The Cowichan Performing Arts Centre presents the short film ‘Standing By’ with Nicole Ratjen. (Submitted photo)

Arts and Entertainment column: Art, film, books and music all on tap in Cowichan

Here are a few of the things going on in Cowichan’s arts community.

What could a public art gallery in the Cowichan Valley look like?

The Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery group aims to answer that question as it unveils its vision statement Saturday, Oct. 3, at 1 p.m. at the Green Door in Duncan.

“We aspire to build a 25,000 to 35,000 square foot Public Art Gallery in the Cowichan Valley. The purpose of the gallery will be to host traveling and local exhibits of world-class contemporary art in a building that will be unique on Vancouver Island,” the group says.

While no site or design has been chosen, the group will show a series of conceptual renderings to give people an idea of the possibilities of such a project.

Aside from exhibit space, the group sees the building including an arts centre with studio and classroom space, as well as a gift shop and coffee bar.

For the full picture head down on Saturday, or check out


The Cowichan Performing Arts Centre is forging ahead, in spite of the curtailment of their usual business by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29 the centre launched a streaming short film called Standing By.

“Filmed at the Cowichan Peforming Arts Centre, the movie explores the many mixed feelings of artists during COVID-19,” a press release about the film states.

Standing By has been created and performed by Cowichan-raised actor Nicole Ratjen.

“The film, clocking in at just under five minutes, uses the incredible dimensions of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre to explore the feelings of anger, sadness, rage, confusion, and hope that the onset of the pandemic provoked in artists like Ratjen,” the release says.

“I am usually onstage 10 times a week in Berlin,” says Ratjen. “But the pandemic stopped me in my traps and I found myself back home for seven months, sheltering in place on my parent’s property; I wanted to create something that expressed all of the feelings that were inside of me, and having grown up performing on the stage at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, I wanted to explore this beautiful space that found itself unexpectedly dark and empty. I wanted to climb the walls, touch the curtains, and connect with the space.”

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from York University in Toronto specialising in Devised Theatre and Theatrical Design, Ratjen furthered her training in Europe. She attended L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris and alongside the cours professional she participated in the Laboratory Study of Movement (LEM), the press release said.

As an actor and director, Ratjen has worked on production throughout Canada, across Europe and around Australia. She continues to develop and create new works for the screen and stage.

Viewers can stream the short film at or


The Duncan branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library is now open for walkthrough service. It joins the South Cowichan library branch in offering the increased service.

“It is so exciting to see our Cowichan branch opening up for walkthrough service,” says Melissa Legacy, VIRL’s director of Library Services and Planning, in a press release. “We know from experience that our communities are responding very well to this limited in-branch service and I have no doubt that our Cowichan branch will provide important connections and access to community members.”

Part of VIRL’s phased approach to the resumption of library services, the library offers a walkthrough area to browse a limited collection, self-checkout, fee payments, and grab and go bags.

Walkthrough hours are Monday to Friday, 1-4 p.m. Materials can be returned Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and takout is still available Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.

Customers who would like to access the limited browsing collection must have their library cards with them and use the self-check-out machines in the branch, officials said. The branch will continue to offer takeout services for those who would prefer to use this service.

“For everyone’s safety, customers are asked to adhere to all posted safety information and the directives of staff. During this first phase of walkthrough service, there will be no access to the public washrooms, computers, or seating area,” the press release warned.

VIRL is also now offering inter-branch deliveries of materials to provide customers with access to the entire collection, and an expanded suite of virtual programs and services. For more information about the services and resources offered at VIRL, visit


And on the subject of something to read…

“Maple Bay author and musician John Ringstead has just released Glynwold, the first of his four-book series,” said a press release for the new novel. What’s it about?

“Inspired by John’s childhood in the shadow of the historic, walled city of Chester, England, John’s medieval teen protagonists discover secret tunnels that lead them to forbidden lands. Dogged by an unscrupulous spider-loving evil mastermind, the teens will seek refuge with those they were taught to trust, only to be betrayed by them. Battles and assassinations force a bruising realism onto their once ripe idealism,” the release describes.

Ringstead is a retired high school history teacher and wanted to give a youthful, human touch to this allegorical take on history that reflects the age-old political struggles that continue today.

His first book is available through Amazon.


If it’s music you want, look no further than the Vancouver Island Symphony.

A press release from Artistic Director Pierre Simard says, “I am pleased to announce that although we cannot congregate as we normally would to enjoy a VIS performance, we continue to look at ways we can bring you a VIS experience! We are excited to offer the following three options for your enjoyment in the coming months both as streaming concerts for you to watch at home with friends or live in-person concerts for 50 people.”

First in the way of streaming concerts is a Sunday Brunch Concert Series, which will be aired from Oct. 4 through Nov. 20. This series of 60-minute concerts is recorded from the limited-audience garden concerts that were offered last summer.

The second series is called Symphony from Your Sofa.

“Join me as I host our upcoming 2020-2021 season entitled Symphony from Your Sofa, featuring our VIS musicians in six one hour, live-streamed performances,” Simard says. “This exciting season includes masterworks and discoveries from Schubert to Strauss, from Spain, Germany, France to Canada, with fun and unusual instrument combinations involving all of our orchestral family. Full season details will be released on Oct. 1!”

The live concerts will be limited to 50 people each and will take place in Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell River. The concerts will be announced and go on sale on Oct. 1.

For more information check out

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Maple Bay author John Ringstead has just released his first novel. (Submitted photo)

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