Ralph Erickson, Renae Lehmann, and Bonnie Hayward, share one window at Imagine That! in Duncan this month with their distinctive styles of folk art. (Submitted)

Ralph Erickson, Renae Lehmann, and Bonnie Hayward, share one window at Imagine That! in Duncan this month with their distinctive styles of folk art. (Submitted)

Arts and Entertainment column: Lots to see in Duncan in March

Funding success, painters show, folk art, tell your COVID story

There was good news this week for the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery Society. It has been awarded $24,000 in grants from the BC Arts Council to support exhibitions and infrastructure.

“This money is so helpful to our fledgling organization,” says president Jock Hildebrand. “Our objective is to bring exhibitions of national and international art to the Valley. Our path is well laid out and this certainly helps us along the way.”

The grants will support the upcoming Marianne Nicholson exhibition in October, staffing needs, and more, the Society said in a press release.

“Marianne Nicolson is a multi-media artist activist of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations. Her art is multi-disciplinary, encompassing photography, painting, carving, video, installation, monumental public art, writing and speaking. She is trained in both traditional Kwakwaka’wakw forms and culture and contemporary gallery and museum-based practice,” the release describes.

The CVPAG is a non-profit organization and registered charity devoted to creating a world-class public art gallery in the Cowichan Valley to host ongoing international, national and local art exhibitions and associated programming currently not available.

•••

One of the oldest sketch groups in the Cowichan Valley is holding its popular annual show at the Cowichan Valley Arts Council’s gallery in 2021, running March 9 to April 7, CVAC announced in a press release. There’s also something new this year. This month-long show is the first time the group members will hold an exhibit for a period longer than a weekend, and it will feature more than 100 artworks.

“We know the community will be pleased to have an extended opportunity to see the range of art that our members produce,” said Maple Bay Painters President Sue Fenwick. “And we are excited about mounting a show in an art gallery setting.”

Many of the group’s members are well-known artists from the Cowichan Valley, and often take a mentoring role within the club to share their knowledge. Maple Bay Painters also invites noted artists from Vancouver Island to share their expertise by hosting workshops on portraiture, abstract design, drawing and other genres.

Each year, the MBP members donate art work for sale to raise funds for the bursary project which offers financial support to graduating art students.

The group is one of the oldest in the local arts community, established in 1968 by six painters under the guidance of Julie Porter who decided to meet weekly to paint together. They originally met in the church hall at Maple Bay, followed by the Maple Bay Rowing Club, and later the Moose Hall. Since 2012 the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds has been its home. Plein air sessions are organized during the summer months. What started small has grown into a vibrant group of artists. “To encourage, support and educate artists, with fairness and integrity” remains the keystone mission of the group.

The Portals gallery at the Cowichan Community Centre is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon until 4 p.m.

•••

Imagine That! on Craig Street in Downtown Duncan has brought in something new to showcase in their window displays for March.

Three artists, Ralph Erickson, Renae Lehmann, and Bonnie Hayward, share one window with their distinctive styles of folk art.

“Personal, eccentric, highly original, both utilitarian and decorative. All of these describe what is popularly known as folk art. The work often comes from old cultural traditions. But today’s artists have created a newer contemporary folk art genre, and Imagine That! hosts three artists that reflect that new style,” says a press release.

In the other window Martha Jane McHardy displays her knitwear.

“In the beginning, Martha was a contract shepherd, breeding and training her own border collies. She competed in sheepdog trials throughout North America for more than two decades. She also taught and trained many handlers and their dogs in the art of managing sheep,” says the release.

“After retiring from training and trials, she finally found the time to take up knitting. Now residing in the Cowichan Valley, she had discovered the fascinating world of fibre arts and creates a wide variety of knitted accessories.”

•••

Want to share your story of living through COVID?

The Mercury Players Society is asking for contributions of writing on the effects of COVID-19 and the pandemic, with a view to putting together an “interactive, online community theatre production in May of this year.”

People are asked to share their personal experiences in 700 words or less, before March 15.

For more information contact John Mowat Steven at covid.my.story@gmail.com

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