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BC art gallery dealer arrested, millions in artwork seized – Victoria – Times Colonist

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Saanich police have seized more than 1,000 pieces of art worth tens of millions of dollars — including three original Emily Carr paintings and several David Blackwood pieces — after investigating an art dealer in Oak Bay.

It is the highest value of seized property by the department in the past 30 years, Saanich police told the Times Colonist.

An art owner contacted police on April 11 to report that, in March, they had entrusted a dealer with four pieces of fine art for consignment and potential sale at a gallery in Oak Bay: three original Carr paintings and a Blackwood watercolour. Both are renowned Canadian artists. There were also pieces by noted Canadian painter Joseph Plaskett.

The owner of the Carr and Blackwood paintings became suspicious when the gallery recently closed and attempts to contact the dealer went unanswered.

The police investigation found several other victims who had consigned art to the dealer, only to have all communication cut off.

Detectives with the Major Crime Unit executed three search warrants at storage sites in Saanich, Oak Bay and Langford.

An initial search found 600 pieces of art, the next more than 100 and the final search more than 300, police said.

Police said in total just over 1,000 pieces were seized, with an estimated value “in the tens of millions of dollars.”

The art is being stored at a secure location.

The dealer, whose identity can’t be released until charges are sworn in court, was arrested on April 21 and released on several conditions, with a court date set for July, said Saanich Const. Markus Anastasiades.

Investigators are preparing a report to Crown counsel recommending criminal charges for multiple counts of fraud and false pretense.

Police allege “the dealer was taking art from people with the intention of consigning or appraising the art, later ceasing all contact, all the while selling the art without reimbursing the owners or artists,” said Anastasiades.

As the investigation continues, detectives are in contact with the artists, their families or representatives, and the owners of the art in an effort to return all of the work to the rightful owners.

Anita Blackwood, wife of artist David Blackwood, told Glacier Media it was “very unfortunate that a number of artists known to me and many unknown to me have really been taken advantage of and been disrespected.”

One of Canada’s leading print makers, David Blackwood’s work has been celebrated for five decades.

This experience has been disappointing, Anita Blackwood said. “It’s really a dramatic example of what can go wrong,” she said.

Inquiries were made about the status of pieces in the Oak Bay gallery, but they were met with “silence,” she said.

“Essentially, phone calls weren’t returned, voicemails were not returned.”

The art is impossible to recreate. They were signed and numbered limited edition etchings. “The effort that had gone into producing those 70 works, you can’t recover that time and the effort,” Anita Blackwood said.

Only 13 of Blackwood’s pieces were recovered.

“The work that we did get back subsequently was sent out to his gallery in Newfoundland and to Heffel galleries across the country,” said Anita Blackwood. “So there were about 13 pieces that didn’t come back, and I can live with that.”

Police are not disclosing what specific artwork was seized, including the Carr painting. The prolific artist, who grew up in Victoria, has her work in the Royal B.C. Museum, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and in galleries and private hands all over the world.

Carr’s 1931 painting Cordova Drift, which depicts a natural seaside scene near Victoria, sold for $3,361,260 at a Heffel auction in Vancouver on Dec. 1, the second highest price paid for a work by the B.C. artist. The sale price fell only $32,000 below that for Carr’s 1928-30 painting The Crazy Stair, which went for $3,393,000 at a Heffel auction in Toronto in 2013.

Police believe there are individuals who have attempted to reclaim their artwork but have not been successful in doing so. They are asked to contact Saanich police by email at art@saanichpolice.ca.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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Memorial University to Unveil Street Art Wall at St. John's Campus – VOCM

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Memorial University is unveiling a legal street art wall at their St. John’s campus.

The launch for the street wall will take place tomorrow from 1 to 2 p.m.

The wall, located on the east side of the campus near MUN Daycare, is open to all artists of all levels of skill. Between sunrise and sunset, artists can tag and paint the wall any day of the week.

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Nature is an Artist explores relationship betwee art and nature – MorinvilleNews.com

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Nature is an Artist

Nature is an Artist was released last week and is available wherever books are sold. 

by Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County’s intergovernmental advisor Jennifer Lavallee has published her first children’s picture book. 

Vancouver’s Greystone Books released Nature is an Artist, written by Lavallee and illustrated by Argentinian artist Natalia Colombo, on May 17.

The book looks at the various art forms children can find in the natural world surrounding them and follows a group of children exploring nature and discovering an art show in front of them. They are inspired to create works of art, recreating what they have seen in nature. 

Although Nature is an Artist is Lavallee’s first published picture book, it is far from her first published work. The author has previously written articles for local newspapers and magazines, including Morinville Online. She has also written for national publications and many of Lavallee’s short stories have appeared in anthologies. 

“Those have been more adult-focused stories, Lavallee said of her short story work. “This is my first professional publication in the world of children’s literature,” and that is where I am focusing all my efforts. That’s really where my passion is.”

Lavallee explained that when she was trying to determine the direction of her writing, it dawned on her that children’s writing was a great pairing to where her interests were.

“I’m an adult, but I still read middle-grade books and YA [young adult] and that kind of literature,” she said. “So it just kind of clicked – yeah, I should be focusing my attention here.”

Lavallee recently spent the day at École Morinville Public School reading her new book to students. Children were surprised to learn that an adult enjoyed books written for children. 

“I said absolutely I do because I think there is something so very special about pairing really beautiful illustrations [with words],” Lavallee said. “When you look at illustrations in picture books, you can find some really special artwork. Pairing that with beautiful text; it reminds me of magic, kind of, and it’s almost like comfort food.”

Lavallee said she has always been someone who loves fairy tales and someone who loves to watch classic children’s movies over and over again. Films like the adaptation of William Golden’s Princess Bride, Hook and Peter Pan have helped form her current writing path. 

“I’ve always just been in that space,” she said of her interests and the types of books she wants to write, paraphrasing author Toni Morrison’s quotation – ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’  

But writing a children’s book is challenging for the mother of three, balancing full-time employment with Sturgeon County, completing graduate school, and taking care of her family. 

From the initial idea in the author’s mind, writing the manuscript, then being able to drive to Chapters and take the book off the shelf, was a four-year journey.

“It takes a long time. There are not even 500 words in here,” Lavallee said of the new book, adding that just finalizing the text with the publisher is a lengthy process. “It has to be exactly right, and the thing about this book is it’s a rhyming book. Not only do you have to find the right words, but the right rhyming words to match the story you are trying to tell. It was about a year to finalize the text.”

Working with Buenos Aires-based illustrator Natalia Colombo was also an exciting experience for Lavallee, which also took a year. 

“This is her twenty-third book, so that was a neat experience. Most people think I drew the pictures, but I wish I could draw,” Lavallee laughed. “The illustrations are what makes picture books pop, and I’m so pleased with how it came out. It’s very bright and cheerful.”

Great art is significant for Lavallee’s book, which is about the artistic beauty found in nature.

“You can go into nature and see things that are like fine works of art,” Lavallee said. “A sunset is like a beautiful painting, or a rainbow is like stained glass. The point of it is to inspire young readers to see themselves as artists, but in the context of also having respect for nature, and wanting to get out into the environment and the natural world. It’s the pairing of those two.”

Lavallee said Nature is an Artist is perfectly aligned to the existing curriculum, lending itself to simple crafts based on the content of the book. 

“Some of those things that you need to learn in the younger years about artistic styles are all interwoven into the story,” Lavallee explained. 

The author worked with the publisher to create some free downloadable companion guides to the book for parents and teachers. 

Nature is an Artist is available wherever books are sold, including Chapters and Amazon. It retails for $22.95 per copy.

Lavallee has written a sequel to the new book and hopes to see it published in the future. She is also working on a longer chapter book aimed at middle grades. 

The author is also doing workshops at the upcoming St. Albert Children’s Festival.

Click here for more local news
Click here to visit author’s website

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Contest open to young artists; art grads needed more than ever – SooToday

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Art students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 are invited to submit samples of their work to be included in a separate exhibition and contest within the annual St. Mary’s College art show to be held at the Second Line East high school beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14.

Students have until 3 p.m. Thursday, June 9 to submit their drawings, painting or digital art work with their identification and contact information in person at SMC’s main office.

While the SMC art show is an annual event – featuring work by artists from Grades 9 to 12 and including not only visual art but also musical and dance performances in one night – this year marks the first show and contest for students in Grades 6 to 8.

The contest is the brainchild of Adriano DiCerbo, SMC art teacher and Samantha Lance, an SMC graduate now pursuing a career as an art show curator in Toronto.

“Adriano approached me with this idea. He wanted to get the ball rolling on this and try to attract kids’ attention to this. We came up with the title Spring Back To Life, to get students to think about what inspires you about this new season?” Lance said.

That includes:

  • What images of spring best represent your personal connection to this season?
  • What moments of spring do you cherish?
  • Are there certain aspects of spring (flowers, plants, landscapes, animals) that hold a special place in your heart?

The contest poster has been designed and will be sent out soon to parents and teachers across the H-SCDSB system.

DiCerbo hopes word will get out to art students in Grades 6 to 8 students in other school boards.

Students and parents can contact DiCerbo by email

Lance will judge the Grades 6 to 8 art show.

“I first got immersed in visual arts in Grade 10 with Mr. DiCerbo’s class and then I started helping with the arts festivals from Grade 10 to 12 and I realized, while curating the work, that art is what I wanted to do as a career,” Lance said.

Lance graduated from SMC in 2017 and went on to study art for four years at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art & Design – OCAD University. 

There she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Criticism and Curatorial Practice, learning how to organize art shows at galleries, museums, art shows and festivals. 

She plans to attend the University of Toronto in September to begin a Master of Curatorial Studies program.

At OCAD, she was inspired by the work of many artists including Vincent Van Gogh, American photographer Nicolas Bruno and Christian painter Akiane Kramarik.

“After I graduated from high school I came back to help curate the arts festival at SMC. Every year it was nice to see the work and the talent students brought to the table,” Lance said.

“I appreciate art history and love looking at the different types of media people bring into their art. When I go for my Masters in Toronto I want to support local, national and international artists by showcasing their art,” Lance said, adding she’ll always enjoy keeping in touch with the Sault arts scene.

Admission to the June 14 SMC art show is free for kids, $10 for adults.

Proceeds from admission go to Tumaini Afrika, a Sault Ste. Marie-based, non-registered group of volunteers dedicated to working with children and women in Kenya in such spheres as education and nutrition.

“After COVID, everybody needs this art show,” Lance said.

Both Lance and her high school art mentor DiCerbo spoke of the importance of art and art education for kids despite the heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in schools.

“Art speaks when words can’t,” Lance said.

“Art gives anyone – students, young and old – to speak about their background, their culture and their response to everything that’s happening in the world in their own way, it gives them that freedom to do that. That’s so critical, to express yourself, and to have that confidence.”

As for exposing younger students to art at an early age, Lance smiled “if we nurture this at the beginning in younger students we could be fostering the next Monet or Van Gogh.”

“I believe in having a well-rounded education. Yes, science and math, but the arts as well,” DiCerbo said.

“That enables students to have creative skills, critical thinking skills and they need those opportunities to be self expressive. It’s an incredibly valuable skill for the 21st Century, more than we realize. It helps us to connect with nature and each other. An arts festival is a celebration of when we come together and celebrate creativity.”

“There are jobs out there for creative people,” DiCerbo said.

“They’re just not as visible as the teacher, the doctor, the dentist. There are so many creative people behind the scenes working in traditional and digital media, architectural studies, the business world needs creative thinkers. They’re needed.”

“Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower. What if the Mona Lisa vanished? It’s priceless. These are iconic pieces of art that help define who we are. The Group of Seven helps define who we are. Filmmakers, musicians give us a sense of identity and belonging. How can we possibly take that out of our world? We need more of that particularly during these times more than ever before,” DiCerbo said.

“Hopefully we get a lot of submissions,” Lance said.

“We’re not expecting students to donate a huge painting or drawing, but it’ll be exciting to see what comes in.”

Lance said she hopes it will be an encouragement for kids to start building a portfolio and consider a career in art.

It’s late in the school year but kids can submit work they’ve done earlier in the current school year.

Prizes of $100, $75 and $50 will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in the Grade 6-8 show and competition.

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