Briercrest Looking to Sell Art Collection

Posted: November 23, 2015



A donation of artwork to Briercrest College and Seminary in 1998 could be worth millions of dollars to the school today. 

College alumnus Carl Sowden has volunteered to take on the massive project of cataloguing more than 3,000 pieces of art donated to the school with the hopes of selling the collection to raise money for the school.

“Most of the collection was donated in 1998 from a single donor or family. The original idea was to sell it. Someone was hired to sell it … He tried to sell it online but the Internet wasn’t what it is now in 1998.

“I heard about it last year and said someone should do something about it.”

He became that “someone” and has been busy going through the thousands of pieces, researching the artists and reviewing the appraisals attached to each piece back in the late 1990s. At the time, that appraisal came in at about $3,000,000 for the entire collection.

Some pieces were chosen from the collection, framed and have been exhibited on walls in offices, etc., in the school. But 2,999 pieces have remained in storage waiting for Sowden to complete his cataloguing.

Sowden says he’s not an artist himself, but he does appreciate art and several pieces in the collection appealed to him. Among those were limited edition prints of paintings by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson.

“The Casson prints are beautiful. And each one is initialled by him,” he said. The appraised value on each of those prints, according to the 1998 appraisal, is $1,000 to $5,800. Most of the other pieces are appraised at $500 to $2,000 each. 

Sowden also liked the Courtney Milne collection of photographs. He said Milne, a well-known photographer, is the best Saskatchewan connection to the collection. He said the 60-80 photos in the collection include “some gorgeous photos of Northern Saskatchewan. 

The collection also includes works by several Native artists including Carl Bean, whose paintings Sowden called “very thought provoking.” Sowden also liked a painting by Brian Marion. “It looks like a corn plant, stylized. There’s a life to his work that really appeals to me. I don’t know all the Native symbolism, but I like it. 

All the pieces have been catalogued and Sowden is now doing the media circuit promoting the collection. Since doing a CBC interview recently, seven pieces have sold. “There’s interest from Toronto to Edmonton.”

Sowden met with the school’s web master recently with a plan to get photos of each piece on the school’s web site soon. He is surprised that after all these years in storage, only six pieces were damaged to the point they were not suitable for sale.

The public can get a look at some of the vast collection Nov. 27-29 when about 200-300 pieces are put on display during the annual Christmas musical at the Hildebrand Chapel.

Sowden said he hopes to sell the entire collection. Right now he is in conversation with one potential buyer who is looking at the whole collection as well as others who are interested in pieces of the collection. He doesn’t have a deadline for the sale of the collection, but told CBC he will look at sending what doesn’t sell to an auction house.

As for the proceeds of the sale, Sowden said it’s not up to him where the money is spent. He said some areas he thinks would garner consideration are program delivery, refurbishing buildings or expanding the college’s facilities.

As for his volunteer work on the project, Sowden said, “It’s certainly a process. I’ve learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I’ve been on radio and been interviewed by media and for an ordinary person, that’s kind of a cool experience. I’m glad I stepped out (and volunteered).”


Stay tuned for more information on the collection.