Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mary Pratt Painting Auctioned off to Help Struggling Ecology Centre

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mary Pratt Painting Auctioned off to Help Struggling Ecology Centre

Article excerpt

Pratt painting sold to help ecology centre

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A mixed-media artwork by the late Mary Pratt, one of Canada's finest still-life painters, was auctioned off for $13,000 Tuesday night in Toronto to support a unique but financially troubled institution in eastern Newfoundland known as the Fluvarium.

The non-profit centre, which opened almost 30 years ago, features nine large windows that offer stunning underwater views of a small river that meanders through the north end of St. John's, N.L.

The name Fluvarium, derived from the Latin word for flowing water, literally means "windows on a stream."

John Perlin, the centre's chairman emeritus, says Suncor Energy's decision last year to cut $60,000 in annual funding for education programs has left the freshwater ecology centre scrambling to find money to pay its small staff.

"It came as a bit of a blow when they said suddenly, 'No, there's no money. Period,' " Perlin said in an interview Tuesday.

"We've been trying to bridge the gap ever since, and it's finally caught up with us."

Up to 12,000 children visit the Fluvarium every year. The money from Suncor was mainly used to cover transportation and admission costs for schoolchildren who would not have been able to afford visiting the centre.

Perlin says he's received word that the company may be reconsidering its decision.

In an emailed statement, Suncor spokesman Paul Newmarch said the company is "exploring any potential future opportunities for investment in the local community that aligns with our community investment strategy, which could potentially include the Fluvarium, but no decisions have been made at this time."

Suncor, which is active in oil exploration and production on the east coast, paid $500,000 for naming rights at the Fluvarium about 10 years ago, but that agreement ended last year, Perlin said.

Pratt's unusual artwork, known as "Bonfire," was expected to fetch between $8,000 and $12,000 at the auction by Consignor Canadian Fine Art in Toronto. …

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