Around Town: All’s Fare in the love of art  

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MICHAEL D. REID / TIMES COLONIST

OCTOBER 25, 2015 08:23 AM

Organizers of last weekend’s Art + Fare celebration couldn’t have found a more suitable host for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria fundraiser than the Union Club of B.C.

The historic club housed in an Edwardian building at Gordon and Humboldt streets has been a longtime supporter of Victoria’s arts community, counting architects Francis Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure among past members.
“This is a continuation of that,” said Robert Coulter, chairman of the club’s community outreach committee. “The art gallery is one of the community’s cultural pillars, and we believe it needs broadly based community support.”

The Union Club’s own art collection, dating back to at least 1885 according to those in the know, includes rare books, antiques and larger-scale paintings.

“If you go upstairs to the bar, you’ll still see some of our ‘trophy art,’ which was the art collected at the time [in the 1870s and ’80s],” said Martin Segger, honorary curator of the club’s collection of 200 works.

A group of club members founded the Island Arts and Crafts Society, “which brought Emily Carr into existence,” Segger said.

The club’s extensive collection includes wildlife paintings, 19th- and 20th-century watercolours and works by painters who captured the scenic splendour of the Rockies and other famous landscapes.

“In more recent times, the collection has grown and the emphasis has been on historic and contemporary artists who reflect nature and the times,” he said, noting small groups of paintings adorn its 22 hotel rooms.

Six local galleries — Madrona, Winchester, Alcheringa, Art Atelier 546, Mercurio and Stephen Lowe Art Gallery — participated in the fundraiser alongside Kilshaw’s Auctioneers and AGGV Art Rental & Sales.

The $125-a-head crowd of art enthusiasts viewed a special art exhibition in the club’s McKenzie Rooms, where Kilshaw’s Alison Ross dispensed tips on art investing. The guests then moved into the Centennial Ballroom to nibble on tapas, listen to music by the Katzenjammers and hit the dance floor.

Despite being competitors, the art galleries were enthusiastic about participating to support the public gallery and its programs, representatives said.

“This is a celebration of all things local and local art,” said Emily Dobby, an art historian and Art Atelier 546 associate.

“Our history goes back a long time, and we share concerns about the cultural health of the community, its physical health and its economic development,” said AGGV director Jon Tupper.

“We all have a part to play, and when we combine forces like this we can amplify that. The galleries in support of this project are part of that whole ecology we find in this community, particularly the arts, and how it all fits together — the artists, the galleries that sell the work, the museums that show and collect the work and the people who collect the work.”

When Tupper wasn’t thanking supporters of the cultural institutions that strengthen a region’s economic viability, he gamely revealed what he believes is the biggest misconception about the AGGV.

“I think one of the biggest misunderstandings for me lately has been that the gallery would be better off downtown,” said Tupper.

“In fact, it’s in the perfect location [1040 Moss St. in Fairfield]. It’s in the centre of all its supporters.”

The takeaway was that, no matter where it is, the gallery is “for the people of Victoria,” with programs designed to make it widely accessible.

“That is our focus,” Tupper said. “We have a lot of volunteers, and we enjoy a lot of support from the community compared to other places that are twice as big as Victoria.”

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