CHATHAM – Despite a rough year for Chatham's Sharks in the Park – there were at least four attempted thefts, one of which was successful – the annual art exhibit finished the season with a frenzy. A bidding frenzy, that is.
The online auction for the shark-shaped art ended last Friday at noon, and when the numbers were tallied, the total topped all previous auctions.
According to Janice Rogers of the Chatham Merchants Association, which sponsors the event, the final total was $62,461. All 56 sharks (and one sign) had bids. Last year's total was $50,079, and in 2015, the first year the sharks were auctioned online, $42,339 was raised.
“It was our most successful event to date,” said Rogers. Half of the proceeds go back to the artists who created the sharks, while half goes into the coffers of the Merchants Association to fund its programs, events and scholarships.
“We are thrilled with the success and even more pleased that the work of our talented local artists was celebrated throughout the summer by thousands of visitors,” Merchants Association President Rebecca Voelkel said in an email. With its share of the proceeds, “the CMA is looking forward to expanding our current shoulder season events such as Christmas Stroll and Oktoberfest while adding some new and exciting things that we know our merchants and visitors will appreciate and enjoy,” she said.
Sharks in the Park, which just ended its fourth year (after the first exhibit in 2013, the sharks were auctioned at a live gala, which raised about $70,000, but that total included items other than the sharks, such as trips on the Ocearch research vessel), has also proved to be an extremely popular attraction along Main Street. Rogers said visitors to the exhibit filled eight guests books with comments. The front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library, where the sharks were moved in late June, was worn down to the dirt from the traffic. Rogers said the Merchants Association will be reseeding and repairing the lawn later this week.
Thirty-one of the sharks sold for more than $1,000, while five went for more than $2,000. The top three bids were for the Steve Lyons Gallery shark, a seascape created by the gallery owner, at $2,650; The rustic Mayflower shop shark created by Brian and Melanie O’Neil at $2,605; and in third, a tie between the “Welcome to Chatham” sign by Chatham Wind and Time owner Jerry Evans and The New England Lab Rescue shark by artist Heather Smith Labbe’, both of which went for $2,450.
Other top bids were received for the Kinlin Grover Real Estate shark by Pati DuVall at $2,049, Lauren DiFerdinando's shark for Mahi Gold and Chatham Marconi Maritime Center's shark by Dorothy Bassett at $1,900 each, and shark spotter Wayne Davis' striking aerial photo shark at $1,850.
The display, which features the five-foot sharks decorated by local artists sponsored by local businesses and organizations, began in Kate Gould Park in May, and by early June had attracted attention after several women were caught on security cameras taking, and then returning, one of the sharks. On July 4, after the sharks had been moved to the Eldredge Library front lawn, Roger's son saw someone take one of the sharks on the video monitor and chased the man down, recovering the shark and resulting in a criminal complaint against the alleged thief.
Several more attempted thefts were captured on tape, but the sharks were returned when the perpetrators realized they were being recorded. One theft was successful, however; the shark sponsored by Pine Acres Realty, painted by artist Tilda Bystrom, has not yet been recovered, despite the offer of a $250 reward, said Rogers. The shark nonetheless received a winning bid of $1,150, and Bystrom is recreating the shark for the winners, and has even offered to customize it by including their dogs in the scene.
Rogers said Merchants Association officials will be reviewing security for the exhibit in order to prevent thefts when it returns next year, which she said will definitely happen, despite this year's difficulties.