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Rex Brown recognized for his dedication to the arts community

Longtime educator and March Hare festival co-founder Rex Brown smiles after receiving ArtsNL's Patron of the Arts Award during a gala at The Rooms in St. John's Friday night. This year, the award — presented annually to a person or organization that has shown an ongoing and exceptional commitment to the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador — included a contemporary mosaic piece by Bulgarian-Newfoundland artist Vessela Brakalova.
Longtime educator and March Hare festival co-founder Rex Brown smiles after receiving ArtsNL's Patron of the Arts Award during a gala at The Rooms in St. John's Friday night. This year, the award — presented annually to a person or organization that has shown an ongoing and exceptional commitment to the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador — included a contemporary mosaic piece by Bulgarian-Newfoundland artist Vessela Brakalova.

Rex Brown is an animated character, so nobody would be surprised to hear him joke that if he had to sing for his supper he would probably starve to death.

Never one to hide his appreciation for artistic talent, the long-time Corner Brook educator didn’t win accolades for being in the limelight, but his impressive commitment to being able to organize major cultural events has led to Brown winning Arts NL’s Patron of the Year Award.

This year, the award — presented annually to a person or organization that has shown an ongoing and exceptional commitment to the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador — included a contemporary mosaic piece by Bulgarian-Newfoundland artist Vessela Brakalova.

Brown received his award Saturday at the Rooms during a special awards night for Arts NL, where he celebrated the occasion with his sister Barbara Brown, cousin Anita Best, and his son Jim and daughter-in-law Carrie who live in St. John’s. His wife Elaine wasn’t able to make the trip to St. John’s because she had prior family commitments.

It was a night where he had fun and felt good about being recognized for his efforts.

But, like he’s done on many occasions during his long volunteer life, Brown was quick to deflect any praise toward himself and put the late Mr. Al Pittman, a dear friend and mentor of his, in the spotlight.

“It all got to do with Al Pittman,” Brown said with a hearty laugh to follow. “I wasn’t part of the arts community until Al nabbed me to sort of help me out with his project and it just went on and it grew from there.”

Brown has been the driving force for the March Hare since Mr. Pittman died in 2001. The first 1987 March Hare was the brainchild of Mr. Pittman and Brown played the role of an assistant, helping organize the shows and take care of fundraising, all in an effort to help Mr. Pittman get the show on the road.

Brown’s role became much bigger after Pittman’s passing and it has grown from one show a year to 18 a year with March Hare making regular stops in places like New York, Parry Sound, Halifax and seven shows in this province.

“I certainly came in through the back door from the point of view of being recognized by the arts community,” said Brown, who got his feet wet on the cultural side of things in 1999 when he filled the volunteer role of vice-president cultural program for the host committee at the Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook.

One thousand hours per year to ensure the silky smooth running of 18 March Hares.

Time well spent Brown figures.

No doubt, much appreciated by those who have seen him weave his magic.

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