After seven years of managing the Smithers Art Gallery, Caroline Bastable is moving on.
“I feel quite proud of where the gallery is at in the moment. It has a high profile within the community. It’s stronger than it has ever been,” she said.
“The mission statement of the gallery is ‘creating community through art.’ We’re here to serve the community and to celebrate and encourage the arts with a particular focus on the visual arts,” according to Bastable. “The gallery is here to expose residents and visitors to the arts and to get them to participate in the arts and of course to support the arts.”
“We’ve worked very hard to put on a varied schedule of exhibitions and we’ve increased the programming that we do. We put on many more workshops than we used to. We keep them low cost so people are encouraged to give something a go. For example, we currently have a life drawing class, a charcoal drawing, we have meditative painting and we have landscape painting,” she said.
Landscape artist Kaetlyn Ambry is a very popular young artist who has recently moved back to Smithers .
“We can only take 10 per workshop. We sold out so we opened another one. That sold out and we are now taking names for another one. This is for one three-hour landscape workshop,” said Bastable.
The others are not yet full so more can be taken.
“We provide all of the materials so people don’t have to invest in expensive art supplies themselves just to give it a go,” she said.
According to Bastable, many people have gone on to take something up in their spare time.
The opening receptions for the various shows are also very popular.
“We have one for every show, about nine a year,” she said.
Being exhibited adds to an artist’s portfolio and is great for their CV. She feels that it helps an artist a great deal to be shown here. The gallery has a high profile in B.C., so they get submissions from all over the province.
“We are definitely on the map. We did not used to get many applications from outside of our little region here but now they stand in line. We get to cherry pick for exhibitors and we are 100 per cent oversubscribed so we have to let a lot of people down unfortunately, but hopefully they can find other galleries that can exhibit in,” she said.
“We are booked now through May 2019. We have some that will definitely challenge some people. I’m looking forward to seeing the public reaction to them,” she said.
“There are some local artists such as Arlene Ness who is a Gitxsan artist. She is a very successful artist now. She is the winner of BC Achievement Award for Excellence in First Nation Fine Art 2015,” according to Bastable.
“Things have a knock-on effect. Once a scene starts to happen, that starts to attract more people who are interested in that scene and so it grows. We have a very strong arts and culture scene in Smithers and the stronger it gets, the more of those types of people are going to be attracted to come and live here. That’s why we’ve always talked about the arts and culture scene being an economic driver for the area, the music scene as well as the arts scene, and because we are attracting people it’s not going to stop growing,” she said.
Bastable is originally from Oxford, England and studied on Aberdeen, Scotland.
“It’s amazing to live in such a beautiful area. We feel like we live is such a remote area. It’s extremely different. We have a diversified economy and a beautiful landscape. Smithers is doing a very good job in trying to make itself a pretty town,” she said.
“I’m excited to have been offered a position at Smithers Community Services. I’m going to be the literacy coordinator there. Just the fact that there is a community services and that there is a literacy coordinator is testament to the fact that we recognize that that there is a need and that we are trying to meet the needs of people. Literacy is being seen through a broad perspective and not just a narrow one of just providing additional literature skills. It’s definitely a priority in the community and I hope to give it my full and best attention,” she said.
“We’re hoping we get some strong applicants and that the gallery will be seamlessly handed over to the new manager and that it will carry on and continue to thrive. I’m looking forward to coming and participating as a community member and staying connected to the gallery. It’s close to my heart,” she said.