Whales for sale

Bill Hammond, Courtney Jones, and Karl Buder.
Dana Gaines spent much of April and May on the second floor of the Bunch of Grapes diligently painting his whale, titled "I Must Go Down to the Sea," the only whale on the trail displayed inside. To monitor his progress, a web cam was used on the store's website. Towards the end of the project, he worked every day of the week. File photo by Ben Scott

By Eleni Collins - November 2, 2006

There are only a few more weeks to take a look at the ornamental whales that have decorated our towns this summer and fall before they are auctioned and placed in new, more permanent homes by proud owners. The whales are part of the Cape and Islands Whale Trail, a public art event that matched local artists, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

Previously scheduled to be auctioned in Hyannis on Sept. 23 at the "All's Well That Ends Whale" auction, four of the remaining Vineyard whales will instead be auctioned at the Vineyard Artisan's Festival, Saturday, Nov. 25. The four whales are by Dana Gaines, Washington Ledesma, Maynard Silva, and Peggy Zablotny. Each week up until the auction, the Times will feature a whale, the artist, the sponsor, and the non-profit organization that will benefit from the sale of the whale.

Last February, when the Whale Trail committee approached Island businesses to market whales, Bunch of Grapes bookstore president Jon Nelson, Jr. decided the bookstore would be a part of the fund-raiser. His chosen artist? Islander Dana Gaines. "He's fabulous, and we have already had a lot of business together," says Mr. Nelson.

Choosing his non-profit organization to sponsor was easy too. "I have three kids in high school, and one following," Mr. Nelson explains. "The YMCA is a great project for the youth." As part of the Island's class of '83, he reflects, he knows what it felt like not to have had the option to be on a swim team.

The YMCA's strong drive for fundraising also encouraged Mr. Nelson to sponsor their organization. "Besides being a great benefactor, they were also highly motivated," Jon says of the organization.

John Clese, executive director of the YMCA, had similar feelings about being involved with this whale. "I thought the process was great," Mr. Clese says. "I think Dana is a fabulous artist, and we loved working with Bunch of Grapes.... I loved having a whale."

This whale's financial success story comes from this year's Agricultural Fair in West Tisbury. The YMCA had it on display there and it received a $10,250 bid, the highest single bid in the entire Cape and Island's whale trail, and the whale's current bid. The highest bid on the whale trail's web site, www.capeandislandswhaletrail.com, will begin the auction on the Vineyard.

"It's exciting that it's a separate Vineyard event," says Mr. Gaines, "as opposed to the original plan for the whales to get trucked off to Hyannis."

To bid on a whale, visit the web site www.capeandislandswhaletrail.com. To visit Mr. Gaines's whale, drop by the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven.