Artcraft opens with special annex exhibition

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Artcraft, the juried show and sale featuring Gulf Islands artists and artisans, opens with a new look for the 2020 season this Friday, July 10 and a special art exhibit called Creative Expressions taking place in the side annex gallery. 

The Salt Spring Arts Council reports Artcraft manager Sarah Hyams has been leading a team of volunteers over the past month to get the hall ready for the opening. Since more space is needed between displays to support physical distancing, the main exhibition will extend from the hall onto the stage. Gallery space is still available in the side room, however, and the first show of the season will showcase artworks created by people in the community with developmental disabilities. 

Stefanie Denz has been working with individuals from GIFTS, Choices and friends under the arts council’s Accessible Art Therapy Project, through grant funding by the Disability Alliance of British Columbia. The resulting exhibit, arranged with help from artist Talia Peckel, features 12 participants. It will show individual responses to therapeutic art exercises, and also a collection of works by each participant.

“Adults who are developmentally delayed are very much a minority, and they live in a very particular place in society,” Denz said. “Part of the grant is to help these people be more in the community and doing activities others get to participate in. It’s to give people with disabilities a sense of belonging and pride.”

Denz did a range of different exercises with the program’s participants, all of whom had different needs, challenges and abilities. Denz used many different materials and prompts for the imagination. For example, she had one person work with play dough to help get through problems with things that are sticky or gooey. 

“It’s a way of communicating and sharing. A lot of it is just about getting a response,” said Denz, adding all of the artwork produced is “fabulous.”

One participant really loved a few specific colours. Her careful use of brushstroke and application were all about choice and ownership, Denz said. For another person, each exercise provided the launching pad for an amazing story, which he conveyed through his caregiver. 

Working with people who are developmentally delayed may in turn have influenced Denz’s own process as an artist. She said she may be splashing around with colour more now, while a deeper impact could surface later on in future work.

“They’re inspiring for sure, and I’m always astounded at how much one gets out of that interaction,” she said.

Denz said she hopes to have an opening celebration sometime later in the month if pandemic restrictions continue to ease. For now, knowing their art is being seen by the community is an exciting event for all involved. 

“The visual explorations you might do in art therapy are not the same for the developmentally disabled, but a big part of what we do is recognize who they are,” Denz said. “The artwork reflects back who you are and when other people see it they recognize you as well.”

Artcaft will be open daily at Mahon Hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning on Friday. Creative Expressions can be seen during those hours through to Aug. 3. 

The Salt Spring Arts Council will be presenting a second show in association with the Disability Alliance of British Columbia featuring Lucky McEachern at the Switchboard Cafe. McEachern’s paintings will shown through July.

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