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Source: University College of Cape Breton

2,500 Original Art Items Donated to CBU

November 3, 2006

$500K James Nearing and Florence Giovannetti-Nearing Dragon Lair’s Collection

(Sydney, NS) – A gift of 16 collections featuring 2,500 original art items was announced this evening by Dr. Joseph Nearing of Vancouver, BC and formerly of Donkin, Cape Breton. The James Nearing and Florence Giovannetti-Nearing Dragon Lair’s Collection was announced at the Annual Art Gallery Gala fundraiser. A sold out crowd of 300 guests was on hand to hear about the largely Asian collection, named in memory of Nearing’s parents of Donkin, with an estimated acquisition value of $500,000.

It is the largest one time gift ever donated to the Art Gallery.

Dr. Nearing’s dream for the bequeathed collection is that it will create wonder and curiosity within people and represent a living, teaching collection especially for students. "If a student for example is studying the ‘Song Dynasty of China’, he/she will be able to access in a suitable secure teaching room, true Song items. Students will actually see, feel and examine the Song Dynasty still alive in the artifacts."

Best described as "an eclectic collection of antiques and Objet d’Arts, dating from the Stone Age or Neolithic Era to the present day," this avid art collector notes, "The James Nearing and Florence Giovannetti-Nearing Collection is a collection created in Canada by an interested native Cape Bretoner for the people of Canada." Dr. Nearing collected the items over the past five years.

A retired doctor who received an honorary degree from CBU last weekend, Dr. Nearing spent his early years in Donkin, NS. Known as a leader in workplace health and safety he led a distinguished career in occupational health. During his career, he conducted research and helped develop standards and regulations on environmental and occupational exposure to toxins such as lead, arsenic and beryllium. Much of his work involved mines and mining.

"We were pleased to welcome Dr. Nearing back to Cape Breton for our Convocation. His generous gift has wondrously enlarged an evening of celebration. Tonight we celebrate this generosity and the vision of our friend who represents a true example of the university’s commitment to sustain community and culture," says Dr. John Harker, President and Vice-Chancellor of CBU.

"This collection will be admired and treasured by students, researchers, collectors and communities around the world, and cherished as an ever-lasting gift to Cape Breton University."

The Asian themed ‘Lanterns & Lotus Blossoms’ gala was inspired by Dr. Nearing’s donation of nine vintage reproduction Chinese porcelain pieces -- part of the evening’s silent auction.

The auction also included more than 45 pieces donated by talented artisans such as Carol Kennedy, Kenny Boone, Iris Currie and close to 30 others. The range of watercolours, photography, oil paintings, and mixed media were complemented by the one-of-a-kind 20.5 ct yellow jade cabochon, bezel of 22-karat gold pendant, designed exclusively for the event by Peter Bauer.

Dr. Nearing’s special passion for Chinese ceramics is reflected in the category entitled, Chinese Ceramics, Neolithic to Contemporary, which represents his dedication in collecting one item

from each dynasty and brings with it 2,000 years of history and a fascinating look at the development of Chinese ceramic over the years.

The breadth of Dragon’s Lair however will be further experienced through such collections as the 40 Original Tibetan Thangkas -- religious drawings on silk or cloth scrolls and an integral spiritual component of Buddhist culture. Whether patrons take a look at the intriguing Crystal Skull Collection which history tells us symbolized physicians, the Antique Japanese Ceramics or the conversational blend of Canadiana, Dr. Nearing’s legacy will come to life every day.

Dr. Keith Brown, Vice-President of Development of CBU has kept in regular touch with Dr. Nearing and saw the collection first hand in Vancouver this year. "When you stand among this collection, it is like stepping back in time," says Brown.

"It is fitting for this collection to come to Cape Breton considering the Island’s long-standing link and important historical ties to the porcelain china trade through Fortress Louisbourg. The establishment of the Dragon Lair’s Collection at CBU is yet another way to link both entities in terms of further research and scholarship." Brown notes students and faculty at the university have a good working relationship with the Fortress staff.

For the event, the university’s Great Hall was transformed into a traditional Chinese celebration. The colours of red and gold were woven throughout with an emphasis on the dragon representing longevity. Also featured was a firecracker display, which in Chinese culture, is believed to dispel evil spirits. Whatever spirits remain are taken care of by the dragons.

This year, a variety of organizations and individuals sponsored auction items: Icon Communications; Cape Breton Post; Finishing Touch Centre; Kevin B. MacLean; Delta Hotel-Sydney; Peller Estates; and Martin Chernin/Miller Szeto (Peking Restaurant).

About the Cape Breton University Art Gallery The Cape Breton University Art Gallery has become a cultural centre and resource on Cape Breton Island serving both the university and the community at large. As the first and only full-time public art gallery in Cape Breton, it is a prime location for local artists wishing to exhibit their work in a professional, educational and public setting.

The Art Gallery works to broaden and enhance knowledge and understanding of contemporary and historical accomplishments in visual arts, in particular Canadian and Atlantic Art. It strives to maintain a balanced exhibition schedule of local artists and permanent collection artwork.

The Gallery’s permanent collection is quite diverse consisting of modern and contemporary art by Canadian and International artists including Group of Seven members, Molly Lamb Bobak and Goodridge Roberts. The contemporary collection includes Ellison Robertson’s Finlay Walker Memorial Collection, Alex Colville serigraphs and Tom Wesselmann silkscreens.

A special addition to the Gallery in recent years is the Pablo Picasso sketchbook, valued at more than $1M. The generous support received from the community at events such as the gala enables makes it possible for the Gallery to enhance the exhibit experiences.


Contact: Kelly Rose Communications Officer, Cape Breton University Tel: (902) 563-1638; Cell: (902) 577-5371 E-mail:



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