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The Rotary Club of Barre held its Barre Art Splash auction fundraiser on Saturday at the Vermont Granite Museum. Here, Auctioneer Erik Hudson waits for Rusty Valsangiacomo to put Fred Swan’s “Tuxedo Cat” front and center for the crowd. The event, which auctioned off painted sculptures that had been placed along Main Street in Barre, raised $40,000, organizers said.

BARRE — Karl Rinker is still smiling after a weekend auction fetched $40,000 from bidders eager to land one of more than three dozen unconventional art items that spent the summer on curbside display in downtown Barre.

To say that figure exceeded Rinker’s expectations is an understatement, because the local Rotarian insists he didn’t have any heading into the Saturday afternoon auction at the Vermont Granite Museum.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” Rinker said on Monday after an auction that turned into a case of “Going, going … All gone!”

“Every single art item sold the first time on the block,” Rinker said of the interesting mix of fiberglass cats and dogs and race cars and coupes that were a summer-long attraction downtown.

Though Rinker said he wasn’t prepared to budge on the minimum bid — $500 — on each of the one-of-a-kind pieces that were sponsored by local businesses and created by Vermont artists — he said he did think he might have to set some aside and put them back on the block a second time. He said he was prepared to store any that didn’t sell.

It never came to that. Rinker poached the idea from Catskill, New York, and tweaked it for Barre. Thanks to its name, Catskill has long hosted an all-feline display capped with an auction. Rinker added dogs to the mix, and thanks to some prodding late model race cars and custom-made 1932 Ford three-window coupes.

In all, the Barre auction brought in $39,950 in winning bids.

Rinker said an unsolicited donation of $800 pushed the total over $40,000. As promised, artists — some more accomplished than others — will receive 25% of the amount bid on the piece they created. That leaves roughly $30,000 for the Barre Rotary Club to spend on various charitable endeavors.

“It was a fantastic auction,” Rinker said. “I’m extremely excited.”

While Rinker downplayed the significance of the auction heading into the weekend, even he admitted its ability to raise money would dictate whether the “Barre Art Splash” would make a comeback in 2023.

Signs point to “yes,” and while Rinker said he knew there wasn’t time to pull together a 2022 edition, he said he is confident there is an appetite for a 2023 version.

“I think we showed it can work,” said Rinker, who remains convinced even if the auction had been less successful, the summer-long art display was a welcome addition to downtown Barre.

“I know I sound like a broken record, but the biggest thing for me was having all that beauty out on the street,” he said.

Lloyd Hutchins, whose restored “Deuce Coupe” was once driven at Thunder Road by Henry Montandon, snapped up the version of the #76 car painted by artist Jan Avery for $2,550. Before the auction ended Hutchins, who was the high bidder for other pieces, wrote a check for $7,500, according to Rinker.

The afternoon’s most prolific bidder — William Josler — was invited to participate in an antique car show that accompanied the auction by Hutchins.

Josler, who lives in White River Junction, was bidding on behalf of himself and two others. He drove off with eight of the 37 pieces. They were mostly cars, including two distinctly different version’s of Montandon’s “Deuce Coupe” painted by Linda Kiniry.

Josler paid $2,500 for Kiniry’s realistic version of the light purple car, and $700 for the bedazzled version she created for Posh Salon. Among the other pieces snagged by Josler, who briefly lost the keys to his truck, was one of three #66 cars Pete Ainsworth made for Jason Corliss, the three-time track champion at Thunder Road. Josler’s winning bid for the Corliss car was $1,400.

Former Barre mayor Thomas Lauzon was an active bidder. He paid $2,500 for the colorful cat painted by his daughter, Miranda, and bought all three versions of Gov. Phil Scott’s #14 race car.

All the work of Ainsworth, Lauzon bid $1,500 for Scott’s 2012 car, $1,200 for the replica of the car he drove in 2017, and $1,000 for the 2019 edition.

Lauzon said he is keeping his daughter’s cat, which earned “Most Artistic” honors, but promptly donated the three Scott cars back to the Rotary Club.

Rinker said Lauzon suggested the club could raise additional money by raffling off the three cars — keeping half of the proceeds and donating the other half to Scott’s “Wheels for Warmth” event, which raises money for fuel assistance.

“We’re going to do that,” Rinker said, noting the details likely will be discussed by Rotarians when they meet on Wednesday.

Rinker said more than 100 people, not counting volunteers, attended the auction in person. Some, including at least one from North Carolina, attended virtually and a few, like his son, Kevin, who splits his time between New York City and Connecticut, relied on a stand-in bidders.

Rinker said his son, an avid skier, was attending a Yankees’ game in New York when the winning bid — $1,700 — was placed on his behalf for “Powder Hound.” The ready-to-hit-the-slopes dog was created by artist Allison Randall and was the most decorated entry in the Barre Art Splash.

Others, like Alexis Dexter, weren’t about to let the piece they sponsored get away.

Rinker said the proprietor of Forget Me Not Flowers and Gifts and the neighboring Kitty Korner Cafe made it clear she planned to take home “Posy” – the black cat with colorful flowers on her coat painted by Cindy Griffith.

“She (Dexter) told me: ‘I’m not leaving here without that cat,’” Rinker said.

Two of the late model race cars are destined for a New York car dealership, according to Rinker, who said most will remain closer to home.

Rinker has plenty of time to plan the next Barre Art Splash. Right now, he’s too busy smiling.

“I couldn’t be happier with the result,” he said. “It was a perfect ending.”


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