City Opera Vancouver’s online art auction a unique way to raise funds

From the Georgia Straight
By Jessica Werb, December 3, 2010

City Opera Vancouver has turned to the art market to help create a new production fund. Faced with average costs of $150,000 per production, the company, which previously raised money on a project-to-project basis, is running an online art auction through Heffel Fine Art Auction House until December 16.

“Art auctions typically fail, because you have to create an audience and you have to find the work and you have to do all of that,” Charles Barber, COV’s artistic director, told the Straight by phone. he really cool thing about this is what Nora [Kelly, VOC’s board president] and Bill [Jeffries, curator/director of the SFU Gallery, who is assisting in the auction] did was tap into an existing system.”

The 37 works up for auction were all donated, said Barber. They include works by local B.C. artists including Gillian Armitage, Robert Davidson, and Reece Terris. While he did not want to speculate on how much COV hoped to raise, Barber said a previous Heffel auction of photography works, which took place last October, brought in $27,650 for the production fund.

Mara Korkola ~ No Place 73

Barber said he expected private fundraising efforts such as auctions to play a greater role in supporting COV’s work in the future, in light of cuts to provincial arts funding.

“We, ourselves, have rarely applied for provincial money because it has been so self-evident that the Liberals are cutting and cutting and cutting like a mad scythe,” he said. “It seemed to us from the beginning terribly foolish to rely on such an unreliable source. Our enterprise has been generated in greatest measure by private people in Metro Vancouver and increasingly in B.C. who really like the musical agenda that we have.”

COV, whose previous productions include the B.C. premiere of The Emperor of Atlantis, is currently nearing completion of a commissioned opera written by author Margaret Atwood and composer Christos Hatzis. Pauline , starring legendary local mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, is based on the life and final days of Canadian writer, poet, and actress Pauline Johnson.

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