Art Gallery of Greater Victoria receives $2.8M donation

Deceased artist’s sister presents proceeds from shares in his Regina property

A warm welcome three decades ago has led to a $2.8-million donation to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to help pay for an expansion at its 1040 Moss St. property.

Artist Anthony Thorn, who died in 2014, left his shares in a property in Regina to the gallery. Now that the property has been sold, the proceeds were presented to the gallery on Wednesday by Lyn Goldman of Regina, Thorn’s sister.

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“Tony loved Victoria from the first visit he made,” Goldman told about 70 people at a reception.

“Not only did he love the beauty of the city. but he greatly appreciated being welcomed by the art gallery.”

When Thorn first visited the gallery, then-director Pat Bovey (now a Canadian senator) welcomed him to the gallery and to Victoria, said current director Jon Tupper.

“He felt that this house was a home for him, that it was home for artists,” said Tupper, who met with Thorn in 2014 and heard that he wanted to leave a legacy to the gallery.

“He was deeply intelligent and very serious and compassionate.”

Thorn, who was in poor health, made the donation in memory of his wife, Jacqueline, who predeceased him. He said in 2014 that he hoped it would inspire others to donate. At that time, it was estimated the donation would be $2.5 million.

Thorn grew up in Regina as part of the well-known Goldman family and exhibited his work internationally, as well as in Victoria.

Drawings of the proposed expansion, from HCMA Architecture and Design, were displayed at the reception.

Plans call for the historic Spencer Mansion to stand separately from the new construction. The current addition with its exhibition space is attached to the mansion.

Plans call for a new gallery of 41,100 square feet, up from 26,635 square feet.

Construction costs are estimated at slightly more than $25 million, said Godfrey Archbold, a gallery board member who is involved in the fundraising.

“Part of the reason that there is a sense of urgency is that when you look at Victoria, the costs of construction have risen dramatically over time. You’ve got labour shortages, [and] material cost pressures,” Archbold said.

To date, just over $11 million has been raised, including Thorn’s donation. The province of B.C. has contributed $6 million.

The gallery has applied to the federal government in the hope that it will contribute between $7 million and $10 million, he said.

“But given the political environment, the proximity of the federal election, we believe our best interests are served by diversifying the sources of funding,” Archbold said.

“We have established within the board a number of task groups which are going to look at a variety of streams of funding, probably the majority of it sourced locally.”

The aim is to start construction in the next 12 to 18 months, he said.

“We are going to look at a variety of sources, including business, industry, foundations and other sources of funding that an organization like ours will typically explore,” Archbold said.

A public campaign will be launched as well — likely when about three-quarters of the total funding has been lined up, he said. The public campaign probably would come about six months before construction starts.

Tupper said there will be some naming opportunities for art gallery facilities.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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