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Under the auctioneer’s gavel to provide help Down Under

After seeing the devastation from the Australian wildfires, a local art collector sold the first painting she ever bought on Saturday to help raise money for relief efforts there.

Nancy Silcox, a retired teacher and New Hamburg resident, said as an animal lover she knew she had to find a way to help when she saw the impact these fires had on the Australian wildlife. The best way for her to help was by selling some of the artwork she has collected over the years, she added.

“It wasn’t something that I had planned – it just came to me.”  she said, adding, “It was easy. It wasn’t a heart-wrenching decision on my part. I thought ‘I could do this’ –  I’m not wealthy at all, but I do have art and I can give up a couple of my paintings, so that’s what I did.”

The piece she decided to put up for auction is a 110-year-old Homer Watson painting titled “Cattle by Stream in Woods,” painted in the Doon area of Waterloo County.

It’s historical value to the region was the reason she selected it. Originally valued at $2,500 to $3,500, it sold for $6,000.

Though she is still doing her research, Silcox says the money will be donated to WIRES, otherwise know as the Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service, the largest non-profit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity in Australia.

“I didn’t want it to go to a really large wildlife organization like the World Wildlife Fund, which is multinational, … because for a large organization like that you would really never know where your money is going,” Silcox explained. “You know it could go to publicity, it could go to salary or whatever, so I did some research ahead of time to find out who were actually there on the ground with their volunteers scooping up these poor animals and relocating them.”

Having originally bought the painting from the late Jim Miller some 12 years prior, she said the only way she was selling the painting was through his auction house, Miller and Miller Auctions, now owned and operated by his two sons, Ethan and Justin Miller.

 “I contacted [them] and they were more than willing to forego their usual seller fee,” Silcox said, noting 100 per cent of the money paid for the painting would be going to the cause.

She is also selling two other paintings from her collection at Cowley Abbott, which is a larger auction house in Toronto that sells art across the country. The money made on the paintings “Walking to Church” and “The Skaters” by Maud Lewis, a world-renowned artist from Newfoundland, will also be donated to WIRES. The auction for those paintings will take place over the next two weeks.

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