Pirjo Raits | Contributor
“You’ve only got one chance to make it work,” was the advice Elida Peers got when she and her committee opened the first Sooke Fine Arts Show in 1986.
On July 28, the longest running art show on Vancouver Island will open for 11 days. Celebrating its 31st anniversary, the Sooke Fine Arts Show has drawn tens of thousands of art lovers to the show over the years.
It all began in 1986 during Expo 86. The government was asking communities to plan events during Expo and as the Sooke Region Museum was already holding art shows in the upper gallery, they decided to try something a bit larger.
Peers was at the forefront of a committee dedicated to producing a show. She said she had some good advice and she listened to it. It worked and 31 years later the show draws on what went before proving that a small community with dedicated volunteers can make big things happen.
This year’s show is being created under the capable hands of Christa Rossner. Rossner is an artist in her own right and came to the position of executive director after serving as administrative coordinator for the show.
“It is fun, invigorating, challenging and also heartwarming because everybody is participating and doing so with such generosity and they love what they do,” said Rossner.
Rossner has put in thousands of hours on different arts organizations and brings a wealth of artistic experience to the position.
“I’ve hit the best job of my life. It is hard work and many late hours but it’s just that excitement knowing we’re building something.”
Each year the show comes together through a 1,000 successful events and things happen at warp speed, said Rossner.
What isn’t at warp speed is the time taken by the jurors to select the world of art for the show. There were 1,300 entries and the jurors whittled it down to the best 375.
The jurors were Richard Hunt, a multi-disciplinary artist recognized by the Royal Academy of Arts; Carol Koebbeman, a contemporary portrait and figurative painter and teacher; and Jock Hildebrand a passionate sculptor, painter and champion of the arts.
This year’s show, said Rossner, features more traditional work and more fibre art. She said 95 per cent of the work submitted was high quality but unfortunately they cannot take it all. The jurors look for work that is inspirational, thought provoking and well executed. The selected works are meant to be a window on the world.
On July 16, the jurors will meet in person for the first time and select the works worthy of awards. There will be $12,000 in awards given to artists.
“The jurors are so excited, they are art lovers and the vast majority of those works are brilliant,” said Rossner.
For those whose work was not included in the 2017 show, there is an opportunity to attend a lecture by juror Carol Koebbeman who will discuss the jurying process and what helps to gain entry into juried art shows. Information on her lecture will be available on the Sooke Fine Arts Show website (www.sookefinearts.com) as well as other artist demonstrations and talks.
Of importance are young artists and they will have a professionally designed gallery to showcase their work. Students from Edward Milne Community School, Royal Bay and Belmont will see their work framed thanks to a donation from Sooke Rotary.
Transforming the 16,000 square foot SEAPARC arena into an art gallery is a monstrous task and hundreds of volunteers help make it happen. Under the auspices of show designer Alan Graves, the design team will select pieces looking for colour, shape form and texture to create an easy flow throughout the gallery.
Volunteers have always made events happen in Sooke and the dedicated folks who work for the Sooke Fine Arts Show are very appreciated and are the foundation of the show. But as people move onto other things, more volunteers are needed. Young people are encouraged to get involved and contribute to the show’s success as well as their own skill sets.
People are needed in most aspects of the show, from set up to take down, and everything in-between. Interested volunteers can book four-hour shifts. Jo Russell and Gail Young are the two volunteer coordinators and they can be reached through the SFA office at 250-642-7256, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Some volunteers set aside the summer, they love it and being in an environment surrounded by art,” said Rossner.
She said it is also a wonderful way for newcomers to get involved in the community and meet new people of like mind.
“We live in a world where art thrives because of the beauty of our environment, this is world-class Island art.”
The show attracts more than 8,500 visitors to Sooke and helps drive the economy during the show’s duration. Adding to the art on display will be music, lectures, special events for children and seniors, a bistro, ever popular gallery gift shop and daily live artist demonstrations. The Purchaser’s Preview night happens on July 27 from 7 to 10 p.m.; Artz4Kidz on Aug. 1 from 2 to 4 p.m., and also Artz4Youth performances on Aug. 1 from 4 to 7 p.m.; and Seniors’ Teas on Aug. 2 and 3.