gears up for Splash of Red fundraiser

READ MORE: ‘Real jobs, real recovery’ needed after COVID-19, resource industries say


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