John Barrette

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May 26, 2014
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Comstock Foundation looks to year two

A foundation supported by Comstock Mining Inc. hopes to increase its efforts during the next year, its executive director said.

Comstock Foundation for History and Culture Executive Director Ron James said the foundation will commission Dayton artist Steve Saylor to produce artwork in conjunction with Nevada 150, the state’s sesquicentennial celebration.

“This is the gift that keeps on giving,” James said of the mining company’s commitment to provide the foundation with 1 percent of proceeds from the firm’s Lucerne Mine. Corrado De Gasperis, president and CEO of Comstock Mining, also is chiarman of the foundation’s board. At inception, the foundation’s board also included Paul Yandre of Virginia City, Pam Abercrombie of Silver City, Lee Halavais of Reno and John Winfiled, Comstock Mining’s board chairman.

In the fall, in conjunction with the Nevada Day celebration and 150 years of statehood, a Saylor painting and prints will be available for the public. James said the foundation is raising funds for its mission, but also gets money from Comstock Mining, Inc. which is part of the organization’s backbone.

Saylor is a photo-realist painter who works in the unique medium of glazed watercolors, a technique he developed in the 1970s. James said it is just another effort to contribute to Nevada and Comstock area history or culture.

James said the foundation already has helped with small but necessary historic restoration projects at the Upper Yellow Jacket Hoist Work, as well as Virginia City’s Fourth Ward School and St. Mary’s Art Center, which once was that Storey County community’s hospital.

“We’re now taking on the Gold Hill depot,” James said. “We’re trying to get it over the hump.” The railway depot in the town next to Virginia City, he said, was taken over by Storey County. Getting it tourist-ready was turned over to the Virginia City Tourism Commission, according to James. He said much has been done, but the foundation is willing to pitch in to help upgrade a facility that has a capacity of about 200 people.

“Right now,” he said, “it doesn’t meet code.”

Despite the foundation’s work, there are opponents of the mining company who see that firm as desecrating the environment and who feel the historic focus is a diversion to mask people from considering the effects of open pit mining for silver and gold.

For example, Joe McCarthy of the Comstock Residents Association in an Earth Day open letter to the Nevada Mining Association decried the mining and attacked what he called “faux historic preservation” as part of corporate doublespeak. McCarthy, formerly with Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center and later city government in economic development, is from Silver City just south of Gold Hill in Lyon County.

“Comstock Mining, Incorporated’s tactics are standard corporate play book: divider the populace with promises and faux historic preservation; give a little money to needy nonprofits; generously fund the candidacies of favorable politicians; eliminate the landscape, but stabilize and old head frame,” McCarthy wrote. “Self interest is overriding the public good.”

McCarthy charged in last month’s letter, which is still on that organization’s website, that the state mining association’s silence has been deafening.

James, meanwhile, as foundation director said when asked about opposition that it is a reasonable question. He said the mining firm has supplied about $500,000 already and more will come.

“I would say we’re doing wonderful things,” he replied, then defended the results whatever spurred the mining company to act. “If they’re doing it to get credit, credit is due.”

The foundation was formed last June and articles of incorporation for the non-profit were accepted by Nevada’s Secretary of State’s office in July 2013.

The foundation also is co-sponsoring with the Virginia City tourism organization a June 7 Muckfest, a celebration of mining heritage in both Virginia City and Gold Hill.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 18, 2014 12:34PM Published May 26, 2014 11:08PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.