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By Judi Lees

Bill and Heather Beamish love art. In fact, they enjoy collecting visual art to the point that they laughingly comment that their Gibsons home is running out of wall space.  I enjoy the environment that art creates in our home and I love the dialogue it creates, says Bill who is currently beginning his third term on the board of the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation. We have an eclectic collection and I encourage friends to tell us how they feel about different pieces. This leads to interesting and sometimes lively dinner conversations.

The Beamish’s enthusiasm for local artists — their home showcases the work of Greta Guzak, Todd Clark, Don Jarvis, Morley Baker, Ian MacLeod and others — coupled with their strong philanthropic philosophy of giving back to the community, was the impetus for the Sunshine Coast Endowment for Visual Arts which they founded spring, 2009.

Bill, formerly an administrator for the town of Gibsons, now runs W. Beamish Consulting Ltd. providing services to local government branches and non-profit organizations. (Twenty percent of the income of this company is contributed back to the community.) (Bill is currently acting CAO of hte District of Sechelt) Heather is a teaching assistant at Gibsons Christian School (now with SD#46). Both find satisfaction in volunteering, giving time to a variety of organizations including Citizens on Patrol and Habitat for Humanity.

While a culturally rich community is achieved thanks to its citizens, Bill Beamish believes the arts pull a community together and add an exciting and important dimension. “Activities such as the recent art walk in Gibsons, as an example, are both culturally and economically beneficial to the community. We are fortunate on the Sunshine Coast to have such a thriving arts community including the written, fibre, music and visual arts. But we must remember to support the artists who make this happen.”

Heather and Bill felt there was a niche to be filled in supporting visual arts on the Coast. They founded Sunshine Coast Endowment for Visual Arts to support this genre of the art world — for example, provide scholarships, purchase of public art and help to fund art activities. The distribution of endowment funds is decided by the Granting Committee of the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation.

“We hope the fund will also grow by the gifts from others and become more beneficial to the community,” says Bill adding one idea to assist this process: “I would like to see a piece of art donated annually by a local artist; this would be auctioned off and the funds donated to the endowment.”