If we are going to do a story about the Smithers Library we need to do a follow-up story about the Smithers Art Gallery.
These two operations wanted to get together in a new facility, but funding did not come together. The setback though has not slowed down the operations.
Nicole Chernish has been leading the charge at the gallery for the past three years or so and the many changes are part of their mandate to bring visual art to the community.
Nicole was brought up in Edmonton and met her husband at university. She graduated with a recreation administration degree and her partner graduated in geology. They worked in many communities complementing each other in their respective fields.
Nicole leaned towards the admin side in various museum and tourism venues until her dream job appeared. Nicole’s husband accepted a job with Hy-Tech Drilling in of all places, Smithers B.C. The Art Gallery position as manager just happened to be posted on arrival to town.
Funny how your karma can kick in once in a while. Though not an artist herself, her ability to work with people and achieve complementary goals made her a shoe-in and so began her process of bringing art to the people.
All organizations sit down and develop their mission statement with a comprehensive strategic plan. The gallery is no different.
“We have three commitments,” says Nicole. “First off, of course, is exhibitions. We have an annual call for artists, all styles of visual art. Our mandate demands accessibility to our space. We have an adjudication process but we reach out to everyone.
“Secondly, we want to provide support for artists. Art is an expression but it is also a career that needs to pay the bills. When an artist has a showing in an accredited facility they receive a designation. This designation can put the artist in line for various funding opportunities.
The Smithers Art Gallery is only one of a handful of northern galleries that are accredited.
The third commitment is Education.
“We have an Art space,” says Nicole, “The Creation Station, a facility across from the CN yard that has been provided by the Town of Smithers. Not only do we host art workshops in this space, we also provide drop-in studio space for artists.
“The Town and Regional District are our primary supporters. Without their commitment, which of course is the support of the people of our community through their taxes, the gallery would be struggling financially. We also receive funding from the B.C. Arts Council, the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest, the Rotary Project, B.V. Credit Union and B.C. Gaming.THER
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“We do have several corporate supporters including Nature’s Pantry, Calderwood Realty, All West Glass, Hy-Tech Drilling, Pretium Resources, Smithers Lumber, Babine Animal Hospital, Sheila Smith, Wetzin’kwa Family Medicine, B.V Wholesale, L.B. Paving, B.V. Insurance and Remax Realty.
“As you can see we do have tremendous community support. We also have our own initiatives including Wintergold and a happy return to our 6x6 community fundraiser. We operate our One of a Kind store in the gallery which is open year-round. From all sales we receive a 25 per cent commission.”
So, what does visual art actually encompass? I asked Nicole.
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“The scope is huge including, of course, paintings, art pieces with poetry, clay exhibits, copper needle felting, wood carvings, quilting and digital art. We are in the process of showing a gut exhibit with a dry leaf component that people can touch.”
Over the summer the gallery has free art activities Saturday mornings from 9-12.
“We also attend festivals and events around town. Summer camps run through July and August with bursaries available so anyone can participate. You make the Art and we show your creation. We have a perfect symbiotic relationship between the artist and the community. Please come in and see what we can do for you.”
Admission is free. Open Tuesdays through Fridays 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.