“Heart Creek,” by Mark Tworow (Smithers) is part of the Salmon Festival exhibition on through the end of August at the Smithers Art Gallery. (Thom Barker photo)

Unique version of Salmon Festival now on at art gallery

More than 200 hundred salmon-themed hearts on display in Smithers, Hazelton and Terrace

Like many business and non-profit organizations in the valley, Covid19 and the accompanying health regulations have forced the Smithers Art Gallery to take a hard look at how to stay relevant and provide support to visual artists and the wider community.

While the gallery was closed to the public from mid-March to June staff continued to develop new opportunities for the community. During this time, the gallery created a new website with online exhibitions, an online shop supporting artists and artisans in the region, and created online art workshops for kids using YouTube and Facebook.

“We took time during our closure to re-evaluate how to run exhibitions if we were able to re-open in some manner,” gallery manager Nicole Chernish said. “This included working with the Skeena Salmon Festival, the Terrace Art Gallery and the Misty Rivers Art Centre (Hazelton) to develop something new that reflected our current situation.”

The gallery re-opened June 1 with social distancing regulations in place. June and July each had a POP UP gallery featuring multiple local artists who were unable to have a “regular” show due to limitations on gatherings. While visits were lower than a typical show, locals and visitors were pleased to be able to see artwork in person again.

This month the Gallery is presenting an all new Skeena Salmon Art Show in collaboration with the Skeena Salmon Festival, the Terrace Art Gallery and the Misty Rivers Art Centre. Pre-Covid19, the plan was to tour the show between the three communities.

After realizing the “typical” art show wouldn’t work this year, the idea came together to distribute wooden hearts to be returned to the galleries as finished art pieces. Each of the shows in Terrace, Smithers and Hazelton would run simultaneously as an auction, both online and in the galleries if COVID regulations allowed.

The response was inspiring, Chernish said. More 200 hearts were sent out to artists and community members, and at least 95 per cent were returned with incredible art speaking to themes of salmon, salmon ecosystems, connection to place, and the care and compassion happening in our communities during this challenging time.

The art ranged in skill level from professional to kids doing art with their parents and Smithers Art Camps and came from artists of many cultures and backgrounds. But they shared the same sense of community and connection that is a part of living in this northern Skeena region.

“As the initial impacts of COVID slowly shift from shock to resignation and sadness for the mental health impacts we see on the rise, it becomes more important than ever to stay connected and to bring people together in whatever ways we can,” Chernish said. “Gallery staff hope that this show has offered some beauty and joy for the community to help carry us through to an easier time.”

Next month the gallery is planning a Members Show (Sept. 4 – Nov. 7). Artists who are members of the gallery can each submit up to three pieces.

– Submitted article

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The Salmon Festival exhibition featuring salmon-themed hearts at Smithers Art Gallery is on until the end of August. (Thom Barker photo)

Various artists using various mediums created salmon-themed hearts for the Salmon Festival exhibition on through the end of August at the Smithers Art Gallery. (Thom Barker photo)

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