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Saskatchewan boy, philanthropist, international art dealer

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Like many who grew up in rural Saskatchewan during the 1950s, Frederick Mulder curled, played hockey and golfed in people’s backyards. Looking back now on his childhood in the tiny town of Eston, there was just one indication of the unconventional career he had waiting.

“My ex-wife used to say, ‘You used to go door to door selling Christmas cards, now you just go city to city selling prints.'”

Not just any prints but Picassos, Munches and Matisses.

Mulder, 76, is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of 19th- and 20th-century European prints. He has sold art to private dealers and museums around the world.

As he walks around the Picasso and Paper exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, his faint British accent is a reminder that the man has been in England now for over 50 years.

“This is it. This is the one we sold,” said Mulder. “This is a linocut from 1962 of Jacqueline, his wife.”

Mulder graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA in English then attended Brown University in Rhode Island on a scholarship but made a last-minute switch to philosophy. His thesis adviser suggested he write his dissertation at Oxford or Cambridge.

“I thought that was a lovely idea,” Mulder says with a smile.

Borrowing to buy Picassos

With the help of a generous Canada Council fellowship, Mulder hopped on a plane bound for England with a book about investments. The last chapter focused on a man who collected the etchings of 17th-century master Rembrandt van Rijn.

Upon arriving, Mulder attended an auction containing one of the artist’s prints. With little experience in purchasing art, he picked up the phone to seek advice — and ended up dialling the famous Sotheby’s auction house.

“I treated London just like it was, as if it was this small town, really. I thought I could call anybody up or go and see anyone.”

Mulder bought his first Rembrandt print in 1966 and was instantly hooked.

 

Mulder, around four years of age, sits petting two kittens in his hometown of Eston, Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Frederick Mulder)

 

He later sold it and used some of the money to go to Paris. It was there he met up with a man named Paul Proute whose stock included Picassos, including an impression of The Circus — the only Picasso Mulder owned.

“I said to him, well, I’d like to buy yours. And he said, ‘I have a whole bunch of them if, you know, if you want more than one.'”

Mulder bought eight. But had to borrow the money to do it.

“I came back, told my bank that I had done this and said, ‘I hear you have these things called overdrafts,'” he says with a laugh. “The bank manager was amused. I don’t think he’d ever had a graduate student asking if he could, you know, borrow money to buy some Picassos.”

Within two weeks, he says, he’d sold every Picasso for double what he’d paid.

It was the start of a formula that propelled Mulder’s career forward: buy strategically, sell honestly, profit slowly. Eventually, the art would go for as much as $3 million.

Despite his success, Mulder never aspired to own a yacht or go on expensive vacations. In fact, his 20-year-old Volkswagen was stolen a few years ago so now he rides a bicycle or uses Uber to get around.

Instead, Mulder uses that money to give back.

Passionate philanthropist

“Fred’s passions go far beyond the art world, and I would divide them into two that are connected at the hip,” said University of Saskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff, who has known Mulder for eight years. “One is philanthropy … and the other is …  in environmental causes.”

Mulder estimates, and media reports confirm, he has so far donated around 10 million pounds (more than $17 million Cdn) to various causes. He says the environment is definitely a focus.

“I think that what we’re doing now is we’re stealing the future from our children. We don’t have the right to use resources that we should be leaving for you to use,” said Mulder.

 

Mulder’s childhood hockey team in Eston. Mulder, age 10, is third from left in the top row. (Submitted by Frederick Mulder)

 

“He’s very humble,” said Stoicheff. “It’s difficult to say exactly where that comes from, but part of it is that he grew up in small-town Saskatchewan.”

There are now Picasso works splashed across the Prairies — nearly all with ties to Mulder, and at least six of which he donated to the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

In 2012, Mulder sold what he calls “the most extensive collection of Picasso linocuts in the world” to Ellen Remai. She subsequently donated it to the Remai Modern, a Saskatoon art museum named after her, and that sparked a partnership between the museum and the U of S.

The collection is valued at some $20 million.

Back to his roots

In May, Mulder will return to his home province for a Picasso symposium put on by the museum and the U of S, which in 2017 honoured Mulder for his lifelong contributions in the art world and his passion for philanthropy.”

“It’ll be nice to go back,” said Mulder. “I’ve often thought if I had come from the same background in the U.K. that I came from in Saskatchewan, which is a very remote farming town, I probably would have had the wrong accent, the wrong set of ideas.”

 

This Picasso linocut, donated by Mulder, hangs in the museum in Eston, pictured in this 2016 photo during a visit by then-lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan, Vaughn Solomon Schofield. (Submitted by Verna Thompson)

 

Asked what his younger self would think upon hearing about the life he has lived, Mulder says with a laugh, “I would have thought that they must be talking about somebody else.”

There was no art in Eston, Sask., when Mulder grew up. There is now, however, one Picasso linocut, donated by Mulder,  that hangs in the local museum, a testament to where the great art dealer is from, where he went and the endless possibilities of where anyone can go.

“These things happen. They could so easily not have happened,” said Mulder, “and if you take the opportunity that they provide, you know, they kind of transform your life.”

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Pandemic shutdowns create a ‘triple whammy’ for Western Canada’s arts community – The Globe and Mail

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The redesign concept for the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Glenbow Museum

In another lifetime, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stood in front of John Hammond’s oil painting The Three Sisters at Calgary’s Glenbow museum, talking up philanthropy. He recounted the generosity of Eric Harvie, who founded the museum, and had once owned the painting. Harvie, who eventually made a fortune, began dabbling in Alberta’s oil and gas industry at a time when “a lot of dry wells were drilled and a lot of hopes were lost,” Kenney said. The Premier then pledged $40-million to Glenbow for major renovations. It was Feb. 21.

“We felt at that moment that the sky was the limit,” Glenbow CEO Nicholas Bell said during an interview this week. “I think if you look at the calendar, that was, like, five weeks ago. Honestly, it feels like a decade ago.”

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Catastrophe is not a word to be used lightly, but the coronavirus pandemic is worthy and arts institutions were among the first to take a hit. Performance venues were immediately affected, with shutdowns ordered in certain cases just hours before showtime. What followed has been a raft of cancellations and layoffs, with no idea when the lights can be flipped back on. At the same time, in Alberta, the price of oil has tanked.

Handout photo shows Nicholas R. Bell, CEO of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary. The Alberta government announced a $40-million pledge for major renovations to the Glenbow on Feb. 21, 2020. “Honestly, it feels like a decade ago,” Bell says.

Chelsea Yang-Smith/Glenbow Museum

For cultural organizations in Western Canada, the difficulties in rebuilding may be amplified. There is a smaller population – and thus donor base – and more distance from most head offices and their vital sponsorship dollars.

“The whole corporate fundraising aspect of arts is a big challenge out west,” says Tom Wright, now Vancouver Opera’s general director (he had been interim director). “That is why we do a lot of corporate fundraising in Toronto.”

The problem is particularly acute in Alberta, which is dealing with what Janice Price, president and CEO of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, calls a triple whammy: the devastated energy sector compromising a major source of philanthropy, cuts in provincial government funding, and now a pandemic.

The Banff Centre’s temporary layoff of 400 people – 75 per cent of its staff – is a stark example of what has been happening at arts and cultural organizations. At institutions including Glenbow, Alberta Ballet, the National Music Centre, the Calgary Stampede – all of which have temporarily laid off about 80 per cent of their workforces – job losses have been an ugly necessity.

“It’s tough sledding in Alberta; very, very tough sledding,” says Annemarie Petrov, president and CEO of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Winspear Centre. “I think not-for-profits are relatively resilient, but there is a breaking point.”

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra president and CEO Paul Dornian projects a $2-million loss in earned revenues between the March shutdown and the end of the CPO’s season, June 13.

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“Two million dollars is a lot to make up; in fact, there’s no way to do it in this type of climate.”

At different companies, the numbers vary, but the experience is universal: unprecedented gravity and uncertainty.

“The one thing we do know for sure is that things are not going to go back to what they were three weeks ago,” says Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, which has created a $1.1-million relief fund for artists.

“It is unlikely to me that all of the companies that came into this crisis are going to come out the other side.”

Rose Ginther, associate dean of the faculty of fine arts and communications at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, agrees some companies will likely fold. “Arts organizations run very close to the bone,” she says. “There isn’t an ounce of fat.”

Fundraising has never been so critical, and yet it has never been so fraught. Oil and gas companies, once Alberta’s leaders in arts sponsorship, have made their own cuts. Many donors have lost jobs, or seen their financial holdings tumble.

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Soliciting funds right now to support an orchestra or art gallery could be perceived as insensitive.

“It’s not the best time to bombard people with a lot of asks,” says Stephanie Raynor, chief advancement officer at Theatre Calgary. “We know our donors will be there when the time is right,” Raynor says.

Will they, though? There is a danger of Alberta’s philanthropic wells running dry.

For now, organizations are reporting heartening generosity. Patrons are e-mailing with messages of support and often donating the cost of tickets for cancelled performances rather than asking for refunds.

The Banff Centre says it received some 50 donations the week after laying off 400 people. “Many of our major donors said … they’re going to continue to fund us no matter what,” says vice-president of marketing and development, Rosemary Thompson. “They want the Banff Centre to survive.”

The Glenbow is confident in the promised funding for that renovation.

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The CPO, after issuing temporary layoffs, this week recalled musicians and staff, but with reduced hours. “That leaves us in a much better position to, when this ends, come back with some strength.”

For groups that can’t come back, Pon vows to recognize their contributions.

“In my experience when a company closes, all we remember about it is its closure. And all we associate with it is its failure,” she says. “We’ll work as hard as we can to honour them and make sure that they exit with grace and dignity and celebration.”


Farther west, in British Columbia, among the big cancellations this spring is what would have been Vancouver Opera’s final festival. Next year, unrelated to the pandemic, it will revert to a regular season, scrapping its unpopular festival experiment – something it had hoped to announce at this season’s closing event.

Other big questions surround the Vancouver Art Gallery. Neither its interim director nor board chair was available for an interview this week, but it’s hard to imagine its nearly $400-million new gallery project — which has been in the works for years but never broken ground — proceeding as planned. The project has been seeking $100-million from Ottawa and $50-million from the province, in addition to $50-million already granted by the province project in 2008.

“I can’t see that in the next 48 months being a priority,” says Bob Rennie, a philanthropist and collector who has long been openly critical of the project.

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Rennie says there’s an old adage that has guided him through his own business dealings: “a man who adheres to a position previously stated when times change is a fool.”


At the National Music Centre in Calgary, president and CEO Andrew Mosker believes Canadian arts organizations have a responsibility right now: to keep the country’s spirits – and hopes – high as we await what he calls “the next normal.”

Artists’ responses to the crisis were almost immediate. Jann Arden was among the first to livestream a performance, from her southern Alberta home. Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre has launched a Stuck in the House series. Contemporary Calgary will launch an initiative on Monday called Art Where You Are, with an online interview with Luke Jerram, whose Museum of the Moon, hangs suspended under the dome – and in time – in the closed gallery. Jerram will discuss a new work in his Glass Microbiology series: a glass sculpture of COVID-19.

But the pandemic presents an opportunity for more than some cool livestreams.

“I think this is a watershed moment,” Price says. “I think there will be a lot of dialogue when this is over about ‘what did we learn?’ and ‘how do we manage our organizations differently in the future?’”

Resilience has always been a theme when it comes to Alberta. Floods, fires, economic downturns – the province has emerged from it all, not unscathed, but standing. Resilience is also a forte for artists. Through the worst of times, there is creation. Nobody knows what the cultural landscape will look like on the flip side of this staggering event. But for sure, there will be art at the end of it. And along the way, to help ease this grim journey.


Banff Centre for Arts temporarily lays off 400 staff via email

File photo shows an aerial view of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Paul Zizka Photography/Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

That Thursday was an excruciating day on the mountain for all: senior management making difficult decisions; hundreds of employees learning they were out of work. The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity temporarily laid off 400 employees on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Banff Centre has never faced a layoff of this size,” spokesperson Rosemary Thompson said.

“We can’t deliver our programs online,” Banff Centre president and chief executive Janice Price explained to The Globe and Mail the next day. “We are about being on this campus, in this location, where we also house you and feed you, which of course is something we should not be doing now, putting people into close quarters with each other.”

But some employees felt the layoff was mishandled. (They spoke with The Globe on the condition of anonymity, as they say they’re worried about not being called back from their layoff.)

The notices were not communicated personally but delivered by e-mail – and those e-mails did not arrive at a uniform time, so in some cases, employees in the same office spent hours waiting to learn if they had lost their jobs after their co-workers had received their notice.

Laying off staff is a brutal duty at the best of times. But the coronavirus pandemic forced arts organizationsto lay off staff in large numbers and with little warning. Still, when implementing a mass layoff due to an unforeseen catastrophe, are there ways to make the ugly process a little more humane? And safe?

At the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, for instance, where 112 people were temporarily laid off, the layoffs were communicated in person or by phone calls, followed by an e-mail. At the Stratford Festival, which laid off nearly 500 people, a virtual town hall allowed artistic director Antoni Cimolino and executive director Anita Gaffney to address everyone. “It was clear, direct and quite moving,” actor Miles Potter says. Directors and managers then personally called everyone who was affected. That evening, there was a follow-up by e-mail. Staff were given a week’s notice.

“Even in the worst of times, even when you have no choice but to let people go because there is no business option, how you do it matters,” says Kanina Blanchard, a leadership development consultant and lecturer at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.

Blanchard was speaking about best practices in general and not about the Banff Centre, which she declined to comment on.

The Banff Centre says it chose to inform employees by e-mail in order to adhere to social distancing measures, which it mentioned in the e-mails.

Thompson told The Globe that the senior team will reduce or donate their compensation during the crisis to support the Banff Centre’s recovery – 20 per cent of base salary for Price and 15 per cent by the other members of the senior leadership team.

The union says there was nothing illegal or grievable about how management handled the layoffs.

“It may rub some people the wrong way and that’s fine,” says Lou Arab, communications representative for CUPE. “They’re entitled to feel how they feel.”

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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David Driskell, prominent authority on black art, dies at 88 – Times Colonist

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FALMOUTH, Maine — David Driskell, one of the nation’s most influential African American artists and a leading authority on black art, has died. He was 88.

Driskell was a multimedia artist who used the trees around his Falmouth, Maine, cabin home as a feature in his work. A spokeswoman for the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland said he died on Wednesday. The cause of his death, in a hospital near his home in Hyattsville, Maryland, was not disclosed.

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Driskell went to Maine in the 1950s to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He was part of a wave of artists who came to the state from New York, the Portland Press Herald reported. He would go on to become the author of several books and more than 40 catalogues, and curated “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1970s. The show was pivotal in paving the way for the study of African American art history.

Driskell once said of Maine: “I dream about it when I’m not there.”

The spokeswoman for the Driskell Center said services are not planned at this time due to concerns about coronavirus, which has disrupted funeral services around the country.

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David Driskell, prominent authority on black art, dies at 88 – Powell River Peak

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FALMOUTH, Maine — David Driskell, one of the nation’s most influential African American artists and a leading authority on black art, has died. He was 88.

Driskell was a multimedia artist who used the trees around his Falmouth, Maine, cabin home as a feature in his work. A spokeswoman for the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland said he died on Wednesday. The cause of his death, in a hospital near his home in Hyattsville, Maryland, was not disclosed.

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Driskell went to Maine in the 1950s to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He was part of a wave of artists who came to the state from New York, the Portland Press Herald reported. He would go on to become the author of several books and more than 40 catalogues, and curated “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1970s. The show was pivotal in paving the way for the study of African American art history.

Driskell once said of Maine: “I dream about it when I’m not there.”

The spokeswoman for the Driskell Center said services are not planned at this time due to concerns about coronavirus, which has disrupted funeral services around the country.

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