Art connoisseur Fascinated with Cuban Painting
Wiebe, a pressman for the Vancouver Sun and Province for the past 35 years, is also an art connoisseur from way back.
He and his wife had a string of art galleries around the Lower Mainland and as far away as Banff through the '80s and '90s. In 1996, when the overhead and costs of maintaining brick-and-mortar stores became too high, the Wiebes shut down the galleries.
His passion for art didn't abate though. While on a trip to Cuba, Wiebe was drawn into galleries featuring local artists, and he was hooked.
"The Cuban art... really surpasses anything I've seen throughout Latin America," he said, and he's travelled extensively in Central and South America, checking out the art wherever he goes.
"They know a lot more about international art and architecture and music than, I would say, any of the other Latin American countries and even some of my friends, who are local and educated here," said Wiebe, a fact he attributes at least in part to the high standard of education in Cuba.
On that first fateful trip about eight years ago, Wiebe said he bought a half dozen pieces.
"I thought it'd be great if I could travel back and forth to Cuba - which is just an amazing country - and market their art."
Instead of going back to the physical gallery setup, this time Wiebe has started an online business selling original Cuban art on eBay.
It's an ideal arrangement, since most of his customers are from the States, Florida in particular, and they cannot access the art or artists directly due to the two countries' political differences.
But the exchange that takes place is about more than just moving artwork.
Wiebe is about to book his third buying trip of the year and, as usual, he will arrive in Havana bearing gifts for his artists and their families.
This generosity can include nice clothing, computers, a digital camera for a budding photographer, glasses, books and, on occasion, even sports equipment for schools.
"For me, putting the art aside, the exchange with the people in Havana... that's really part of the magic for me," he said.
Wiebe tries to capture some of the flavour of the country for his clients by posting photos of the artists with their work or scenes of Havana, sending repeat buyers a signed print from the artist or handwritten notes of thanks.
The formula works - well enough that Wiebe has hired a person to work 30 to 40 hours a week to keep up with the demand, which is on top of the 30 or so hours he puts in himself.
To see what Wiebe has in store, go to eBay and look for his eBay ID: yourartbeat.
Source: The Now