Gala auction of thematic thrones

Beth Humphrey with her chair, Blue. (photo by David Gordon)

The 35 chairs that recently graced the sidewalks of Saugerties were sold at a “Gala Auction” on Sunday, Sept. 16, fetching prices from $250 to more than $400 to raise money for four local organizations.

The chair that fetched the highest price, however, was not at the auction, said auctioneer Barry Cherwin. “Daydreaming in Saugerties,” by Ellen Lemisch, was hit by a garbage truck and demolished, he said. “That was the bad news. The good news is that Waste Management took full responsibility and they donated $1,600 to the auction. They did it with no arm twisting; it was an act of kindness and respect.”

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The proceeds will be split between the artists and the Chamber of Commerce, Saugerties SLAM (Saves Library, Art and Music, an organization that raises money for education), the Cahill Elementary School PTA and the Saugerties Historical Society, whose front lawn at the Kiersted House was the venue for the auction.

Cherwin introduced the auction with an appreciation for the sponsors of the art works. “The sponsors not only purchased the chairs in raw form, they also contributed money for the artists’ materials, and on top of that, they also contributed another couple of hundred dollars, to boot, and have been totally with us the whole way.”

The auction was preceded by a buffet dinner, provided by local restaurants, and music by harpist Elizabeth Clark-Jerez.

The finished chairs showed a variety of treatments that in many cases completely obscured the original chair design. “We each started with the same chair, in unfinished bare wood,” said artist Tara Richardson, whose entry included a cutout of the former stable on Bridge Street. The small structure now houses Haller Financial, which sponsored the chair. The piece sold for $400.

“It is really interesting to see how many different ideas people came up with,” said her mother, Donna Richardson.

Former Saugerties tax collector Peg Nau’s entry, “Sittin’ on Sunflowers,” sponsored by John Street Jam, sold for $300. Nau said that since she retired she paints nearly every day.

Many of the chairs are as fully decorated on the back as on the front, and Cherwin suggested that buyers find locations that would allow people to see both sides of the chair. One chair, “Flights of Fancy,” by Susan Robbins, had to be held up to show the text on the underside of the chair’s seat. The chair was sponsored by the Monday Club Women’s Club, the League of Women Voters and the Girls Community Club.

The pieces that didn’t sell on the first round were auctioned as a group, with the winning bidder given a choice of the one he or she wanted. These reached $375. The auction proceeded in the style of a Dutch auction, with the offering price gradually being reduced. Several chairs went for $200. The last few, which were not sold at $200, were held.

One chair, “Catskill Mountain Rustic” by Joy Patterson, was raffled, rather than put up for bid.

In addition to the painted chairs, several items donated by local businesses were auctioned.

A wine and food pairing for six at New World Home Cooking fetched $400, when the winning bidder at $325 upped her bid to the full price of the meal and wine.

A 32-inch flat screen television, contributed by Bob Siracusano of Sawyer Motors, fetched $375.

Bids on a party or event in the yet-unfinished barn at the Historical Society fetched $300. The barn is expected to hold a crowd of 100 people, Cherwin said.

Bidding on a contribution to the organizations – with no merchandise involved – brought three bids of $300 each. Cherwin reduced the bid gradually to $25, and donations totaled $1,525.

The event was “a wonderful example of community participation,” said historical society president Marjorie Block. “Area restaurants donated food, we had sponsors, local businesses; that’s the heart of Saugerties, isn’t it? I don’t know any place where people do as much for the community as Saugerties.”

Part of the money raised will go to the Saugerties Historical Society, Block said, and part of that will be used for the restoration of an antique barn taking shape behind the historical society building.

Town Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said the event was “Spectacular. It’s nice to showcase local artists and their talents, and it’s great that the community comes out and supports the chamber, and it’s for our kids.”

“In this day and age, when districts are having to face tough economic decisions on programs, it’s wonderful for SLAM to raise money and support students’ music, art and library programs,” Thornton said. “As a teacher, I totally support that.”

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