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Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

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November 2012
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Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
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Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
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November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

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September 2011
Hope springs eternal


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The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


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Education for the eye,
soul and mind


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Fine art inkjet prints
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Gallery Views

The Robert Bateman Centre

By ROBIN LAURENCE

The Robert Bateman Centre, on the Victoria waterfront

The Robert Bateman Centre, located in a 1924 neoclassical building on the waterfront in Victoria, displays the largest exhibit of original works by the popular wildlife artist

A recent daytrip to Victoria, where I lived many years ago, reminded me of the extreme picturesqueness of the city’s Inner Harbour. Clearly, other visitors to the place needed no such memory tweaking. Throngs of tourists made their way from the southern edge of downtown, passing the vine-covered Empress Hotel, the totem poles outside the Royal BC Museum, and the beautifully groomed lawns and gardens of the provincial legislature. They made their way past vendors selling jewellery, basketry and small carvings, too, and others hawking sightseeing bus tours, horse-drawn carriage rides and whale-watching expeditions. The size and determination of the crowds astonished me.

Smartly positioned on the waterfront – and along this well-trodden path – is the Robert Bateman Centre. Located at 470 Belleville Street in a handsomely renovated heritage building, the centre opened last May on its featured artist’s 83rd birthday. If there had been any doubts about the local popularity of this internationally known wildlife artist, they were dispelled by the 3,000 people who visited the place on its opening weekend. The Robert Bateman Centre offers the largest-ever showing of the Salt Spring Island artist’s works: some 160 paintings, drawings and reproductions are on view in eight distinctly themed galleries, complemented by multi-media and interactive digital components. Installed on the top floor of the 1924 neoclassical building, which was originally designed as a steamship terminal by Francis Rattenbury and P.L. James, the centre chronicles Bateman’s long career, highlights his achievements and emphasizes his devotion to educating adults and children about the importance of our relationship with the natural world.

Among the works on view: wildlife paintings Bateman produced as a youth in Toronto, when he was already a devotee of nature and its creatures; depictions of rural subjects, such as old barns in snowy fields, influenced by the American realist painter Andrew Wyeth; and surprisingly abstract works in the manner of the New York School. More familiar are the paintings devoted to African subjects, including the intensely observed and highly detailed images of elephants, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs and other great beasts that launched Bateman’s career as a wildlife artist. A gallery devoted to paintings of birds expresses his enduring fondness for these feathered creatures. Visitors to this gallery will also hear birdsong recorded by Salt Spring Islanders John and Heather Neville. Mammals in the human-altered landscape and creatures endangered by over-fishing, oil spills, resource exploitation and global climate change are also represented here.

When the centre opened, Bateman told the CBC that he hoped it would both “guard his legacy and advance his environmental message.” The centre’s admission revenues are intended to fund the Bateman Foundation, a national, not-for-profit charity that supports educational programs promoting an understanding of the natural world and, again, highlighting the importance of our relationship with it.

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