Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant teases the new Gift of Culture raffle prize with some of the paintings up for auction at this year’s 30th anniversary of Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts

Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant teases the new Gift of Culture raffle prize with some of the paintings up for auction at this year’s 30th anniversary of Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts

Vernon art gallery celebrates a milestone this Midsummer’s Eve

A surprise is in store at this year’s 30th anniversary of the Vernon Public Art Gallery’s art auction/garden party.

It was a beautiful midsummer’s eve in 1986, when a small gathering of artists set up their easels in the gardens at the Pleasant Valley Road property owned by Sveva Caetani.

The descendent of an aristocratic Italian family and an extremely talented artist in her own right, Caetani and her longtime friend Joan Heriot had come up with an idea to hold a fundraiser for the then called Topham Brown Art Gallery (now better known as the Vernon Public Art Gallery).

The women invited four fellow well-known artists to show and sell their paintings alongside them, while local restaurateur Klaus Tribes provided the food and Trudy and George Heiss, who had opened their Grey Monk winery only four years before, supplied and poured the wine.

One hundred people attended that first event, named A Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts, and one of Vernon’s most anticipated and popular events was born.

That anticipation is brimming as the Vernon Public Art Gallery (VPAG) gets ready to stage the 30th anniversary of Midsummer’s Eve at its newer location, Turtle Mountain Winery, July 20.

The event remains as the VPAG’s primary fundraiser for educational and public programming.

“I’m excited that this event has made it to 30 years. It’s amazing where it has come from and how it has grown with the gallery,” said VPAG executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant. “It started with Sveva Caetani’s art garden party to support the gallery and her vision has come forward to what it is today.”

To celebrate that milestone, the VPAG has a big surprise in store, and it comes from inside a giant pink gift box.

“This year we are giving the gift of culture,” explained Kennedy Grant. “Instead of raffling off a painting, we will be selling tickets at Midsummer’s for someone to win a surprise package to do with culture. Whoever wins the raffle will open the box on the night after the auction.”

This year’s donation of artwork for both the silent and live auctions – the latter once again to be presided over by fast talking auctioneers Don and Peter Raffan of Valley Auction Ltd. – includes paintings, mixed media, as well as sculptures by some of the Okanagan’s most talented artists.

One of those artists includes master portrait artist and painter Joyce Devlin, who grew up in Lavington and is now based in the Ottawa Valley.

Devlin’s exhibition, Along the Way, can currently be seen in the Topham Brown gallery at the VPAG, and includes her paintings  – abstract, landscape and portraiture – from the 1970s to 2011.

One of her works, Inside the Garden, consists of a series of panels of a continuous painting measuring six-by-36-feet in total.

“We’ve had a huge turnout and interest in the exhibition and have two donated pieces from Ms. Devlin for those who are interested in her large piece,” said Kennedy Grant.

Paintings have also been donated by the estate of the late Mae Roberts as well as a sand-scape by Paul Jones, who has been a longtime supporter of the arts in the area.

Master sculptor Bob Kingsmill has donated one of his clay murals while  Headbones Gallery owner Julie Oakes has donated some of her blue glass birds.

“We also have another piece by (University of British Columbia Okanagan printmaking professor) Briar Craig. Last year his piece went for triple its value, so we will see what happens this year,” said Kennedy Grant.

Besides the variety of art, the auctions will also feature gift baskets and packages, one which includes a flight on a private plane around the Okanagan.

Patrons can also enjoy the stunning views while dining on gourmet appetizers as well as imbibing local beer, wine and cocktails.

This year, the gallery’s corporate partner Bannister Honda is providing a complimentary return shuttle service from Kal Tire Place to Turtle Mountain Winery.

“We are discouraging people from parking up at the site. This way there will be no more walking on gravel in heels as you can get a shuttle right up to the door courtesy of Bannister Honda,” said Kennedy Grant, adding KPMG has come on board as the head sponsor of Midsummer’s Eve.

Local classic rock band Feet First has also been lined up to perform into the night.

“We will have Papa Murphy’s pizza after the auction for those who stick around to dance,” said Kennedy Grant.

Those interested in getting a preview of the art up for auction have a chance at a thank you reception Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the VPAG.

“Pre-bids will also be welcome for those who can’t make the auction,” said Kennedy Grant.

Although VIP tables for Midsummer’s Eve are now sold out, early-bird individual tickets are still available for $50 until Friday (tickets purchased after are $60 each).

Tickets are available at the VPAG (3228 31st St.), by phone at 250-545-3173 or online at