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  • Gage Gallery’s community project will leave an important record of unprecedented times

    Kate Cino

    A TINY VIRUS WE CAN'T SEE has stopped the world in its tracks. We are now afraid to go out and mingle and worried about our future. Enter the Gage Gallery Arts Collective with an innovative project to keep us busy during stressful times. The Gage Gallery in Oak Bay delights in engaging community. The 18-member ever-evolving collective promotes art and culture through a variety of innovative programming. As well as regular exhibitions, the spacious gallery hosts art talks, poetry readings, musical events and demonstrations

    The Gage Gallery COVID-19 Community Project aims to “Challenge Crisis with Creativity.” While the world deals with self-isolation and social distancing, this project aims to connect us through artistic expression. Community members, including those who don’t consider themselves “artists,” are invited to join in. All ages and abilities are invited to draw, paint, sculpt, write or photograph their personal experiences of the global pandemic. Each week “Challenge Crisis with Creativity” offers a new theme.

    The themes offer focus, and photos of the artworks are placed on the Gage website. Themes so far include: Social Distancing; Can’t Stop the Spring; and Thankful for…



    Untitled,  by Margret Fincke



    "I feel like I'm just waiting" by Beverly Jean Hancock



    "Musical Paintings" by Calla Cowan



    "Bacon Family Heart" by Sarah, Michael, Eli, Nate and Josh Bacon



    "I am thankful for my neighbour's four-legged friends who are keeping me company" by Elizabeth Carefoot



    "Connecting while Physically Distanced" by Diane MacDonald


    The genesis of this great idea came from three artists: Deborah Leigh, Tanya Bub and Gabriela Hirt. Their group show called Inside Out, originally scheduled for April 2020, was to encourage community members to share their inner workings on paper.

    The concept morphed into the COVID-19 Community Project when Inside Out was postponed due to the pandemic. Response has been strong, and Gage Gallery hopes to publish a book and have a post-COVID exhibition of selected submissions.

    The book and exhibition are curated by Ashley Riddett, who receives and posts the weekly submissions. Riddett is a graduate student in the Art History and Visual Studies program at the University of Victoria. “We’ve received many interesting and heartfelt artworks,” she says.  After the initial shock wore off, Riddett saw people reflecting and responding with great clarity. As a researcher, the grad student appreciates the archival merit of the project. “These submissions are an important record of unprecedented times,” she says.

    Artist Gabriela Hirt, who has a background in journalism, also sees a wealth of information in these visual stories. “Once the gallery reopens,” she says, “we can share our experiences during the initial weeks.”

    Meanwhile, the collective is financially able to pay the rent while staying busy at home. Plans for the future percolate within this energetic group of idea-people. The gallery is doing rotating “window shows” and recently launched an on-line store on their website. Being active on social media helps spread the news and keep people interested. “We know this is a tough time for people,” Hirt says, “but we have each other and keep on track by sharing ideas and staying positive.”

    Visit the online gallery to see what people have submitted so far.

    Kate Cino has run www.artopenings.ca for over 10 years, and has written about the arts in Victoria for even longer.

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