When people think of the term “wildlife art,” especially here in Canada, there’s Robert Bateman, and then there’s everyone else.
“Nobody has brought exposure to the Canadian art world like Bateman has,” says John Westergard, owner of Direct Art Gallery in Tyee Plaza, who is a long-time friend of the artist and naturalist. “I mean, when you look at Wayne Gretzky and what he did for hockey, putting it on the map for a lot of people, that’s what Bob did for wildlife art.”
And “Bob,” as Westergard calls him, is on his way back to town this weekend.
“He had a family vacation planned to Mount Washington to go skiing, but he’s turning 90 now, and he doesn’t ski anymore, so I said I’d go get him from the mountain and take him out for lunch and bring him back up there for dinner and whatever, because we’re friends and I wanted to see him,” Westergard says.
That vacation later got cancelled, “but Bob and his wife still wanted to come up, so we kind of put this show together at the last minute,” Westergard says.
The show at Direct Art Gallery this weekend, will be especially fun for people to see, “because it will feature some work straight from their house,” Westergard says. “It’s extremely rare.”
And, of course, there’s the opportunity to meet one of the premier names in the Canadian art world himself.
His honours, awards and honorary doctorates are numerous: he was made Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award in 1984. He has also been given the Rachel Carson Award (1996), the Golden Plate from the American Academy of Achievement (1998) and the Order of British Columbia (2001), and Human Rights Defender Award from Amnesty International (2007). He was also named one of the 20th Century’s Champions of Conservation by the U.S. National Audubon Society (1998).
The meet-and-greet with Bateman on Saturday, Westergard says, will run “from 2 p.m. until whenever.”
“It’s a pretty casual thing when Bob comes to town,” he says. “He wants to talk to everybody who wants to come and talk to him, so if people are still coming at 6:00 or 8:00 or 10:00 that’s when we’ll go until. He’s a guy who always fills a room, and he’s 90 years old now, so I imagine a lot of people will want to come see him.”
Besides the show at the gallery for people to see – and the chance to meet the man himself – there will also be Bateman books and calendars on sale that the artist will be happy to sign. Or you can bring the one(s) you already have, Westergard says.
“He’s always happy to sign stuff for people, and he’ll give a little talk about his work and just hang out with people,” Westergard says. “He likes Campbell River and loves when he gets to come here. He’d never been here until I bought the Pier Street Gallery all those years ago, but when he started coming, he always got a great response and he loves coming back.”
For more information on the event, call the gallery at 778-346-0676 or drop by 1015 Shopper’s Row – in the Tyee Plaza across from the entrance to the Discovery Inn.