Community organizers of a Vancouver Island art show surprised themselves in 2018 by the breadth of multi-media expression assembled under one roof and the interest it generated.
My Place: A Personal View was a juried show that featured works by 26 artists exploring the spaces they inhabit, physically, mentally and emotionally. Residents and tourists visited the summer-long multi-media exhibition and sale in Port Alberni, which had the added benefit of filling a programming gap at the Alberni Valley Museum.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, organizers are planning to revive the show in 2022 as Emergence: New Works, New Beginnings, which runs May 5 to Sept. 3 in the AV Museum Gallery.
The theme is intentionally broad, much like the show’s regional scope, open to submissions from all artists on Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast. Each artist can enter two works. Their submission deadline falls March 18.
“We’ve been getting a pretty good response,” said co-organizer Jillian Mayne, who has been working for the past year with Robert Gunn on Emergence.
This year’s show should be more than a repeat performance. Mayne and Gunn, members of Alberni Art Rave Society, hope to attract more entries from Indigenous artists and extend the reach of the show with auxiliary events such as talks and art workshops at the Echo Centre in Port Alberni.
“Arts Rave likes to do free, family arts events,” Mayne explained.
Nuu-chah-nulth ethnographer Ki-Ke-In (Ron Hamilton), will explore local Indigenous imagery in curtains, beading and weaving. Hupacasath First Nation Councillor Suuwayaqawilth (Jolleen Dick) will speak on cultural appropriation and other colonial effects on Indigenous art. Another presentation is dedicated to the life and work of well-known Alberni Valley artist Elspeth Watson, a master potter who died in 2020.
With juried art shows, only artworks selected by a panel of adjudicators — in this case Tim Paul, Jean McIntosh, Kerry Mason and Astrid Johnson — make the final cut.
Visitors from the Netherlands were sufficiently impressed last time to pay $2,000 for a piece called Just Thinkin’ by Ucluelet sculptor Tom Schmidt. Port Alberni residents, on the other hand, have a chance to experience a regionally and culturally diverse show in a local setting. That’s one reason why the City of Port Alberni is involved in the effort.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities to see art from outside the area,” Mayne said.
Willa Thorpe, director of parks, recreation and heritage, said the city is thrilled to play a part in the event. As in past years, city staff are assisting in marketing and will help install the works.
“I’m ecstatic at the encouraging signs of events returning throughout Port Alberni (at city facilities and beyond) and look forward to welcoming guests and artists to Emergence: New Works, New Beginnings,” Thorpe wrote via email.