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Hants’ Faces Friday — Herb Brown

One of Herb Brown’s proudest moments was bringing the world’s attention to Labrador artist Billy Gauthier, whose exhibit in Vancouver sold out in 18 minutes.
One of Herb Brown’s proudest moments was bringing the world’s attention to Labrador artist Billy Gauthier, whose exhibit in Vancouver sold out in 18 minutes.

KEMPT SHORE, N.S. — Herb Brown is proud of his million-dollar view, although he says it’s impossible to put a price on the vista.

Having recently moved to the Kempt Shore only a few years ago, Brown has been re-establishing his Birches Gallery in Nova Scotia, which features indigenous Labrador artists.

“I’ve lived here just over three years. I was born in British Columbia and ended up in the East Coast after finishing university and doing a couple of years teaching elementary. I came across Canada to teach on the northern tip of Newfoundland and two communities on the north and south coast of Labrador. I spent the last 25 years before moving here in Goose Bay. Forty-some-odd years here in the East Coast, it’s home. I was going to stay in Labrador and the reason I’m here now is because my boys went to finish their schooling at Mount Allison University and ended up in Halifax… The short story is, they convinced me, ‘Dad, if you want to get to know your grandchildren, you gotta move closer.’ I had my epiphany. I had been in this area for some visits and Kempt Shore caught my attention and I found the place of my dreams, where I’m sitting right now.”

“Nobody was doing it, nobody was highlighting these artists in Labrador or in Newfoundland either. So I started buying a few carvings. One had actually started with a gift, and it turned out that there was a real demand for this work. I was initially selling a lot, as fast as it came into me. That was in Goose Bay, and it was a great place to set up a gallery that promoted the work of all the different artists and crafters. I had taught some of these artists when I was a teacher there. I worked, lived, hunted, fished — I did these things with my kids, and my wife taught too. We had a very interesting life there. I got to know virtually every artist and crafter in the region... It grew because it needed to be done and nobody was doing it, and I call myself the accidental gallerist.”

“The most significant artist for me is Billy Gauthier. He is one of the most amazing young artists; he’s a prodigy. There was a gallery in Vancouver called Spirit Wrestler Gallery, one other Labrador artist had already become famous there and at the right time I introduced Billy to these guys and they were getting his work and selling it as fast as it came in. Very quickly they said ‘we have to get you a solo exhibition.’ This 'Visions from Labrador' by Bill Gauthier show, on Oct. 23, 2010 opened at 10 o’clock in the morning and was sold out in 18 minutes. He’s still carving and filling orders from this show. Every piece he creates is sold before it gets there. He was an art student of my wife’s in high school and a taekwondo buddy of my sons, so he was a personal friend. Just a brilliant young man who didn’t have the opportunity to get his creative genius out into the world market but now has a worldwide clientele. I was lucky enough to have eight or 10 pieces of his over the years.” 

Faces Friday is our weekly online feature highlighting members of our community: their strength, challenges and humanity. Meet more of your neighbours in our Faces Friday collection at www.hantsjournal.ca.

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