Auctioneer Zack Krone gets the bidding started on a piece of art at the Townley Gallery during the First Thursdays Art Walk. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / August 8, 2014)

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  • Laguna Beach, CA, United States

It may not have been a poetry reading, but when Zack Krone took the podium at Townley Gallery last week, he turned to rhyme and meter to grab the audience's attention.

In a punchy, rapid-fire voice that evoked Muhammad Ali stringing together couplets before a title fight, Krone let loose a poem to start the first monthly auction in the gallery on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. The following transcript comes courtesy of an iPhone recorder, because no mortal hand could possibly have written fast enough:

"This is your induction / Just follow my instruction / The power of participation and gratification / Will lead to construction of an entertaining production / So bid early, bid often, bid high and bid proud / It's a beautiful cause for the beautiful crowd / So whether it's an abstract or figurative that lights up your imagination / Quick, place a bid — you'll be supporting a great foundation."

For the first few minutes of the auction, held during the First Thursdays Art Walk, those bids were scarce. As a crowd of a dozen or two milled around the room, indulged in wine and observed the pop culture-themed paintings on the wall, just a few took seats with their bid marks. The gallery successfully parted with a bottle of wine for $20, but several artworks that followed, most of them by gallery owner Shane Townley himself, failed to net high enough offers.

By the end of the night, though, six of the 21 artworks on the block had gone home with new owners. That total netted $322.50 for the Townley Arts Foundation, which benefits children's hospitals and arts education. Future auctions may benefit other nonprofits as well.

"We want to do this for a year straight," Townley said. "Every single art walk."

The gallery has a partner in Krone, a certified Benefit Auctioneer Specialist with the National Auctioneers Assn. The San Juan Capistrano resident said he does about 120 auctions a year for charities, schools and other groups. A former journalist, Krone said he began getting invitations to emcee different events, and that experience motivated him to train at the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Iowa.

"I promised myself I would make a living with a microphone," said Krone, who, with his tall frame and booming voice, seems cut out for the role.

Krone met Townley in 2013 at a charity auction hosted by the Laguna Board of Realtors. The gallery owner got more than just a future collaborator out of that event — he also won a trip to Spain.

In October last year, the two worked together on the Halloween Benefit Ball, a fundraiser for the Townley Arts Foundation at the Women's Club of Laguna Beach. Last week's event marked the first live auction at the gallery itself.

In the past, the Townley Arts Foundation has paid for basic necessities, art programs and even Santa Claus and Easter Bunny visits at local hospitals, according to Townley.

Or, as Krone put it during the auction: "Every time you raise this bid mark, whether you win or not, you will be improving the life of a child."