NIC fine art students expands skills, art

In the past two years, the 13 students in North Island College's fine arts diploma program Class of 2011 have learned a lot about themselves and about art, as they've expanded their skills and tried new things.

THESE FINE ARTS students at North Island College will exhibit their work next month at Courtenay's Muir Gallery.

In the past two years, the 13 students in North Island College’s fine arts diploma program Class of 2011 have learned a lot about themselves and about art, as they’ve expanded their skills and tried new things.

And now, they’re ready to share what they’ve done with the community in next month’s Fine Arts Graduation Exhibition at the Muir Gallery.

Thirteen NIC fine arts diploma students will display their works during the Fine Arts Graduation Exhibition May 6 to 21 at the Muir Gallery at 440 Anderton Ave. in downtown Courtenay.

Rima Mara, who is from Tofino, is one of the graduates who will exhibit her work. She has loved the program at NIC.

“It’s been awesome,” she said. “It has refined all of my skills, aside from opening my mind up to many different ways of being creative. One of the best things, in my opinion, is the fact there are these big studios and lots of equipment to be used. They have an excellent ceramics department as well.”

By far, Mara’s favourite parts of the program were screen printing, etching and drawing.

To her surprise, she also enjoyed the more academic aspects of the program.

“As much as I hate writing essays and studying, art history was invaluable as far as education, utterly invaluable,” she said. “I’d say the same thing about philosophy of art; it’s been amazing and opened my eyes to different ways of thinking about art. We had an excellent teacher as well.”

Mara is excited but nervous about the upcoming exhibition.

“Any time you put your art on display … my feelings are, ‘Oh God, I hope no one shows up’ and then ‘What if no one shows up?'” she said.

Mara is excited for the Fine Arts Graduation Exhibition because it will showcase the students’ individual styles.

“There’s a really interesting variety of different artists in my grad class with very different strengths, so you’re going to see a variety of different types of creations, which should be really cool,” she said.

Anita Van Holderbeke moved to the Comox Valley after spending many years up north. She started taking evening courses and decided to go for the fine arts degree now that her children are all grown up.

Van Holderbeke considers the NIC fine arts program “phenomenal.”

“Without the program, I think I would’ve been stuck in one certain area, not understanding what I did,” she said. “I’m an intuitive painter. Coming to the course, you learn a lot of history, and you learn a lot of technique. You also grow so much that you don’t just do one area. You get a full, round education that is technique-based.”

Van Holderbeke has enjoyed the chance to try different techniques and use different equipment, as there are many evenings when the studios are open for students to try new things.

“The more you work, the better your skills become,” she said. “It’s really high-quality education. The instructors are very, very good, and they have time. In this school, the instructors have time and take a personal interest in what you do. They’re able to give critiques and help you grow in different areas. Our library is excellent.”

Van Holderbeke, who works mostly in painting and ceramics, is excited about the exhibition.

“We have an excellent group this year,” she said. “We work really well together and communicate together, and we get so excited about creating. This exhibition, for most of us, is more of a grad for us than going with our gown and caps.”

Tonja Bjermeland was a graphic designer in Port Hardy before she moved to the Comox Valley last year for the NIC program.

She will continue with the degree program, most likely part-time because she has a five-year-old child.

“This is a wonderful grad class,” she said. “Everyone is really good friends. In the last year, we’ve really grown close, and we’re a really close family. The teachers are really great, too, really supportive and understanding. They are compassionate when you have a sick child. It’s like a community.”

In the past two years, Bjermeland has really enjoyed ceramics and painting.

“I really love art, and I’ve always been an artist,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me to do a desk job. You think you know yourself, but you definitely find yourself. (The instructors) basically make you find yourself, and they push you to it, and it’s a really good thing.”

She has been very impressed by the instructors, particularly drawing teacher Linda Perron.

“She’s really great at giving constructive criticism and helping you get your personal style,” she said. “She really looks at what you’re good at and what your strengths are and gives you advice accordingly. She gives you the hints that I feel are most strength-building.”

Mara, Van Holderbeke, Bjermeland and the other students will be on hand to meet the public during an opening reception for the Fine Arts Graduation Exhibition May 6 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The Muir Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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