It’s been a dozen years or so since the City of Campbell River declared April 19 as Sybil Andrews Day, and every year since the public has gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of this amazing woman who made Campbell River her home in her final years.
This year, Sybil Andrews Day also happened to fall on Good Friday, but the cottage that bears her name in Willow Point still opened its doors to recognize her and her husband Walter Morgan’s impact – especially on the local arts community.
Coun. Colleen Evans, who was in attendance representing the City of Campbell River as acting mayor, says Andrews’ influence on the community is definitely something worth celebrating.
“We really value what Sybil Andrews means to this community,” Evans says. “Even though she wasn’t born here, her legacy, through all the work she did here and the connections she made, that impact is still something that we feel today and it’s something that will be here for generations to come.”
Evans also took the opportunity to update the community on the work being done on Walter’s studio. Funding was first announced back in early 2016 for the rehabilitation of the shed behind the cottage where Walter did his work, but the project didn’t truly get started in earnest until last year, when work began on the internal framework and structural stability of the building.
“Now that the work to the internal support framework is complete, we’ll now start the heritage restoration,” Evans says. “That includes the refurbishing of the doors, restoration of the windows, and replacement of the siding as required – that’s something that until we really get in there working we won’t know exactly how much of that is going to have to be replaced.”
The city will also be installing proper drainage in the perimeter of the facility.
Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council, which calls the cottage home, says it looks to him like the work is on track and he is extremely excited for the project to be complete so they can start working on creating an artist-in-residence program and putting the studio to work for the community.
Blackburn says the studio is broken up into three distinct sections. One has been traditionally used for storage for the Arts Council – and will continue to be used for that – but the other two are to become areas that will serve the arts sector.
“The front section, with the big doors that open up to the beach, that will become – as it has historically been – a community workshop space, and will become a very popular place for doing art projects and community-based workshops with kids, for example,” Blackburn says. “And then hopefully the interior space will become a workable studio for an artist so we can start up the artist-in-residence program we’ve been talking about for some time now.”
The Arts Council is hoping to welcome the public into the studio for the first time “post-refurbishment” this fall during a festival that will celebrate the relationship between arts and the environment in September, working alongside Greenways Land Trust and the City of Campbell River. More information on that event will be released shortly, but he says “it will definitely serve to highlight not only some of the challenges that we’re facing as a community and society, but also what a remarkable community this is.”
This Sybil Andrews Day was also the first such occasion where Sybil’s graphic Novel, See With Your Own Eyes, was available for sale.
“I think we had two Sybil Andrews Days where we said we’d be launching it and the book wasn’t ready,” Blackburn says. “We missed last year’s by just a few weeks, but it’s finally here.”
After the official speeches and recognition of those involved in making the day what it has become, those in attendance were treated to a cake decorated with an image of Walter’s studio, donated by Thrifty Foods, and coffee or tea, as many continued to share stories and fond remembrances of the couple well into the afternoon.