By Beth Boyce
How many of you know that Campbell River was once the home of a world famous artist?
Her name was Sybil Andrews, and she called Campbell River home for over 40 years. Although she lived simply, she had a big impact on our local art scene.
Sybil emigrated to Campbell River from Great Britain after the Second World War and settled with her husband in a small blue cottage on the beach in Willow Point.
That cottage today is the only building on the City of Campbell River’s heritage registry and is the current home of the Campbell River Arts Council.
Sybil was a world renowned artist whose linocut prints are highly sought after today. One would never have known this to meet her, she lived quietly in her cottage and taught weekly art lessons for a very modest fee per session.
She would have classes in the cottage, always accompanied by a good cup of tea, and would take her students on sketching field trips all around town. Numbered amongst her students are some pretty remarkable artists working in the art world today. Her legacy continues in England where a new school named for her has just recently opened in Bury St Edmunds, Sybil Andrews’ home town.
When I started working at the museum here in Campbell River, I was delighted to learn that we had some of her artwork in our collection. But my next question was, why?
The Museum at Campbell River is a human history museum, it states explicitly in our mandate and collection policy that we do not collect works of fine art, so why did we have a small collection of artworks produced by Sybil?
When Sybil offered to donate some of her artwork to the museum this was a question that the museum staff at the time was asking themselves too. Although I was not there, I have heard that there was a heated debate amongst the acquisition committee members about whether or not the museum should accept any pieces.
In the end it was Sybil’s role as a teacher in the community and her habit of taking her students on sketching trips all over town that cinched her inclusion in the museum collection.
All of the artworks collected by the museum, mostly sketches, depict familiar scenes of Campbell River, and document a specific point in time in this community.
In many cases we have historic photographs that show the same scene. As former museum director Lesia Davis wrote, these images are “a part of our visual legacy as seen through an artist’s eye.”
In addition to her artwork, the museum has collected some artifacts associated with Sybil and her husband Walter and their life here in Campbell River. The legacy of Sybil continues as we have just recently received a collection of materials from one of her most prominent students, Richard Calver, including many of Sybil’s belongings that had been passed on to him.
Selections from the Museum’s Sybil collection can be seen in our most recent temporary exhibition Sybil Andrews in Campbell River which opened on Friday, March 17, 2017 and continues until Sunday, May 28, 2017, where locals can learn a little bit more about this amazing woman and artist who called our community home.