Wine and art up for bid at Spring Gala

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WALPOLE, N.H. — Rare wines and amazing art are among the many auction items donated for tomorrow's Spring Gala & Benefit Auction at Alyson's Orchard to benefit Brattleboro Museum & Art Center's youth and education programs. Travel get-a-ways to as far away as Napa Valley in conjunction with private tastings or as local as a two-night stay at Naulakha's Carriage House are also up for bid in one of BMAC's most important annual fundraisers raising half of the $60,000 a year needed for its programs.

"We're humbled to receive such generous support from businesses literally on the other side of the country," said BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld.

Over 2,000 children from schools and early education services' programs in Vermont and New Hampshire participate in a range of activities at the museum. Plus, there are fun events, not school related, like the Lego Contest, the Domino Toppling event, and the monthly Fun With Food & Art in collaboration with the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

Lichtenfeld said BMAC has been providing educational offerings since before he came on board as the museum's director 11 years ago. Under his direction the number of school field trips to BMAC has grown to a whopping 100 per year, quite a number if you take into consideration the area's population and the size of the museum and staff. Lichtenfeld credits much of that to the museum's education curator, Linda Whelihan, who works with the schools, while he humbly acknowledges that his goal of making the museum a friendly and fun place for people who may not necessarily consider themselves museum-goers has helped too.

This fundraiser is the brainchild of David Howell, a retired geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has an interest in art and is a former adjunct professor at Stanford University's School of Earth Science. He is also the host, auctioneer and wine curator for BMAC's Spring Gala & Benefit Auction. After graduating from Stafford University in California he was hired by California wineries to study the geological soil in their vineyards, thus developing life-long connections with these vintners, maintaining those connections after he returned to the Northeast to retire in Walpole. As a member of the BMAC board he first hosted a fundraiser auctioning off rare wines that his friends in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley donated, and the event has since grown into an annual fun and elegant spring gala held at Alyson's Orchard. While Howell is no longer a board member, he continues to procure the rare wines so the museum may benefit from the generosity of wineries.

"BMAC is an important center focused on art and learning for communities on both sides of the river," Howell replied in an email. "I learned in my quest to spread the wisdom of geology that by combining rock story with wine, I was able to grab the attention of more people. The same goes with art, and while I am working in Napa Valley in the winter, the vintners there are impressed with what I tell them about BMAC and they are more than willing to help us by donating wine and wine experiences."

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According to BMAC's press release, most of the wines donated to BMAC are produced in small quantities and released in limited editions, generally only to winery members. Some have attained cult status among wine connoisseurs — for example, a magnum of Screaming Eagle's 2015 "The Flight," which is included in this year's auction, retails online for over $2,000.

Also up for bid is a vacation to New York City in a donated apartment on the Upper West side; a private tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Kim Benzel, curator-in-charge of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art that includes lunch for two; tickets to eight concerts at the Yellow Barn Festival, artwork by Michael Abrams, Richard Jacobs, Julia Jensen, Wolf Kahn, Mallory Lake, Emily Mason, Dona Ann McAdams, and Michel Moyse; fine crafts by Bruce Campbell, Donlin Foreman, Christie Herbert, Darren Honey, Martina Lantin, Andrea and Jim Lorette, and Chris Sherwin; a private Dim Sum Dinner for six by chef/artist Cai Xi of Cai's Dim Sum Teahouse and so much more, too many items to list them all. There will also be items up for bid that weren't listed online.

The Spring Gala & Benefit Auctions begins at 6 p.m. at Alyson's Orchard, 57 Alyson's Lane, off Route 12. Tickets are $75 per person and there are only a few left. They are no longer available online but are by calling 802-257-0124, ext. 101. To view items up for bid, visit

The gala is sponsored by Foard Panel and includes appetizers, dinner, and dessert by Hardy Foard Catering, paired with wine and beer chosen by Howell. Jazzberry Jam will provide live music.

Anyone unable to make it to the gala but would like to support these programs, donations to the museum anytime are always helpful and appreciated.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is open every day except Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit


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