By Mike Anderson

Armed with a sense of humour and a wooden auctioneer’s stick, Rob Grossi worked the room like a pro, cajoling the willing and sometimes not-so-willing to bid on a series of 15 striking artworks.

They were all from the Georgina Centre for Arts and Culture’s (GCAC) permanent collection, which features paintings by Kay Murray Weber, Bruce Smith, and Albert Chiarandini, among others.

From all accounts, GCAC’s first annual live auction, which took place at the Link on April 20, was a tremendous success.

Over a 130 attendees paid $75 each for an entertaining evening of live jazz, sumptuous canapés, a silent auction, and the chance to bid on original art works.

According to Christine Arnold, GCAC’s Executive Director, the event raised more than $15,000.

Arnold says ticket sales and proceeds from the silent auction will be directed to the operations of the gallery as a whole, while the amount raised through the live auction will be used to acquire new works.

The last work sold was a striking landscape by Albert Chiarandini, entitled ‘The Gathering Storm,” which was used to adorn the front cover of the live auction’s catalogue.

The painting’s estimated value was between $7,500 to $9,500.

After a heated round of bidding, it sold for $5,400 — a deal by any account.

Charles Calzavara made the winning bid. He said he knew he had to buy the painting the first time he and his wife Madalyn saw it.

“We are very excited. It’s one of those things where you have to bite the bullet,” Calzavara said.

“When we first saw the painting, my wife said I’d like to buy that. So, we knew it was coming up tonight, and we were ready to make a winning bid,” he said.

While it’s the couple’s first art purchase at auction, he admits it may not be the last.

“I guess we’re art collectors now, “ he laughed.

“It was a fantastic evening and a huge turnout, which is nice to see, especially for our town.”

Gallery curator Charlotte Hale was also happy with the event’s success.

“The evening went amazingly well. The turnout was great, and we had a nice mixed crowd of locals and people from away, which was good,” she said.

Hale says having a successful first auction was significant, helping to pave the way for another next year.

“We don’t have a budget for acquisitions, so this is a critical event for us to continue with plans for the permanent collection in terms of education, programming, and purchasing new work to bring into the collection,” she said.

“To grow the collection, we’re looking to purchase work from new female artists and First Nations.”

Hale added that while she was sorry to see paintings like Chiarandini’s ‘The Gathering Storm’ leave the collection, she was happy it would get a new home and be appreciated.

“It’s like handing your baby over,” she said. “But these paintings are not in the market; they’re not in people’s homes. So, it will build awareness about him, which is really important. Chiarandini was a significant painter and should be more well known.”