Bass in the Grass art auction benefits Derby scholarship fund

Artists Wendy Weldon and Colin Ruel stand with sponsor Robin Nagle, center, of North Water Gallery. —Lexi Pline

The upcoming Edgartown Board of Trade’s “Bass in the Grass” art auction shows us just how imaginative the human imagination really is.  

In the case of the art in this online auction, you’ll see the results of the creative juices of 37 Island artists as each takes on the identical task: to paint a three-foot-long by one-foot-high wooden cutout in the shape of a striped bass. No surprise: There are 37 wildly varied, unique versions, sponsored by 34 Edgartown businesses. Because of the conformity of the assignment, each artist’s individuality ends up shining through. 

Conceived and facilitated by the EBOT, the auction benefits the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby scholarship program. Chairman of the 2019 Derby Committee Joe El-Deiry says, “We at the Derby are so honored to be part of the EBOT ‘Bass in the Grass’ exhibit and auction. It’s an incredible program, and in 2018, their first year, they gifted $12,000 to our scholarship program. This represents a significant amount of the $42,500 we granted to graduating high school seniors last year. Obviously the Derby is about fishing, but we’re very committed to giving back to the community, and happy that the EBOT has chosen to support our charitable efforts.”.

The EBOT has designed a fine process for this worthwhile community event. Erin Ready, EBOT’s enthusiastic executive director, says, “This is our second year hosting ‘Bass in the Grass.’ The idea came to us based on other similar events around the country, and, combined with our desire to honor the annual fishing tournament, the fundraiser took shape from there.  Because the historic Derby has its headquarters in Edgartown, it seemed logical to try and combine art, artists, our member businesses, and fishing in an effort to celebrate the time-honored tradition that brings so many visitors to town each fall.” 

Ready continued sharing the details of the event, which has quite a few moving parts.  Edgartown businesses that choose to participate are asked to invite an artist that they will sponsor. The business sponsor pays an entry fee of $250 that covers administrative costs, and for the materials and labor provided by Zach Pinerio of Chappaquiddick Wood Co. to create the unpainted fish. Artists are free to paint at will. Some choose to brainstorm with their sponsors for a design concept, others just go for it. The minimum bid for each fish is $250, the number obviously designed to zero out costs.  

There are many charitable souls on the Vineyard, and Island painters are certainly well represented in that group. In this case they are generously supported by Island businesses and the efforts of the EBOT. A little-known fact is that the only tax write-off the artist can take is the cost of materials, not the actual amount for which the work is sold. In a reasonably unusual and appreciated feature for this auction, the artists can, if they choose, receive one-half of the final auction price, with the remaining half going to the EBOT to be used as part of their gift to the Derby scholarship program.  

If you take the time to visit the site online or the exhibition of all of the fish outside on Edgartown’s Main Street, you won’t be sorry. You’ll see a mermaid by Margot Datz, sponsored by Rockland Trust, that uses the shape of the wooden fish as the tail of her mermaid, an inspired choice that seems inevitable. Then there’s a design by M-C Lamarre, sponsored by Cape Cod 5, featuring a Fenway Park scoreboard with the words “reverse the curse” on the flip side, nothing fishy, but clearly the work of a FAN-atic. Terry Crimmen, sponsored by The Vineyard Life, has offered up Edgartown itself in a 3-foot-long, photorealist style view of the waterfront. 

“I think my favorite thing about the Derby is taking people out on the ocean for their first time,” El-Deiry says, “And I enjoy checking out the ‘Bass in the Grass’ school ‘swimming’ in the Mini Park. It’s awesome.” 

Whether viewing online or in person, chances are good that you’ll see a fish that strikes your fancy. And hopefully sparks a bid or two.

For a complete list of participating auction artists and sponsors, and/or to make a bid, visit the “Bass in the Grass” auction site at The site is live and available for bids through Sunday, Oct. 20, at 11:29 pm. To experience the “Bass in the Grass” works of art live, visit Edgartown’s Mini Park, located at 46-48 Main St., between the Covington and Edgartown Books. For additional auction information, contact Erin Ready at To learn about the Derby, the scholarships, and other charitable giving programs, visit