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Growing arts and artists in the Comox Valley

The Comox Valley Digital Creation Hub featuring Caresse Nadeau and DJ Resonant Dogg. Caresse Nadeau photo

The Comox Valley Community Arts Council is listening, engaging the public, and growing the arts in the Comox Valley.

The 55-year-old organization is one of the Comox Valley’s oldest non-profit groups. It’s best known for promoting arts and artists across the Valley, in partnership with businesses, government and non-profit organizations.

With a mission to champion the artistic vitality of the Comox Valley, the Council creates the Central Island Arts Guide and an annual regional studio tour, produces a directory of Comox Valley artist studios, maintains an event calendar, and provides art experiences and community engagement at events around town.

In recent years, it has also been an incubator, innovator and community builder, thanks in part to the Comox Valley Community Foundation.

Take, for example, the A School, a professional development program exclusively for artists, made possible through vital operating grants from the Community Foundation. The program provides a community of practice for early career artists to connect, learn and develop their skill sets, outside of the art school setting. Emerging artists can access tools and structures that allow them to grow their practice and learn how to operate as a small business, said Jennifer Casey, the Council’s executive director.

“Initial surveys say it’s making a huge difference,” Casey said. “Artists are building skills to be able to be able to market their work in new ways, that’s a huge benefit to the community.”

Likewise, its low-cost Digital Creation Hub offers a space for artists to access the digital tools for artmaking. The equipment, software and studio reduce financial and technical barriers and gives artists a head start in marketing and promoting their work.

“You come in and somebody’s there to hold your hand and walk you through it, and you end up with a product that you can then use as an artist to elevate your practice.”

In addition, CV/Arts runs an adjudicated art show at the Comox Valley Airport that highlights regional artists, turning the terminal into a cultural space. It also runs festivals that bring art to the public streets, 30-day drawing challenges and partnerships with community organizers that bring arts programming to existing events.

New this year is the Art Wagon, a colourful trailer that CV/Arts is transforming into a mobile art centre. The aim is to provide programming that travels to schools and areas of the Valley that don’t necessarily have access to traditional art galleries. The Council launched a fundraising campaign in April to fulfill this vision and provide programming dollars to support the Art Wagon in its debut season.

While the Council has previously focused on broad services, CV/Arts is working to ensure programs “go deep” and speak to community-relevant values and conversations.

Last summer, in partnership with community groups, they presented the video installation, Go Fish, by artists Scott Smith and Nettie Wild on Hornby and Denman Island, which 2,400 people attended.

“We’re building from this momentum and applying for funds to offer an annual Arts and Land Festival that works with artists and brings those two connections together,” Casey said.

The activity is designed to be community facing, discussion provoking and engaging.

“The Arts Council is all about community. We do community-engaged projects,” Casey said. Our work is for the public. We think about providing access to arts and culture to everybody.”

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