Canadian Artists

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, 2020 has been a tough year, as society and individuals have suffered many losses. Some of those losses have also left us with significant legacies, and while we mourn, I hope we can celebrate their gifts.

“Loss” is defined as a state of feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something of value. “Legacy” is something handed down or received from an ancestor or predecessor. That combined state of loss and legacy is now poignantly evident throughout Canada’s creative sector.

A week ago today, we lost Nova Scotian visual artist Peter Gough. I spoke with him only two days before his sudden passing. Fighting cancer, he was in good spirits and full of hope. His art was being recognized in new ways, with a publication on the horizon. His legacy to all Canadians is as one of the instigators of the visual artists’ laureate bill. May it come to pass. I thank him.

Generous Manitoba artist Peter McConville passed away last week of cancer, too. His unique paintings, on view in many public spaces, will continue to bring joy.

Arts donors have also been lost, some passing before COVID and some from COVID. They include inspiring sponsors and fundraisers, and anonymous, quiet, behind-the-scenes champions. They have made our country and its substance far-reaching and meaningful. I have been privileged to work with many of them over many years. Seeing their joy in netting truly needed significant funds to enable public programming and sharing in their delight in such positive impacts was certainly a gift for me, my organizations and communities.

One was major art donor, Winnipeg lawyer Bob Hucal, who died last month. His prime interest was Western Canada. I can’t count the number of times when I would answer my phone and hear “Pat, would you like a work by artist X?” It was always a significant artist. He would tell me the work, the gallery or auction house where it was for sale or if it was from his own collection. Prescient about specific institutional collection needs, he knew Canadian, and especially Manitoban, art history. He enriched the collections of three different Western Canadian institutions I led. His deep knowledge was matched by his remarkable generosity and joy in seeing the patrimony grow in our public collections.

Bob Hucal was a victim of COVID. He contracted it in hospital when recovering from another ailment.

So did the esteemed curator and art writer Sigrid Dahle, who was at the same Winnipeg hospital when receiving cancer treatment. Her excellent publication and exhibition legacy is truly significant, as was her current work at the University of Manitoba as its curator.

Sigrid and Bob died the same weekend, just several weeks ago. Winnipeg’s art community is mourning.

The loss of all these individuals is huge, but their legacies are significant and meaningful. I thank each of them and send my condolences to their families, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

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