Art in Harms’ Way in the Chilliwack gallery

There will be 75 original works by Harms on display, some for sale at the upcoming show Feb. 19 to March 28.

Artist reception for Art in Harms' Way show is set for Saturday

Artist reception for Art in Harms' Way show is set for Saturday

It’s an opportunity to see oil and watercolour paintings by Chilliwack artist and entrepreneur Robert V. Harms.

There will be 75 original works on display, some for sale at the upcoming show.

The exhibit, Art in Harms’ Way, will be at the Chilliwack Gallery in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre from February 19 to March 28. Harms will also be launching a book about his life and his paintings, Works of Consequence.

The artist was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1940.

He moved to Chilliwack and attended Chilliwack secondary, graduating 1958, 1959 and finally 1960, with a major in Art, before earning a BA in English and Psychology from UBC. He took some Pre-Architectural and Art Design courses and in 1969 he completed his Master’s Degree in School Administration, graduating at the top of his class.

“Not bad for a dyslexic who was considered to be retarded in the first grade,” he laughs.

With all that education he went back to his Alma Mater as a teacher at Chilliwack Senior High School. It was a hesitant start but after two years he was voted the most popular teacher.

His years as an art teacher were very productive. He ran his class like an open studio, frequently working alongside his students. There are many Chilliwack residents in their 30s and 40s who remember Mr. Harms as being a friendly, strict but fair teacher and administrator. Many thank him for steering them towards a career in art and design.

The desire to be a true Renaissance man led him to get involved in professional wrestling. He was known in the ring as the “Magnificent Mennonite – Canada’s Handsomest Athlete: with a body that men feared and women desired.”  His parents always told him that Mennonites were pacifists True to his up bringing, “he would ‘pass a fist’ wherever it was needed to defeat his opponents.”

In his 40th year he realized that he had three bad habits: smoking cigars, drinking coffee and teaching school. He decided to give them all up to develop property.

His first attempt was to develop a motel in which every room would display two original paintings. The motel was never built but he did create some 60 watercolours, which were eventually displayed along with several mosaics and a thousand pound carving of a Unicorn, at a project that was completed, his nightclub The Blue Unicorn. The Cabaret business allowed him to leave teaching, and eventually also the cabaret business. His investments have allowed him to become the patron of his favorite painter of contemporary oils – himself.

He and his wife of many years currently live on a genteel estate on the Hope River. He built the house on riverfront acreage to showcase his artwork and sense of design. It also contains an art gallery, which is home to the Harms’ permanent collection.  Harms said he likes to think of it as “The Harmitage.”

His paintings have also been exhibited in solo and group shows in Canada and the United States, many have been displayed in private collections all over the world.

Artist reception for Art in Harms’ Way is set for Saturday, Feb. 21 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.