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Festival of Arts: Local artists launch Cods & Whales auction at Abbot Hall

June 3, 2023

Hundreds of people packed Abbot Hall for the kick-off of the Marblehead Festival of Arts’ Cods & Whales auction on June 2. Nearly 60 local artists decorated one-of-a-kind wooden cods and — new this year — plastic whales to be displayed in local retailers and auctioned off.

The cods measure 18 inches by 7 inches, and the whales are much larger at 55 inches by 15 inches.

“It’s super fun to have all the artists who are local come together like this every year,” said Stephanie Krauss Verdun, who owns Out of the Box Studio on Atlantic Avenue and painted both a cod and a whale this year. “People collect the cods. They’re so cool.”

Verdun has been painting cods for the auction for about six years.

Marian Hostetter painted a sunset view from Overlook Road, where she lives. Her daughter and son-in-law also created cods this year.

“I just think the festival is so unique,” Hostetter said. “Anything that brings people together and encourages creativity is wonderful.”

Jennifer Chaisson painted a whale titled “Pearl,” employing a more realistic approach.

“I went on lots of whale watches as a kid, and I loved it when a whale would surface and look right at us,” she said. “My take comes from that memory.”

Chaisson’s whale is gray with markings to represent barnacles and scratches from giant squid that are common on sperm whales.

Larry and Gina McGuire of Marblehead came out to enjoy the artwork. Their favorite? A whale called “Scrimschalck” by artist Pete Schalck, which includes local landmarks.

“I like that it has historic parts of Marblehead, like the lighthouse,” Gina said.

Larry added, “I like the carved teeth.”

Artist Tracy Finn created a cod called “Green Monster.”

“I love the diversity of the works of other artists here,” she said.

She was enjoying one cod that “glows like a fish with recycled soda cans.”

The Cods & Whales auction runs until July 4. Cynda Rohmer, who is directing the event, hopes to raise $20,000 this year. In the past, individual cods have gone for as much as $1,200.

“The designs this year are outstanding,” Rohmer said.

All money raised will be reinvested in the Festival.

Learn more about the auction at

New events

This year’s Festival of Arts, which runs July 1-4, includes several new events, including a 5K run/walk on July 1. Also new this year is the Hidden Orbs event, with hand-painted orbs hidden throughout shops and restaurants in town. The popular Literary Festival is returning after a several-year hiatus.

Other highlights include: the annual champagne reception at Fort Sewall, Artisans Marketplace, Street Festival and popular concerts at Crocker Park.

The Marblehead Current is the Festival’s presenting media sponsor. Learn more about the Festival and its schedule of events at

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