Nfld. & Labrador

$75K donation gives Fluvarium some breathing room

The Fluvarium Foundation now has time to find more sponsorship, after the sale of a Mary Pratt painting and a donation from Elinor Gill Ratcliffe.

Philanthropist Elinor Gill Ratcliffe wrote cheque in hopes of spurring further action

John Perlin is the chairman emeritus of the Quidi Vidi Rennies River Development Foundation. (Paula Gale/CBC)

A local philanthropist has stepped in to give the Fluvarium some hope, and some breathing room. 

Earlier this week the board went public about a financial crisis at the centre, and sold a piece of original Mary Pratt artwork to help keep the doors open.

John Perlin, chair emeritus of the Fluvarium Foundation, says Elinor Gill Ratcliffe wrote the foundation a generous donation in the form of a $75,000 cheque.

"I nearly fell off my chair," Perlin said, of his response to reading an email from Ratcliffe. 

The message outlined her hope the donation would "move somebody to join in." 

"That will keep our operation going right through the summer and fall, while we're out there as a board looking for sponsors," said Perlin.

Ratcliffe is a well-known philanthropist who has donated $3.2 million to The Rooms museum to help create the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery.

Earlier this week, Bonfire, a piece painted by Mary Pratt in 1997 and later gifted to the Fluvarium, sold at auction in Toronto for $13,000.

Consignor Canadian Fine Art waived its commission on the sale to help bolster the foundation's slim finances.

The Fluvarium is a popular place for children, with exhibits marine wildlife, as well as tanks with things like fish, frogs and toads. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Suncor had been giving $65,000 annually, but last year the oil company ended the education program partnership.

"We were pleased to have funded the Fluvarium and their programs over the past 11 years. Concluding our relationship with the Fluvarium was part of a planned transition to other east coast community organizations," reads a statement from Suncor.

"In 2018, we supported the east coast community by contributing more than $815,000 and expect to make similar contributions this year," it said. 

Perlin said it's Suncor's right to give money where they choose, but he said there may have been some miscommunication between the Fluvarium board and the oil company.

Regardless, Perlin said he's looking forward to getting more students through the Fluvarium doors this year, while they try to find a new sponsor.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Stephanie Kinsella works with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

With files from The St. John's Morning Show


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