An array of superb artwork; a feast fit for any Italian prince – let alone one who used to live here – good wine, women and song. Not a bad recipe for a fund-raising event,” said one of the guests at A Splash of Red at the Caetani Cultural Centre on Thursday evening.
“Add weather that no Italian would sneeze at,” said his partner. “Then find a real live Italian to teach everyone how to speak the lingo. And there you go – a perfect Italian evening.”
It began when artists Michelle Loughery and Angelika (AJ) Jaeger shared an idea over cappuccino one morning. They paired up with Basket Case Catering. Jazz diva Judy Rose offered her services to sing Italian songs and then kept everyone on task with schedules and programming.
She enlisted musician Jim Leonard at the keyboard, myself as emcee, and countless volunteers to serve food and drink and help show the artwork.
Remarkable artist Heidi Maddess stepped up to the plate. It was she who found the handsome Italian, Dario Grasso, who acted as auctioneer for 20 pieces of art – three of which were by Loughery, Jaeger and Maddess respectively.
At long tables in the Caetani gardens, once enjoyed by Leone Caetani and the three women in his life: Sveva, her mother Ofelia and her companion Ingrid Juul, 148 people from the Okanagan Valley ate al fresco.
There was antipasto; Italian bread, oil and balsamic vinegar, pasta, chicken, salmon, and roasted potatoes. The food came almost faster than the guests could eat it. Tiramisu topped off the meal along with freshly brewed coffee and liqueur. All fresh vegetables came from local organic growers, Pilgrims’ Produce, and the meat and fish were antibiotic, hormone and preservative free. Everyone present pronounced the verdict, “Bellissima!”
By the time the art pieces were to be auctioned, a mellow atmosphere had settled on the tables, still laden with food and drink.
Bidding was slow at times, despite Judy Rose’s efforts to chivvy it along. That said, some pieces fetched as much as $1,600, so the final count should be favourable. Executive director of the Caetani Cultural Centre, Judy Katalanic, was delighted with the result and thought the evening an unqualified success.
Many guests lingered at the tables after the auction finished and commented on the wonderful time they had.
“We can’t wait for next year,” said one lady as she celebrated her successful bid with a glass of grappa from Okanagan Spirits. “This must become an annual event.”
Judy Rose said there were three things the organizers might improve upon. The food was delicious, but too much, she said. And the lighting was “elegant, atmospheric but inefficient.” It was difficult to see bidders’ paddles once darkness descended.
And the auction itself perhaps needed fewer pieces than the spectacular 20 submitted by potters like Bob Kingsmill and Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante, painters like Michael Jell and Julie Oakes, and sculptors and photographers from David Montpetit to Doug Alcock.
“But all in all the evening was good … beyond good,” said Rose, as she got the last word.