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Arts council hopes to bring Group of Seven collection to Parksville

Hosting collection would require annex gallery addition at the MAC
‘Spring Hillside/Ojibway Graveyard’ by Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson, painted in 1949, is part of a collection the Oceanside Community Arts Council (OCAC) hopes to bring to a permanent home in Parksville. (City of Parksville council agenda)

The Oceanside Community Arts Council (OCAC) hopes to bring a collection of paintings by the famous Group of Seven to Parksville.

The arts council was approached this summer by a couple looking for a gallery to host their collection of 27 paintings by the Group of Seven and associates, according to a letter by Stuart Clark, OCAC president, to Parksville City Council.

An annex gallery addition at the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) would be required to host the collection, which is valued at more than $3 million and owned by Ann and Fred Wurlitzer, who at 90 and 85 years old are keen to find it a permanent home.

“To host a collection of artwork of this magnitude is a singular and exciting opportunity not only for the Oceanside Community Arts Council, but also the City of Parksville, Vancouver Island, and the province of British Columbia,” Stuart’s letter said. “The impact of having the opportunity to share this body of work with visitors to the area cannot be understated.”

Parksville council voted in favour of writing a letter of support for the project during its Sept. 6 meeting.

“I am supportive of this. I just think that we can’t do enough for these kinds of organizations that want to be here,” said Coun. Sylvia Martin. “I support this because I want us to have a growth in this area for sure and this particular project would help.”

Coun. Mary Beil, council liaison to OCAC, said a letter of support will help with the project’s fundraising efforts.

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The Wurlitzers have expressed intent to assist with the cost, with the understanding that OCAC and the MAC will also fundraise towards the gallery wing, which will need to have concrete block construction with temperature and humidity control, as well as security.

Fred Wurlitzer has also expressed his intention to sell a piece from his collection at auction to assist with fundraising efforts, according to the letter.

Council voted unanimously to provide a letter of support for the project.

“This is early days of a potentially very exciting project,” said Mayor Doug O’Brien. “Let’s take that first baby step. Let’s move forward on this.”

The Group of Seven was a school of landscape painters, founded in 1920 and considered the most important Canadian artists of the early 20th Century, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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