Arty

“Thanks for coming,” said Mr. Jameson, Recreation Manager of the Community Centre, aka. The Transparent Temple. “Would you like some tea?”

“Er, do you have some coffee?” said the journalist. “I’m not really a tea drinker.”

“I’m sorry we don’t. It’s Tea Awareness Month in the Village. All municipal facilities have only tea.” The journalist licked his lips as if trying to compare the two beverages. “And it’s also political. World Coffee Corp has taken over all the coffee shops in BC, so municipalities are promoting tea. Anyway, that’s a different story.”

“Yes, it is. Let’s talk about that next time. Yes tea would be fine, with milk and sugar please.”

Mr. Jameson served the tea, then seated himself opposite the journalist and said, “Would you like to ask questions, or shall I relate the whole story?”

“Just start at the beginning – tell me about the artist and how you acquired the artwork – and I’ll ask questions when I need to.”

“Ok then,” said Mr. Jameson. “We have a fabulous creative community in Lucerne. Artists first came here twenty years ago to escape the City, and rented old cabins here and there. The mountains and forests inspired them, and they had the isolation they craved.”

“How did they survive financially? Did they sell their works?”

Mr. Jameson smiled. “What’s the second largest industry in BC?”

“They grew pot? That was their income?”

“Well when they sold it they had income, and when they didn’t they smoked it and didn’t care.”

“That sounds like a good life to me,” said the journalist.

“Well it was initially. But then they got married, had kids, bought houses, and most got regular jobs. But some stayed out there literally. Unemployed or unemployable. Peter Stone never stopped working. He never sold anything, but never stopped working. He said it was his duty. His gift from God.”

“Is that a quote? Did he actually say ‘gift from God’?”

“Yes, he wrote it in his proposal. I can give you a copy if you like.” The journalist nodded. “Anyway, when we initiated the ABC – Art as Beautiful Community – program, he submitted work along with everybody else. He paints onto full-sized plywood panels; we thought it was too rough and rejected it. But then the large format painters we’d chosen – maybe you’ve seen Sharon Move’s old barns, and Wynn Kingston’s young bears – couldn’t commit their works for six months, due to upcoming shows. So we were left with Peter Stone. He’s an abstract painter, and we knew that his work would receive mixed reviews. The most prominent piece was Embrace of Infinity.”

The journalist said, “Do you have a picture of it? I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen it. I looked online but found nothing.”

Mr. Jameson nudged his file around the desk and said, “You won’t believe this, but we don’t have any pictures of it either.” He explained how none of the images appeared. All you saw was a blank plywood board. The paints were invisible. There was no explanation for it. The artist said that his work expressed the inexpressible. It was a work of light and shade.

“Tell me about the yoga class – the children’s one.”

“Well the painting was shown in the Great Hall for three months. Some people liked its raw energy and rough colours. They said its swirls reminded them of seasons, the weather, skiing, and moose rutting. But most thought it was pretty lame. Then we started a children’s yoga class on Wednesdays. One boy – who I can’t name for legal reasons – just sat there staring at the painting and wouldn’t move. The next week, two more boys joined him. The week after, the whole group sat before the painting and chanted, and the week after that too. We thought that yoga must be too intense for children, and cancelled the…”

The journalist interrupted. “That’s when I first heard about Embrace of Infinity. My colleague covered the yoga story. That poor teacher had a really hard time. I hear she’s left town and gone to live in an ashram.” Mr. Jameson raked his head up, indicating yes. “Is that when the City dealer came to the Transparent Temple?”

“You mean the Community Centre? I thought so. Yes he viewed the work then went to meet the artist in his cabin. He declared Peter Stone a genius and the work a masterpiece. He estimated its value at $12 million.”

“Where did that figure come from?” He tapped his pen. “It sounds pretty random?”

“Well I remember telling him that the Community Centre cost $12 million to build, and the next thing I know the painting’s worth the same.”

“What do you think? Is it worth $12 million? Look, is there any way that I can see it? I mean, this is a public building after all. Can’t I just have a little peek?”

Mr. Jameson shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s impossible. Even I can’t see it now. Due to the controversy the Great Hall is closed till further notice. Its windows are all covered, and the painting is guarded around the clock. It’s being removed by the dealer tomorrow. He’s found a wealthy buyer.”

“There are rumours that it’s World Coffee Corp’s owner.”

Mr. Jameson stiffened. “The Village has every right to sell it. We have a buy option for $1,000. It’s in the contract. I’ll give you a copy. It will pay off the Community Centre’s construction debts. It’s important that you give our side of the story.”

“And what about Peter Stone?”

“He has made violent threats against us. He is not allowed within 100 metres of the Community Centre.”

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