The annual Taste of the Vineyard dinner and auction Saturday night turned into a tribute to artist Ray Ellis, who has raised more than $1 million for Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust over more than two decades.
A lively crowd responded eagerly to auctioneer Trip Barnes’s exhortations to support the Trust. Once again, a painting by Mr. Ellis fetched more than $200,000 from longtime summer visitor Scott Earl, who has been the high bidder three times in the past four years. Mr. Earl bid $210,000 for a painting called Remnants of a Squall, along with a pencil sketch and the artist’s watercolor study of the same subject. In 2010, Mr. Earl spent a record $250,000 for a Ray Ellis painting.
“If you look at every piece, his heart and soul just speaks out to you in every brush stroke. That’s what makes it special,” he said.
A record 288 people gathered under a tent in Edgartown for part two of the Trust’s biggest fundraising event of the year, the Taste of the Vineyard. The annual Taste of the Vineyard stroll was held Thursday night. Trust director Chris Scott said about 30 per cent of the Trust’s annual budget is raised by the Taste events.
Mr. Scott said the auction and Taste of the Vineyard stroll netted $465,000 for the Trust, a significant increase over last year and on par with the Trust's best years. Saturday’s auction alone raised $365,000, according to Mr. Scott.
Mr. Ellis, 92, who has donated paintings for auction for more than 20 years, told the crowd this will likely be his last auction because he and his wife Teddy will be moving to Duxbury once they sell their Vineyard home.
Proceeds from the auction support the Preservation Trust, which owns and maintains 20 historic buildings on the Island, including the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury and the Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs.
Mr. Scott said the Trust plans to create a marine art collection, including modern and historic pieces, in Mr. Ellis’ name, but did not provide details.
Part way through the auction, Mr. Scott told the crowd that an anonymous donor was willing to give $25,000 if 10 people offered $1,000 each to complete interior painting of the Whaling Church. At least 20 people quickly raised their hands. Artist Margot Datz this winter created a trompe l’oeuil mural on one wall based on a historic mural that had been lost. The additional funds will enable Ms. Datz to complete the rest of the building.