‘Wet Paint’ indeed: Artists try to stay dry picturing Marco for Chamber fundraiser

Lance Shearer

As Katie O’Hara of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce said during the auction, “it gives a whole new meaning to ‘Wet Paint.’

The Marco Island weather, usually delivering a reliable balmy blue sky during the winter season, produced a notably wet, raw day on Wednesday. As it happened, this was the appointed day for “Wet Paint Live,” the annual fundraiser of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce. In the event, 20 area artists fan out around the island, starting with a blank canvas, and finishing with a painting produced on location, or “en plein air” in art-speak, in one day, all of which are then auctioned off to raise scholarship funds for Marco Island high school students.

Maps of what artist will be where were widely distributed, giving art lovers the chance to see their favorite painter at work, or make the rounds and visit them all. That became a somewhat wetter proposition on Wednesday, although the artists who did brave the elements reported they still did get spectators coming out.

Acrylic and oil paintings were in danger of becoming “water colors,” as the raindrops rained down, often with little warning. Judy Chinski was painting at the Shops of Olde Marco when, she said, the maintenance man came around and said, better get inside. “Then the skies opened up.”

The chamber benefitted from her sticking it out at her post. Chinski’s painting, a colorful rendition of what may soon become Marco Island history, depending what happens with the now on-hold redevelopment plans for the shops, brought the highest price of any of the works of art in the evening’s auction.

This took place at the Rose History Auditorium, with restaurateur and auctioneer extraordinaire Mike Jones squeezing every possible bid from the crowd.

“Trust the auctioneer – I’ll tell you when to stop bidding,” he said, and further advising bidders to take advantage of the complimentary alcoholic beverages that were thoughtfully provided.

Chinski’s painting, a true water color, brought a winning $1,800 bid from Andrea Willets, who also purchased Karen Swanker’s canvas, the first to be auctioned. In each case, the artist keeps half the proceeds, with the balance going to the chamber’s scholarship fund.

Kim Belange’s painting of Goodland, which she had to sit cramped in the back of her car in the rain to complete, was a close second, garnering $1,550. Carolyn Burger, a freshman art student at Florida Southwestern, reaped (half of) the $600 sale price of her water color, pen and ink, and gold foil creation, and hadn’t even realized that she would share in the proceeds at all.

“This was wonderful. We did better than we did last year, despite the weather,” said chamber executive director Dianna Dohm. “We had a lot of people bidding, not just the usual suspects. And Mike Jones was fabulous – he got people laughing and got more bids out of them.”

The artists also had the chance to sell additional paintings, not created the same day, in a silent auction, with Betty Newman “artfully” showing a couple of her heart paintings to give husbands a last-minute opportunity to salvage Valentine’s Day.

Indefatigable volunteers Dave and Susie Walsh and Ed and Cindy Crane kept the wine and beer flowing, and attendees enjoyed the buffet provided by Kretch’s. Additional artists painting included Robert Amirault, Anastasia Baran, Carolyn Burger, Barbara Dalton, Nancy Falciani, Kathy Graf, Judy Harthorn, Inez Hudson, Dave Klocke, Nancy Norman, Tara O’Neill, Phyllis Pransky, Jarrett Stinchcomb, Karen Thiel, and Susan Wold. Russ Simmons and Jim Swanker displayed each canvas before it went on the block.