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  • “Winter” International Call - Art & Literature Journal - Deadline February 28, 2021

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  • The Salt Spring National Art Prize $41,000 in Awards Call to Artists Open January 1 - May 31, 2021

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Emily Carr

By Robert Amos August 18, 2003

} Emily Carr Victoria is blessed to be the home of Emily Carr, Canada's most important artist and a writer of enduring worth. On a recent visit to Carr House, her family¹s home at 207 Government Street, curator Jan Ross showed me a new edition of Klee Wyck - in Japanese! In a handsome hard-cover with colour illustrations, this is the first of Masae Ueda's translations of Carr's books. Let's hope it does for Victoria what Anne of Green Gables's Japanese editions have done for Prince Edward Island. Every year the flood tide of Carr books swells. New editions of all Carr's books are anticipated shortly from Douglas and Macintyre. New 'school editions' of her books will be published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Susan Crean¹s collection of Carr¹s unpublished writing is on the way; Susan Vreeland has written an adult mystery novel based on Carr and her sisters; two illustrated children's books about Carr will hit the market shortly. And that¹s just this year's crop. Above the Gravel Pit, oil on papercollection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Jan and Michael Ross have been the live-in managers of Carr's birthplace for the past 8 years. The Provincial Government operates four local heritage sites in Victoria: Helmcken House, Point Ellice House, Craigflower and Carr House. The province owns and maintains the buildings, leaving the interpretation and day-to-day operations to private contractors. Last year the provincial government's 'devolution' process put much more responsibility in the hands of the managers. Jan and her husband Michael were awarded a 15 year contract to steward the image of Emily Carr for a growing public. 'We operate this on behalf of the people of British Columbia,' Jan was quick to point out. We are all fortunate to have this couple to take on such an important and sensitive task. The house itself, built in 1863 by Richard Carr, was the family home until 1938. It has been treated to a top-class restoration and is handsomely decorated with period furnishing. From the old fashioned gardens to the plaster rosette on the ceiling, every effort has been made to take you back in time. Carr House, the side garden Ross has always made a point of displaying contemporary art of many styles. "It was Emily's own goal, to make her home a 'peoples' gallery' and this adds a texture to Carr House which keeps it alive," she told me. Exhibits by everyone from Toni Onley and Susan Point to the Sunday painters of James Bay keep the house lively. The welcoming atmosphere at Carr House has attracted musical soirees, poetry readings and a number of book launches for books relevant to the house. Theatre Inconnu's A Christmas Carol was a huge hit in this lovely Victoria home. Carr House Parlour, acrylic by Robert Amos A few years ago a replica of Emily Carr's trailer, The Elephant, was installed in the side yard. Molly Newman, local musician and actress, made it her place to 'workshop' the character of Emily Carr. She has taken her impersonation all over the province, and is currently bringing Carr to life on the B. C. ferries. She has also produced numerous spoken-word CD's of Carr's books. To survive, Carr House must reach beyond the summer season. I can attest to the wonderful ambience which this locale lends to any party, and it is being offered as a site for small conferences in the off-season. 'The house has an incredibly welcoming spirit,' Ross points out, and she doesn't just mean its resident ghost. Carr House is a magnet for Carr fans world-wide who come to soak up the ambience of The Book of Small, Carr's childhood memoir. Carr House, watercolour by Robert Amos Every visitor asks 'where can I see more of Carr¹s paintings?'. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has realized it must display its small collection of Carr originals at all times. Otherwise, we must direct visitors to Vancouver. And yet the largest collection of her work is here at the Provincial Archives. Located right next door to the Royal B. C. Museum, these paintings essentially inaccessible to the public. My dream is to see an Emily Carr Museum in Victoria. One government ministry is responsible for Carr House, the R. B. C. Museum and the collection in the Archives. And the minister, George Abbott is described by Ross as 'the most well-informed, supportive and plugged-in' of any minister she¹s seen. Yet no one seems to have the will to assemble the pieces of this puzzle and give us a permanent display of Carr's life work, a treasure beyond compare for cultural tourism. Pressed on point, Ross recalled the Carr show at the Museum three years ago. 'The Provincial Museum chose not to support us,' she noted. 'They even asked us to take the Carr House sandwich board down.' Not very many visitors to the museum learned that Carr's birthplace was just down the street. Both are owned and operated by the same government ministry. Blue Sky, oil on canvascollection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Carr's website is by far the most visited site of any Canadian artist. She is an artist and writer of profound relevance in the modern world. We would do ourselves a great favour by presenting her in an appropriate manner - we have the means. Japanese readers are going to be coming to find Emily Carr. I suggest you visit Carr House and send your guests there too. Admission is now 'by donation' and the gift shop stocks all Carr-related material. For more information, check out www.emilycarr.ca as well as www.emilycarr.com or call 383-5843. ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2003 Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B. C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com