Comox Valley Art Gallery exhibits plenty of local artists

Dear editor,

This letter is in response to the letter posted by Brian Scott (Record, Jan. 30) entitled CVAG not showing locals.

Dear editor,

This letter is in response to the letter posted by Brian Scott (Record, Jan. 30) entitled CVAG not showing locals.

Scott’s letter demonstrates a misunderstanding of the gallery’s mandate, function and of its role in supporting/exhibiting local artists. The Comox Valley Art Gallery has a mandate to exhibit art as a public gallery in the same way that the Vancouver and Victoria Art Galleries do, albeit on a different scale.

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) exhibits art from all over the world and from various time periods. I’d find it quite odd if the VAG exhibited only Vancouver artists.

By definition in Canada, public art galleries are classified as museums, although the term art museum is more commonly used in the USA.

Another important distinction to make is that while commercial galleries focus on the sales of art to make a profit, museums focus on education, enrichment and exploration of culture.

To set the record straight, the Comox Valley Art Gallery is a regional public art gallery dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and celebrating emergent contemporary art practice. This includes facilitating art education and critical conversation and presenting programming that encourages an ongoing exploration of the arts and their role in shaping and clarifying our culture.

We do this in a welcoming and engaging environment where all visitors and participants are invited to examine, challenge, and transform their understanding of the world around them.

Exhibition criteria:

• We welcome applications from any artists, local to international, interested in exhibiting in any of our three exhibition spaces. The selection process (and mandates of our three gallery spaces) is clearly at Exhibitions feature artwork by local, national and international artists.

• The George Sawchuk Gallery provides opportunities to students and artists with little or no exhibition experience.

• The Community Gallery is dedicated exclusively to work that emphasizes local and regionally relevant art.

• The Contemporary Gallery exhibits work by professional artists. The Canada Council for the Arts defines a professional artist as someone who “has specialized training in the artistic field (not necessarily in academic institutions); is recognized as a professional by his or her peers; is committed to devoting more time to the artistic activity, if possible; and has a history of public presentation.”

Many people in our local community are classified as professional artists, and their work is often programmed in the Contemporary Gallery. In fact, Brian Scott had a solo retrospective exhibition of his work in November 2009, in the Contemporary Gallery.

Some stats:

Counter to Scott’s assertion that the Comox Valley Art Gallery does not exhibit the work of local artists we provide the following information:

• In 2010, 104 local artists’ work was exhibited, 24 provincial/national.

• In 2011, 72 local artists’ work was exhibited, 16 provincial/national.

• In 2012, 75 local artists were exhibited; 12 provincial/national.

• In 2013, we project 80 to 100 local artists will be exhibited, 20 provincial/national, 1 international. Two of the six major exhibitions offered in the Contemporary Gallery in 2013 feature local artists.

• Local artists are included in each exhibition series (this means that there will always be a local artist on display).

• The work of over 100 local artists is sold on an ongoing basis in our gift shop including Brian Scott’s work.

So, contrary to Scott’s assertion, the CVAG serves local artists well, but I think that when he argues that the Muir Gallery is the only venue in the Valley aside from the CVAG, he is forgetting about venues other than the Muir in which local artists exhibit and sell their work such as the Pearl Ellis Gallery in Comox, Corre Alice in Cumberland, Art Alchemy and the Potter’s Place in Courtenay. Numerous artists also sell their work from their studios and galleries, many reside in Tin Town.

In regards to “attracting tourists to downtown Courtenay using our local talents,” CVAG is in ongoing partnership with the City of Courtenay, the Downtown Business Improvement Association and the Elevate the Arts Consortium (this is a short list of our partner organizations) in the continuing efforts to culturally enrich our Comox Valley community.

The current show in the Contemporary Gallery, In the Presence of Absence, features sculptures and installations by Heather Thomas, an instructor of Fine Arts at GP Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay. Come see the show, entry is free.  The Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 to 5.

Roger J.G. Albert

Editor’s note: Roger Albert is president of the comox Valley Art Gallery.

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