Sherry Bezanson looks at the latest works displayed by Ladysmith Arts Council members at the Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery.

Sherry Bezanson looks at the latest works displayed by Ladysmith Arts Council members at the Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery.

It’s been a ‘banner year’ for the Ladysmith Arts Council

Sherry Bezanson looks back at a very active and successful 2013 in her Community Arts Showcase column.

2013 has proven to be a banner year at the Ladysmith Arts Council (LAC).

The opening night galas have the largest attendance records to date, gallery and gift shop sales have increased, volunteer hours have tripled, and the membership has grown to over 300. All of this growth has made the gallery and studio on Oyster Bay Drive an ever-inspiring place to be. The buzz of activity is palpable as you enter the building.

LAC president Kathy Holmes indicated that there has been a successful completion of many projects in the last 12 months. Here are some of the highlights:

Sparking off the new year in January 2013, LAC launched the first of three quarterly editions of a community Art Magazine showcasing local artists, art shows, guest speakers and workshops. It’s a one-stop art magazine that was created to provide a focus for tourists and locals who are looking for an artistic experience. Editor Kathy Holmes worked diligently to make this project come alive, and Trisha Oldfield, art director of the magazine, lent her skilled eye and vision to give the magazine a professional layout.

In April, a new 40-foot-by-10-foot banner that faces the building was created by Ladysmith youth for BC Art Week.

A new printmaking studio with an Ettan Etching Press printmaker was added in May to the main floor space next to the classroom area. Beginner classes began in earnest in the summer, with printmaker Ann Jones teaching classes.

The LAC participated in the annual Rotary Garden Tour by having artists display their works in some of the garden venues.

August’s Arts on the Avenue was another successful venture. Moving the venue lower on First Avenue, close to the library, proved to be a wise move. Turnout for the event was one of the best ever over the last 15 years, and reports of artists’ sales were over the top.

October brought the Multi-Media Show, a juried art show that attracted artists from all over Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Big cash prizes brought much excitement, and opening night headcount for this show was 175 people. Local winner Carrie Kendall took home a $1,000 prize.

The LAC has created window art displays throughout the year in partnership with local businesses. This has been a vital showcase for local artists.

Throughout the year, opening night galas introduced a wide array of talented speakers from around the Island. One of our big draws was Jim Erickson, set decorator for Academy Award-winning movie Lincoln. Erickson lives on Salt Spring Island and has a 30-year career working in Hollywood. Others included art instructor Paul Fudge, Sean Sherstone, Rocky Creek Winery owners, Rob Elphinstone and others.

The main capital project for 2013 and continuing to 2014 is the elevator project. Identified as one of the main barriers to service is the set of 22 stairs to climb to get to the gallery and studio. Holmes’s vision is to see an elevator installed that will allow accessibility to all. As we head into 2014, the LAC continues to take this issue very seriously. Architectural plans have been drawn up, the city has been consulted, and the LAC has raised approximately $6,000 in 2013. If you have a personal interest in this project, please contact Holmes to make a donation.

“I made and sold over a hundred clay pears that I designed and fired after taking a beginning pottery class last spring. In the last six months, over 100 pears have sold across Canada and one Nanaimo gallery is displaying them,” says a delighted Holmes.

To make all these projects happen, volunteer hours topped 8,000 hours this past year. This signifies a phenomenal contribution and affirmation that the LAC is committed, determined and here to stay to inspire the arts in the Ladysmith community and area.

Art shows and events engage about 13,000 people a year, including Arts on the Avenue, a major event, and gallery attendance.

“The last three years have been years of growth and change for the Ladysmith Arts Council,” indicates Holmes. “The board of directors and members are becoming more visible in the community. Art is part of a healthy community, and partnerships with local businesses are so important to the community as a whole. We are poised to go into an even greater growth phase and we are so grateful to the ongoing support from the town and local businesses.”

“Ladysmith Arts Council is a learning environment and offers a plethora of classes, including altered books, wicker furniture, acrylic and watercolour, printmaking and pottery,” adds Holmes. “Please check our website for classes and sign up for some in the new year; you never know where an art class might take you. We’d like to get the younger adult population in our community more active in our organization. That voice is currently fairly silent, and we are always invigorated by the younger members in our midst.”

Holmes encourages young adults to consider joining the LAC and having their own voices heard in that growth process. She invites young adults to take advantage of the opportunity for lifelong learning and participation in community art.

Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery curator Leona Petrak reported that the main thrust for 2014 is to continue with the current model of changing the gallery show on a monthly basis and offering opportunities for the membership to interpret the suggested monthly theme.

For members, there is an opportunity to display up to five items for each show and up to 10 small items for the gift store.  The LAC offers a progressive working model to members and is one of the few boards that focuses on inclusivity in the art world.

“The LAC provides a monthly venue where there is no jurying; all you have to do is buy a membership of $24 for the year, and bring your art in,” explains Petrak. “It is very important for emerging artists to have a forum to present their art and learn to display it in a professional manner, but one that is a non-threatening experience.”

Petrak shared that by providing a welcoming forum, new artists gain confidence in their abilities.

“Our role is to encourage and provide helpful instruction that celebrates the emerging artist. Our inclusivity model means we encourage people to be involved in the art world as spectators, creators, artists, writers, and we provide the space for that to happen in an encouraging manner,” she indicates.