Virginia Marianne Christopher
With heavy hearts and immense gratitude for the life she lived, our family announces the passing of Virginia Christopher (Feniak) on May 21, 2015 at the age of 73 years. She passed away peacefully after a lengthy illness, surrounded by family.
"Art is just food for the eyes, and the soul."
Virginia was born in Lamont, Alberta to Walter and Catherine (nee Verbicky) Feniak on September 7th, 1941. She was the second of four children and the family soon relocated to Edmonton where she spent the remainder of her childhood years.
From an early age, Virginia loved the great outdoors where her father taught her about plants, mushrooms, birds and wildlife, a passion that would continue throughout her life. Her mother instilled in her a love and appreciation for gardening, fruit trees, flowers and vegetables, and taught her the secrets of traditional canning and preserving, a hobby Virginia (and her friends and family) enjoyed over the years as she perfected her mother's recipes for canned peaches and dill pickles. Her love of painting also developed at an early age as she would often sketch and paint watercolours of her mother's African Violets.
Virginia's first summers away from home as a teenager were spent in Jasper, Alberta, a beautiful setting that allowed her the freedom to explore, hike and backpack with her spare time. These became lifelong pursuits she later shared with friends and family, and she remained an active outdoors-woman well into her retirement. Nothing gave her more of a thrill than to find a wild mushroom or a rare flower in the woods.
She studied art history and graduated with an art degree in 1964 from what is now the Alberta College of Art and Design. It was here that she met her husband, Ken Christopher. They started a family and wandered freely while the kids were young, living in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT for a winter and two summers, teaching physical education in Vernon, B.C. while living in a log cabin in the woods, and overwintering twice on the prairies of Southern Saskatchewan in old homesteads. As the children became school-aged, Virginia and Ken finally settled in Calgary in what would be the same house she would live in for the rest of her life.
In 1977, Virginia started down the path towards her lifetime career when she became a gallery assistant at Canadian Art Galleries. Then, in 1980, she opened her own gallery, Virginia Christopher Galleries (later Virginia Christopher Fine Art) which she owned and operated for more than 30 years, representing many new and well-established Canadian artists while developing strong relationships through all facets of her business. She was a generous, warm and welcoming businesswoman; fuelled by a passion for the arts and a commitment to developing artists, she gave freely of her time and experience. Virginia actively supported public art in Calgary, serving for five years as chairwoman of the city's Sculpture Advisory Committee and 13 years with the Artwalk Calgary committee, along with many other volunteer contributions. Virginia Christopher Fine Art was an institution that grew with Calgary, from a time when there was only a handful of other contemporary art galleries to the fully blossomed art scene the city enjoys today.
During the last decade of her career, Virginia entered the restaurant business with her daughter and son-in-law. This latest project evolved into several dining establishments in Calgary, including the Vue Café which was situated in her final Gallery location on 11th Ave SW. Virginia was always brainstorming ways to introduce more people to the rewards of appreciating art and viewed the cafe inside the gallery as a way to make art less intimidating for everyday people. She loved talking about the current show with guests, constantly assuring amateur art appreciators that "art is just food for the eyes, and the soul."
Throughout her life, Virginia was an avid gardener and animal lover. Having a soft spot for all life of all kinds, her yard was often bursting with greenery, while myriad birds, fat squirrels and stray cats were all welcome, fed and watered. She could be found on any given morning rescuing a bee floundering in her garden pool, or transplanting a small twig of a tree to a spot where it could happily grow up.
A dedicated mother and grandmother, Virginia enjoyed time with family whenever she could. As the children and grandchildren grew, Virginia began to travel more with family. She enjoyed many trips, from weekend tournaments with the grandkids to refined romps through Europe's spectrum of culture, cuisine and, of course, historic art. Starting with a trip to Spain in 1989, Virginia toured destinations within France, Greece, Italy, Austria and Germany with her family, appreciating the food and wine of each place and sharing with them her knowledge and unique perspective of the art they saw together. She also enjoyed an extended visit to Japan, which sparked a long-lasting interest in Japanese ceramics and prints.
Virginia was a unique and memorable woman. Her bare-bones honesty was refreshing, and her down-to-earth personality invited trust and respect. Larger than life, yet easy to be with, she leaves a legacy within the city's art scene, and she remains forever unforgettable in the hearts and minds of her family and friends.
Photos, memories and condolences may be shared with Virginia's family through McInnis & Holloway.
In living memory of Virginia Christopher, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Crowfoot, 82 CROWFOOT CIRCLE N.W. Telephone: 403-241-0044.
VIRGINIA'S CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Saturday, 20 June 2015 from 12:30 PM to 4:30 PM (MDT)
We invite you to gather with us as we celebrate Virginia's amazing life and accomplishments. Words and memories will be shared starting at 1:30pm. Drinks and light fare will be served.
Please RSVP using this link.