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Community, fireweed and second chances

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 16/05) - The annual Festival of Trees raised more than $200,000 for the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation last month. An armoir painted by artist Terry Pamplin contributed almost $10,000 to the record sum during the opening night auction.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Erica Tesar won the bidding for this armoir painted in a firewood theme by Terry Pamplin. She did it with help from five "generous, wise, wonderful men." - Daron Letts/NNSL photo

The piece now sits in the front hall of Erica Tesar's apartment, where it holds her family mementos and photographs.

"I knew the armoir was being painted, but I had no idea how beautiful it was going to be," she said. "I just took one look and fell in love with it."

On the night of the auction, word in the crowd was that Pamplin's armoir would go for at least $5,000. Some said it would fetch close to $7,000.

Tesar had set herself a bidding limit of $3,000, but she picked up her paddle, saying "(to hell with) the RRSPs."

But the Yellowknife actor didn't have to mortgage her future. Longtime Yellowknife residents Bill Nye and Roy Williams stood by Tesar and pledged $1,000 each to ensure that she could purchase the artwork.

Amid the mass of people and the flurry of activity and excitement, Tesar lost track of the bidding. The auctioneer announced that the coveted piece had sold for $4,600. Her spirits sank.

Paul Laserich of Adlair Aviation and Alec Arychuk of Air Tindi had pooled their resources to purchase the piece. Then another buzz of excitement washed over the audience.

The two businessmen returned the armoir to the auction block so it could be bid on again. This time, Tesar, Nye and Williams won the bidding at $5,100, bringing the total price tag to $9,700.

"Terry was over the moon, I was over the moon, everyone was over the moon," Tesar said. "The community spirit on that night was amazing. It was an extraordinary thing for these generous, wise, wonderful men to do."

The auction raised almost $50,000, with about a fifth of that coming from Pamplin's armoir.

Built of pungent Mexican pine and titled Drawn to Fireweed, the six-foot-tall artwork features six panels painted with images of the resilient and colourful plant. Pamplin was inspired by scenes of regrowth along the Ingraham Trail after a forest fire.

On the back, Pamplin wrote a few lines about the work and what its theme meant to him. He ended with the words: "The colours and nature of this plant restore my soul."

"It does mine, too," Tesar said.