Veteran broadcaster Red Robinson and Langley artist Brian Croft are shown with Croft’s latest painting of downtown Vancouver nightlife in the 1950s — a piece titled The Capitol Theatre Granville Street 1956 — which will be officially unveiled on Sept. 16 during the West is Best show at the home of Senator Gerry St. Germain.

Veteran broadcaster Red Robinson and Langley artist Brian Croft are shown with Croft’s latest painting of downtown Vancouver nightlife in the 1950s — a piece titled The Capitol Theatre Granville Street 1956 — which will be officially unveiled on Sept. 16 during the West is Best show at the home of Senator Gerry St. Germain.

Best in theWest

Senator Gerry St. Germain hosts a show of fine art in support of aboriginal education

Such well known artists as South Surrey’s Chris MacClure and Brent Heighton, and Langley’s Brian Croft, are among those featured in the second annual The West Is Best Fine Art Show, taking place Sept. 16 through 18 at the ranch of Senator Gerry St. Germain and his wife Margaret (Indian Springs Land and Cattle Company, 19339 8 Ave.).

Created by St. Germain and artist Murray Phillips as a showcase for Western Canadian artists, it’s also a fundraiser for aboriginal education through the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF).

Last year’s event raised $60,000 and this year’s target is to exceed $100,000.

Many of the 16 artists involved — which also include Andrew Kiss and Vance Theoret — are top sellers at the Calgary Stampede Western Art Show.

And there’s also a hint of the western, a lot of history — and a nod to a North American legend — in the new work by Croft, The Capitol Theatre Granville Street — 1956, which will be launched at the opening of the show Friday, Sept. 16, 7-10 p.m.

An expert in meticulously detailed, evocative land and cityscapes that re-imagine landmarks of the Lower Mainland as they must have looked in decades past, Croft has depicted the theatre on Dec. 1, 1956, shortly after the western movie Love Me Tender — starring new musical sensation Elvis Presley — opened in Vancouver.

To help him launch the new painting, and series of prints, Croft has enlisted veteran broadcaster Red Robinson, who emceed the Dec. 1 shows 55 years ago, to appear at the opening of The West Is Best.

“There is absolutely nothing better than having an eye witness to a historical event that one is painting and Red Robinson has been very helpful to me as I tackled this project,” Croft said.

The painting and print came about as Croft’s response to demand for more vertical compositions, and is inspired by a large photograph taken at the Capitol on the original date, which now hands in the Red Robinson Show Theatre.

“I changed it pretty radically for the painting, Croft said, adding that he painted out some of the crowd for the photograph, and added a lot more carefully-researched detail for the lobby display and the surrounding street scene.

Robinson, then the pop DJ fror CJOR, recalled that the Dec. 1 promotions included a “girls only” morning matinee as well as an evening show including a live broadcast from the theatre, plus prizes of records and photos of Elvis.

“The girls screamed all the way through the movie whenever Elvis appeared on the screen,” he remembered.

“The movie was an average ‘oater,’ as we called westerns in those days, but it mattered not to the fans.”

Croft said he is very pleased to be involved in The West Is Best for a second year.

“I think this is going to be a very important show as we move forward; important for the artists and important for the NAAF.”

The opening will include an address on the NAAF by program president and CEO Roberta Jamieson.

Some 25 per cent of all sales at the show will be donated to support the NAAF, which is the largest provider of scholarships and bursaries to aboriginal youth, other than the federal government.

With a mission to “enrich Canada by advancing aboriginal achievement,” the foundation, through its education program, has awarded more than 42.7 million in scholarships and bursaries to more than 11,500 First Nations, Inuit and Metis students nationwide.

Other artists contributing to The West Is Best are Steven Allen, Roger Arndt, John Einerssen, Adeline Halvorson, Doug Levitt, Julia Lucich, Greg Metz, Audrey Nanimahoo, Dennis Weber and Wanda Whaley.

The music of Fort Langley  guitarist John Gilliat will also be featured at the opening.

The exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Sept. 17 and Sept. 18.

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