One of Augusta’s most popular casual — yet at the same time, elegant — fundraisers is this coming Thursday, November 2. The setting alone is incredible. The 200-year-old mansion overflows with art up for silent auction, but the real star of the show is the backyard, for lack of a better term. The Crosstie Walkers on stage, food stations, bars and more are spread out amongst the grand old oaks. Oh, and the oysters. Amazing oysters and a great spread of Cajun fare keep the party hopping.
The institute’s executive director, Heather Williams, said there’s a lot to look forward to every year with the fundraiser.
“It’s a very fun evening,” she said. “It’s casual. It incorporates local artists, a local band, a local restaurant. It’s special because it’s one of the few events that’s inside the Gertrude Herbert, but it’s also outside in the gardens. We have a fire pit, and we have this great food and music, but then there’s so much really neat history and art inside the building.”
The building is Ware’s Folly — a Federal-style house that now is listed on the National Register of History Places and was completed in 1818 for $40,000, built by Nicholas Ware. Its history in the area is rich, as Ware served as a mayor of Augusta and a U.S. senator.
The beautiful house became home to the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art a whopping 80 years ago, when according to nps.gov, a wealthy New Yorker named Olivia A. Herbert “purchased and renovated the mansion to provide a permanent home for the Augusta Art Club as well as a living memorial to her daughter, Gertrude Herbert Dunn, soon after her death.”
“The grand structure features Adamesque-style detailing on the interior and exterior, a floating spiral staircase, and intricately detailed fanlights, mouldings, fireplaces, and window and door surrounds,” the institute proclaims on its website.
Much of the entertainment during Oysters on Telfair will be taking place outside in the gardens, with local Americana and alternative roots/pop band Crosstie Walkers — the night’s signature entertainment every year — providing the tunes. The $75 ticket price also gets you access to an open bar and food galore, catered by Beck’s. On the menu is raw, steamed, baked and grilled oysters with cucumber ginger mignonette and all the other typical fixin’s. But it’s not just oysters on the menu, because there is plenty of Cajun food to go around. Along with oysters will be pimento cheese hushpuppies, smoked salmon, charcuterie with fruit and cheese, tuna tartar with fried wontons, shrimp cocktail, chicken and sausage jambalaya, and delicious desserts.
The evening is all about art, too. Inside Ware’s Folly will be displays of art, along with pieces of local artists’ works that will be silent auctioned. People who go to the event also will be able to mingle with local artists. Just a few of the artists whose works are being auctioned include Lucy Wiegle, Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman and Linda Hardy.
“Local artists from around town create art on 9-by-12 wooden boards that we provide, and then those boards get lined up all across the walls and they get auctioned off,” Williams said. “So you silent bid all night long. And we do have some other artwork that’s also from local artists, but that’s kind of one of the things that makes Oysters on Telfair what it is — we’ve always done those 9-by-12 boards.”
The money raised each year goes to the preservation of Ware’s Folly and to support the Gertrude Herbert Institute’s various programs. Williams said it amazes her how many people don’t know about the organization, despite it having been around for 80 years.
“Next year the building is turning 200, and it is in desperate, desperate need of some preservation, so we’re kind of trying to drum up that interest so we can continue on for another 80,” she said.
Just some of the many things the institute does in the community is reach out to elementary school students who don’t have art teachers and work with the Boys & Girls Club, along with presenting art exhibitions and other programs throughout the year.
Tickets to Oysters may be purchased for $75 at the door or online through ghia.org. Call 706-722-5495 for information.