Moving along the Whale Trail

Washington Ledesma
Washington Ledesma adds finishing touches. Photo by Mae Deary

By Eleni Collins - November 16, 2006

Washington Ledesma can call himself a veteran painter of whales. He has painted three whales over the past three years for the Cape Cod and now Island whale trail fundraiser. Mr. Ledesma is an artist with a passion for charity, and his latest whale creation supports the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

"One of the things that happened is the mental process that I go through when I painted the whales. I didn't have a sense of ownership. I painted the whale for the people and a very important cause: to sell it and to raise money for the hospital. It's a nice attitude," commented Mr. Ledesma on the difference between working not for profit versus commission.

Mr. Ledesma's whale, titled "Whale Cared For," currently has a $600 bid. Sponsored by and located at Cronig's Market in Vineyard Haven, the whale drew many visitors this summer.

"The kids, and people of all ages in fact were really curious. When it first showed up, it was just a white whale. People wanted to know what it was and what was going on," said Cronig's store manager Sarah McKay.

The new and bare addition to Cronig's sparked a lot of interest. It drew attention to local artists who saw the blank canvas, and was a popular photo opportunity for visitors once painted.

"I also had people contact me who wanted to be the artist. So, I talked to a few artists, and looked at what had been done in previous years on the Cape, and eventually ended up with Washington," Ms. McKay said.

Storeowner Steve Bernier chose to sponsor the Martha's Vineyard Hospital as the non-profit organization. The hospital is currently working on a $42 million fundraising goal. It has raised $38 million to date.

"I think it was the timing of the fund-raiser," comments Ms. McKay about the chosen organization. "Mr. Bernier has always been very involved with the hospital. The whale's theme was 'Whale Cared For,' so that fit with the hospital."

The hospital agrees the whale was a good fit for this summer's fund-raisers. "We're really grateful to Steve Bernier and Cronig's Market for purchasing the whale and donating the funds from the auction to support the hospital. Steve and Cronig's have been very generous supporters all along," said Rachel Vanderhoop, director of development at the hospital.

Truly a sight to brighten any atmosphere, Mr. Ledesma's whale is a rainbow of colors. It represents a range of ideas that Mr. Ledesma is passionate about.

He uses a Noah's Ark theme to illustrate the importance of the environment in our world today. The current global warming levels, he says, leaves our world in a dangerous situation.

The incredible detail makes it hard to believe it was completed in five days. However, according to the artist, they were five incredibly long days. Some began in the early morning and lasted until after midnight, Mr. Ledesma said in an interview this past summer.

The live auction will be held on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 3:30 pm on the front porch of the Agricultural Hall. Prior to the auction, the whales will be displayed on the front porch on Friday in a silent auction. The highest bid on each whale then will start Saturday afternoon's auction, in which Trip Barnes is the auctioneer.

To bid on the whales now, visit capeandislandswhaletrail.com.