A woman standing on the steps of a church like building sings and beats on a drum. A crowd joins in the singing.

Opening Night of the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery’s 2024 Season

Eighty-three people turned out on Friday June 7, for the gala opening night of the Old School Art Gallery’s 2024 season. This is a group show, which will be open to the public on Fridays (6-9 PM) and on weekends (2-6 PM) until June 16th.

Bianca Lee,  Manager of the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery, was delighted by the large turnout, “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out having the member show at the beginning of the season, but it worked out pretty magnificently. There was so much interest and participation in the show. It seems like a really beautiful way to start out the season, get people excited about the gallery and also avoid the burnout of late season.”

Kristen Schofield-Sweets welcomes everyone to the reception – Roy L Hales photo

Early visitors were treated to an instrumental selection by Cortes Island guitarist Rick Bockner.  

At 7:00 Kristen Schofield Sweet gave a welcoming address,  “We had 28 artists this year. (Cheers and clapping) It’s the most we’ve ever had and I’m going to read out the names of a group of people, just to give you some sense of what it takes to hang a show.  Besides myself, we are thanking Christann Kennedy, Gerri Davis, George Lerch,  Oriane Lee Johnston, Bianca Lee, Pamela Boles, Janet Turpin, and Ayami Stryck. It took that many people four days to get all that on the wall.”

“Next Friday, the 14th, I’m going to be doing a walking tour of the show saying, ‘To get it on the wall didn’t just happen by accident, here’s some of the things that we considered. Why is this piece next to that piece? And those two are over there, but not with this one?’ A show is also a piece of work. How those parts come together is really fascinating. Especially when you have nine people doing it.”

One of her colleagues, Christann Kennedy, later explained, “The idea is to try and create a dialogue so that the different pieces are  talking to each other. Maybe they have a similarity of colour or a similarity of subject matter or a similarity of material that makes them  seem like they might have something to say to each other.  What we try to do with a group show like this is set up some relationships that are interesting, and that might illuminate the artworks in a way that if you were just seeing one piece, you might not see that.”

“It’s great to have so many creative people living on this island and to have a venue where everyone can come together and show their work and open up conversation between each other. I just think it’s a really exciting thing that this gallery exists and I feel really lucky that I’m getting to participate.”

Several viewers remarked upon their success. 

Sole Arico said, “It’s just an incredible diversity and the quality is just  really high. Very beautiful work.” 

Jonathan Ogilvie went further, “I will say,  as someone who has spent a good deal of time in art galleries as a religious practice, that this collection  is exquisitely put together, that each one of these pieces complements  all of the others.  And that’s not easy to do when you have so many artists at play together.  So I’m feeling it.”

Pamela Boles was one of the artists who agreed to be interviewed, “I have two pieces. It’s the first time I’ve shown this work because I was a ceramic artist for 35 years. Now I’m doing paper and paint and scissors and cutting. I’m having a lot of fun.” 

Cortes Currents: How long have you been in this art gallery?

Pamela Boles: “Since Norberto, so maybe the early 2000s.” 

Cortes  Currents: Has it changed much? 

Pamela Boles: “Yes, it’s wonderful. It’s really looking professional. The lighting is amazing, it’s really organized and there’s a wonderful group of people that are working together. I’m finding it really exciting.  I got to help set up this time. I learned so much from Kristen and Christann, and enjoyed talking with everybody that came in. Seeing all the artists bring their work, and then how it all gets put together: it was really a lot of fun!”

Cortes Currents: What do you think of the opening? 

Pamela Boles: “It’s great to see people that I haven’t seen for a long time, and just a wonderful group. There are people of all ages, and everybody’s having really warm conversations. This is the first day of summer and you get to gather with all the people that you know in Cortes and some people you don’t know.” 

Cortes  Currents: Compare it to the openings in the past.  

Pamela Boles: “In the  early days, we didn’t have it outside like this. All the food and the wine was inside, but it would be very packed.  It had the same energy.  Always a good time for people to hang out, see each other again and look at beautiful art.” 

Cortes  Currents: Were you anxious about displaying? 

Pamela Boles: “I wasn’t anxious, because I’m playing. I don’t have to make a living anymore. I’m not making these for anything. I just decided to do it and so it was fun. So it’s just wonderful to connect with the creative imagination and that fills me up.” 

Another of the artists, Brian Hayden, was especially pleased with Rick Bockner’s work: “This is the most  amazing piece I’ve ever seen. It’s a piece of marquetry with a Buddha and a Tibetan symbol on the top, and stars, and it’s all in wood. It’s mind blowing, it blows my socks off!”

Cortes Currents: Any other impressions from the art show? 

He pointed to Bockner’s other piece, “Well his table is also  one of the most amazing pieces of furniture I’ve ever seen. Know that he’s been saving this wood up for a lifetime. He’s using the best wood that he’s ever found to make this table and this table is quilted maple. I love this stuff. There’s lots of other nice things here too, but those are the top of the line for me.”

Bockner gave some more details: “This is a fiddleback maple from a tree that came down in Whaletown when George was doing some work there years ago. Bill Fidel and I milled it up and it’s been sitting in my shop waiting for the perfect project for 15 years or more.  It’s all from the same tree except for the black walnut, which is also bigger. So it’s a very flashy piece. The challenge with it was the bottom of it is not flat. This bottom is the outside of the tree. So  how do you mount that on the legs when it’s all uneven? My solution was to put in copper pipe lifters and float the top above the  frame, which is why I call it the floating table.” 

Personally, I was impressed by a number of the other pieces and would have loved to hear the stories behind them. There were a great many unspoken stories from this art show. There are some photos in the written version of this article, but they do not do the exhibition justice. It is better to view them yourself.  

The following artists contributed pieces: Amy Robertson, Ann Mortifee, Ayami Stryck, Brian Hayden, Brig Weiler, Brooke Anderson, Christann Kennedy, Dale Thomas, Darshan Stevens, Denise Drury, Donna Naven, Donna Collins, Ebony Rose, Gerri Davis, Heidi Hueniken, Jane Newman, Karen McDiarmid, Kathleen Pemberton, Kristen Schofield-Sweet, Lana Ringrose, the late Lisa Gibbons, Meinsje Vlaming, Oriane Lee Johnston, Pamela Boles, Rick Bockner and Tianna Barton.

The podcast closes with a short clip of Mortifee singing ‘This is a Healing Journey.” (top of page) All of the ‘audience’ joined in to supply the chant running throughout the piece. A little hand held recorder does not do it justice. 

This was Sole Arico’s first reception and she later remarked, “It’s really amazing. We just had Anne Mortifee singing to us and drumming and a beautiful group of people. It’s just a really love drenched energy here.”

Links of Interest:

Image credit: (top) Ann Mortifee and people at the gallery singing ‘This is a Healing Journey”; all undesignated photos by Roy L Hales

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