Another lithograph, "Dream of Exile" by the master collagist Romare Bearden, hangs in a hallway between the great room and the kitchen. The work is an intricate, fanciful landscape in which animal, bird and fish faces peek out from behind the cover of trees, grass and waves.

Another piece is by a familiar figure in an unfamiliar context. A canvas painted in strong indigos and pure whites was created by the actor Billy Dee Williams. The piece, "Choir," shows the voices of a church's singers ascending to the heavens in the form of doves.

"Billy Dee Williams originally studied to be an artist," Carter said. "He began acting to find a way to pay for his painting tools."

But other works were found in open-air markets and cost the anchorman just a few dollars. The collection also includes a significant representation of local artists, including Tom Miller and Paula Whaley.

"A lot of times, I'm hanging the artist even more than the art," Carter said. "If I get interested enough in the person making the artwork, he could sell me a case of chipped beef and I'd put it on the wall."

To hear Carter tell it, art collecting was one of those passions that bloom unexpectedly. Carter has never taken so much as a high school-level course in art appreciation, and he's proof that someone doesn't need an advanced degree to respond to the primal power of an image on canvas.

"The art was something that came into my life in the early '80s, after I'd been in the news business for a few years," he said.

"As part of my job, I started hanging around events where art was around. I fell in love with some of the works, and I started collecting what I could afford."

And, like many adult converts, Carter's midlife enthusiasm has inspired him with a missionary zeal. Half a dozen years ago, he donated 50 photographs, paintings and other artworks to the church in Charlotte, N.C., where his wife's parents were longtime deacons.

"It's been very helpful," said the Rev. Ricky Woods, pastor of the First Baptist Church West.

"We have a legacy wall of photographs taken of civil rights leaders, and a lot of students interact with it. We get questions from kids who don't know who Thurgood Marshall or Rosa Parks is or why they're important."

Carter's planning a similar donation in honor of his parents to the First Baptist Church in Radford, Va., where he grew up. At least one or two pieces are being commissioned specifically for the congregation.

"Vic's the real deal," said Carter's friend, the artist Joyce Scott.

"To pay for something, and then to donate away during his lifetime instead of waiting until after he's dead, means that he's willing to share with people who don't have the same access to art that he does. That's a very giving thing to do.

"For Vic, it's not just about honoring the works of art. It's about honoring the spirit in which those works were created."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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