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MONTREAL,  NOVEMBER 24, 2014-  Proceeds from the sale of a collection of paintings have been used to create an endowment fund for  the purposes of providing scholarships in perpetuity to English Montreal School Board (EMSB) students in the youth and adult sectors.

For a period of more than 30 years the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal (PSBGM) Cultural Heritage Foundation   had maintained a collection of paintings. These works of art had  been acquired over a period of time through the generous donations of various benefactors, as well as the purchase of some. They generally related to works of art by Canadian artists or subjects of general Canadian interest.

In 2013 the greater part of the collection was sold through auctions. Some paintings were donated to  the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts,  the Canadian War Museum, the Black Watch –Royal Highland Regiment of Canada and the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery at Concordia University. The latter has already benefitted EMSB students through access benefits. A partnership agreement with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts allowed all EMSB schools free access to educational activities for a total of 5,000 students/teachers.  

Foundation Chairman George Vathilakis has announced that at this stage a total of 29 scholarships of $1,000 each have been handed out to high school and adult education  students and 45 of $100 each to elementary school students.  These recipients were honoured at school graduation or awards assemblies.   A few schools will wait until 2015 to take part in the program.

The art collection generally related to works by Canadian artists or subjects of general Canadian interest. During the 1930s, in particular, some parents and alumni wished to thank and recognize individual schools with a gift of a work of art. The purchase of these works of art encouraged relatively young and unknown painters of the time. A large number of the paintings in the PSBGM collection were largely the result of the efforts of Anne Savage. She had been the art teacher at Baron Byng High School from 1922 to 1948 and went on to be the Art Supervisor for the PSBGM until she retired in 1952. Although Ms. Savage had retired from the PSBGM, she was still very active in the art world.

When the PSBGM moved its administrative building from McTavish Street to Fielding Avenue in July 1961, Savage was given the mandate to purchase Canadian art for the new building. The works included paintings by A.Y. Jackson, Robert W. Pilot, Lorne Bouchard, Maurice Cullen, Frederick Arbuckle, Albert Cloutier, Frederick Coburn and more. The numerous works by A.Y. Jackson are perhaps due to the close association between Savage and Jackson, as well as, her relationship with the Group of Seven. In addition, Savage used her influence to have some of the painters donate paintings to some schools, particularly, Baron Byng High School and The High School of Montreal.

Anne Savage’s own works came to 6000 Fielding only when Baron Byng was closed. They were “discovered” packed away in the basement of the school (these did not include the 14 panels in the high school’s cafeteria). The two large historical paintings by Robert W. Pilot were moved to the 4th floor Board room upon the closure of the High School of Montreal. A. Y. Jackson’s oil painting – Winter St. Fidele, Quebec, was installed in the Director General’s office when Marcel Fox was appointed to the post. Previously, it had been at Baron Byng High School. Most of the paintings of the collection have been housed at 6000 Fielding, while some have been housed in schools of the EMSB and two were at the Town of Mount Royal library.

The Foundation has, on occasion, loaned some of the works of art for exhibition purposes to art galleries. Noteworthy is the loan of the A. Y. Jackson painting “St. Fidele, Quebec” to the National Gallery of Canada for exhibition all across Canada from October 1995 to December 1996. The Foundation made its first donation in 2002 when it gave to Concordia University Art Gallery a two sided panel painted by Anne Savage for the Baron Byng High School library.

In its efforts to always keep the collection intact, the Foundation pursued various strategies from donating the entire collection to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to soliciting the different levels of government to finding new private benefactors.

“We feel very fortunate that the Foundation decided to establish such a scholarship fund for the students of the EMSB,” said EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini.  “There is no question how much we appreciated having these beautiful works of art to look at these last many years. However, in the grand scheme of things, we cannot help but be elated to see the proceeds from their sale benefit students presently in our system.”

Mr. Vathilakis says that the general guidelines for the scholarships are to recognize academic achievement and perseverance against difficult odds, with the selection of the students being done by the EMSB school administrators. A website will soon be launched.

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213