MONTREAL – Harvey Lev grew up at the knee of his father Iser, a Russian-born commercial printer who settled in Montreal in 1951 with wife Ida, a Holocaust survivor.
“He was a good dad and gave my mother a break by taking my sister and me to the plant where he kept us busy, giving us paper to draw on and to fold. Kids drink in stuff, and I developed a passion for paper, which continues to this day,” he says.
Lev not only owns Techno-Lith Ltd., a Griffintown manufacturer, distributor and converter of all types of paper and packaging, but he is the driving force behind the international Nonesuch Art on Paper Awards, instituted for the first time this year.
The awards, entries for which are being accepted until April 30, give all artists the chance to submit original contemporary works on or with paper, either two-dimensional or sculptural, to win almost $21,000 in cash and residencies. Entry rules can be found here.
The works by 50 finalists and five prize winners will be shown in Parrsboro, N.S., from Aug. 20 to Sept. 10 and in Montreal from Sept. 23 to Oct. 7.
Lev’s promotion of fine art goes back to the Art en Majuscule gallery he ran for a decade until 2006 on the historic New City Gas site near his plant that he still uses for cultural events and artists’ residencies.
The Nonesuch Art on Paper Awards spreads his cultural reach into the Maritimes, where he has again rescued a historic property.
“My late wife Esther and I used to take two holidays a year, one somewhere exotic and one in Canada with the car, the dog and a tent. One year we discovered the area along the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy, and it was spectacular, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life in terms of geography,” he related.
“There was a four-storey building in Parrsboro, a former post office-customs house-armoury circa 1910 that had been boarded up for 43 years because they built a new, smaller post office. It was love at first sight of the majestic structure with its clock tower, despite the collapsed roof and glassless windows.
“Esther thought it might be a nice place to retire to, so I bought it for her with the intention of fixing it up and saving another building,” he continued.
“We decided to use it as a place for artists to come out and do residencies, workshops and get people in the town involved.”
Though Esther passed away from cancer before realizing her dream, Lev fulfilled her wishes, making the newly named Main & Station into a homey enclave for browsing and lingering.
The addition of shelves of secondhand books, a vegetarian café and what Lev’s collaborator Judith Bauer calls kickshaws from the French “quelque chose,” miscellaneous “somethings” that range from ceramics to art and antiques, characterize the place they like to refer to as a “depARTment store.”
The second floor is used for dance performances, art exhibitions and book launches with their own Black Dog & One-Eyed Press. Bauer, an illustrator and writer, runs the website, listing the centre’s news and events that helped rejuvenate Parrsboro for the past three years.
“We’ve had [in residence] poets, editors, oral historians, ceramicists, geologists [the town is renowned for its minerals, tides and dinosaur fossils], dancers, choreographers, writers, sculptors and painters, who can collaborate with one another,” says Lev.
“I have a new residency available, in my parents’ names, for studies related to the immigrant experience.”
For the months when he’s not in Parrsboro, Lev lives in a reclaimed church in Verdun that also serves as a residence for artists working at his New City Gas facilities.
For the Montreal activities, visit www.griffintown.org/corridorculturel/.