The Town of Ladysmith is looking for a permanent home for the surrealist works of Rev. Julian North, a mysterious figure whose collection seems to document both his Christian faith and his belief that he was receiving messages from Egyptian and Mayan voices.
At the TOL’s Municipal Services Committee meeting on Monday, July 11, a recommendation was passed for council to approve a one-time, $3,500 grant to the Ladysmith Arts Council to pay for shipping and storage of the collection.
Currently the art is being kept at the home of North’s sister in Maple Bay. The plan is to temporarily move it to available space in the Frank Jameson Community Centre until a suitable space can be readied by the LAC.
As well as the shipping and storage grant, the LAC will be provided $500 per year for managing and displaying the 26 paintings, which will be appraised to determine their value.
Coun. Rob Hutchins said previous, informal evaluations have rated the works highly. “I think the phrase was that they’re national quality work,” he said.
But the art wasn’t to the taste of everyone on the committee. “I’m not sure what has prompted the town to take on a collection which is quite exotic,” Coun. Carol Henderson said.
She once met North on the Holland Creek Trail and said it was a strange encounter, during which he told her he was a ‘divine locutor’ (a person who hears voices) in communication with Egyptian and possibly Mayan gods.
Coun. Rob Hutchins also remembered North as the man who started up the Ladysmith Food Bank in the late 90’s. He said North was a familiar sight back then, driving around town in a green or yellow Vauxhall, stuffed with donated goods for the food bank.
The food bank was located on Kitchener Street just off First Avenue then.
“He was operating the food bank right behind our first restaurant,” Hutchins recalled. “He was a one-man-show in terms of filling that need in our community.”
Despite his idiosyncracies, North was a man who ‘tirelessly’ rendered good service to the community. “He was a gentle soul, he was so caring,” Hutchins said.
The Town of Ladysmith was offered North’s collection by his sister Victoria Bellefeuille in Dec. 2013, according to Municipal Services Committee minutes.
LAC President Kathy Holmes and Leona Petrak along with Hutchins, who was Mayor of Ladysmith at the time, gave a presentation to the committee about the works at that meeting.
Coun. Steve Arnett, who now chairs the Municipal Services Committee said council has to rely on the arts community when it comes to evaluating and managing the collection.
“We went to the arts community and got their opinion that it was a collection worthy of preserving,” he said.
“We can’t manage it and we can’t store it, so the best people to do it is the Ladysmith Arts Council.”