Collection selling to aid burn victims, arts

In little more than a month, B.C. firefighters are hoping to break ground on a new burn wing at Vancouver General Hospital, and the Langley arts community is playing a role in making that possible.

The sale of an art collection owned by late Burnaby firefighter John Carr came into the care of the Langley Arts Council several months back, and now it’s going to be sold off, piece by piece, to help make the burn unit possible, explained Harmony Thiessen, the executive director of the LAC.

Betty Carr lost her husband more than a decade ago. He was a Burnaby firefighter and avid art collector who was killed on the job, and she struggled with what to do with his huge collection of art that literally consumed two bedrooms in their home.

Eventually, she decided to keep a few cherished pieces for herself, sell off several of the higher priced pieced through auction, then donated the rest – about 1,500 of them – to the B.C.

Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA). She wanted it to aid in their efforts to build a new burn unit, and they’ve already raised more than $13 million of the $15 million needed.

But what were a bunch of firefighters going to do with all that art, and how could they turn that into cash for the cause?

That’s where Langley’s Erik Vogel came in. The friend and fellow Burnaby firefighter reached out to the arts council in his community for some assistance in selling the collection and pushing the BCPFFA closer to its goal.

Originally, the hope was to hold an arts gala last fall, but it was too risky an undertaking, Thiessen explained.

That’s when the idea of a public, web-based art sale was devised, allowing 100 per cent of the money raised to go to support the burn fund and arts in this community.

The 60-day campaign, when launched later this month, will allow individuals, businesses, or even non-profit organizations to purchase pieces of art from his collection – ranging in sketches on paper to large framed canvases.

Depending on the quality of the art, the pieces will be sold online on a first-come, first-serve basis for $100 or $200 each.

“We just need a thousand people to buy a $100 or $200 piece to make it possible,” Thiessen said.

She noted that each buyer receives a plaque saying they’ve supported these causes.

“This campaign is not about buying fine art at a discounted price, it’s about supporting the BCPFFA’s burn fund for car accident and burn victims, and at the same time investing in arts and culture in our community,” Thiessen added. “It honours the legacy that John Carr left behind.”

During a press conference on Wednesday, May 28 a new website will be launched and the program unveiled, Thiessen said.

In addition to the 1,200 pieces from Carr’s collection that are being sold online soon, there are another 250 or so that will be held back and will be curated into an exhibit and taken on tour around B.C. in 2015.

These high-end pieces make up the Parker collection – a section of Carr’s keepsakes – that he previously acquired from the 1940s art critic.

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