Artists join fight against coal, support southern Alberta landowners with online art auctions
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. – More than two dozen artists have come together to support a group of landowners fighting against proposed coal mining projects in the foothills and on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
Artists from Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario donated their art for an online auction. Proceeds will go to the Livingstone Landowners Group, which is leading the fight against mountain top mining projects planned for the Crowsnest Pass area.
Artist Wes Olson lives east of Edmonton near Elk Island National Park. He was one of the first artists to offer his support, after hearing about projects being offered in an area where he grew up.
“All of the Eastern Slopes are an integral part of my heritage,” said Olson.
Olson’s grandfather operated a small sawmill in the 1920s and 1930s, and his father was born and raised in the bush.
Olson worked in forestry for four years before becoming a national park ranger.
“All this has invested in me a very strong desire to protect wild spaces and wild species,” he added.
Olson said he was looking for a way to support the Livingstone Landowners Group and offered to provide three of his artwork to help cover their expenses.
He discovered that other artists also had similar offers.
“In a very short time it snowballed,” said Olson.
A group of artists, including Robert Bateman, donated artwork to an online silent auction through the fundraising site 32 bids.
The auction features 25 items including paintings, sketches, ceramics, jewelry, woodworking, quilting, hook rugs, fly fishing flies and crochet art .
Victoria, BC painter Milan Stevulak donated an acrylic painting of Castle River Falls.
Stevulak grew up in the Crowsnest Pass. His father was killed in a coal mine accident, his brother worked in the mines, and Milan had a summer job as a wood packer for a mining company.
“It doesn’t mean that I support coal,” he said.
Stevulak said he had never seen a mine that could do business without harming the environment.
“And fishing is fly fishing heaven in the rivers that come out of these slopes,” Stevulak said.
“We have to save this pristine area, and we have to protect water and clean water.”
High River artist Don Hamm has said he is not an activist, but as a painter he understands aesthetics and frequently paints landscapes.
“I think the coal is going in the wrong direction,” Hamm added.
“Because I live on a river that comes out of the eastern slopes, because I visit this landscape and because I paint it, I thought I would support these guys.”
Edmonton artist Florence Shone also provided a painting for the auction. A member of the Piikani Nation, Shone continues to travel regularly to southern Alberta.
“The way I explore my culture, which is that of the Piikani people, goes through my ancestors and loved ones, as well as the landscape of southern Alberta.
Shone said that although she is not a politician, she is concerned about the environmental damage caused by coal mining activity.
Livingstone Landowners Group Vice President Norma Dougall said members were happy and honored that the artists stepped forward.
She said it was also a breath of fresh air, to be involved in something positive, around such a negative issue.
“It’s really nice to be involved in something like art, which celebrates the area, instead of fighting to protect the area, or trying to stop something,” said Dougall.
The auction began on May 6 and, in the early days, had already raised more than half of its goal of $ 18,000.
The landowner group said the money will be used to help fund research, to provide the public and government with accurate, scientific information about the risks coal projects pose to the environment and the economy.
Submissions come from across Canada and as far away as Texas and Alaska.
Dougall said the auction will also help raise awareness among the general public, including people who may not have heard of the mining controversy.
“Our message is to educate yourself,” added Dougall, who encourages Albertans to educate themselves on the pros and cons of proposed projects.
“I think they’ll come to the same conclusion as us,” said Dougall.
“The risks are too great. There’s no evidence they can tone it down, and there really shouldn’t be any coal mining on the eastern slopes. “