From left to right: Heather Hughson, Nadia Reiger, Eiko Jones, Penny Gosselin, Shelly Humble and Alyssa Penner make up the board of directors for Patrons of the Arts (POTA), the new group that has formed in an attempt to support the local visual and performing arts scene. Submitted photo

New group looks to boost the arts in Campbell River

Patrons of the Arts wants to see more paid opportunities for artists to show and sell their work

A group of dedicated local arts supporters has come together to form an organization to further that cause.

Patrons of the Arts, or POTA as the organization is coining itself, was initially just a casual discussion around a table over coffee about the desire for there to be more paid opportunities for local artists, but soon morphed into concrete action to actually create those opportunities.

“We just thought, instead of just wishing there were more places for artists to show and sell their work around town, why don’t we actually do something to make that happen?” says POTA chair Penny Gosselin.

At first, the group thought they would model the organization on the “100 Women Who Care” initiative, where 100 or more local women all chip in $100 per year, creating at least a $10,000 donation that is given out as grants to local organizations as a way to make a positive difference within the community.

Only POTA’s grants would be focused on the arts.

“It has kind of eveolved away from the granting idea since we started talking about it, though,” says director and local photographer Eiko Jones. “We got to thinking, in order to avoid conflicts of interest or the perception of favouratism or anything, we’d move towards providing venues and opportunities for artists rather than just cutting cheques to them to do whatever they want with.”

Gosselin says the development of the organization and how it would work happened the same way as the initial idea: organically.

It just made sense. But even so, when she started talking to local business people and organizations to gauge the interest in being a part of it, she was still a bit taken aback by the amount of positive response she was getting.

“It sort of took on a life of its own, and everyone we talked to was just saying, ‘wow, this is exactly what we need here in Campbell River,’” Gosselin says. “I have to admit I was truly, truly amazed at the enthusiasm we were encountering. I guess it was just the right thing at the right time.”

Jones says, as a practicing artist himself, he knows first hand the struggle artists have in making ends meet – and he’s one of the more successful ones. It’s becoming more and more common, he says, to see the artists themselves putting forward more and more of the money that is being made in the art world in the hopes of getting some in return.

“There’s millions of dollars being made from art, but it’s being made off the artists themselves,” he says. “The artist pays to get their stuff printed and produced – so the printers make money – the artist pays to ship their stuff to the show – so the couriers make money – and the artist pays to enter the show – so the show organizers make money, but but the artists are the ones that are putting most of it in.”

So that’s what the group is trying to address – at a local level, anyway.

“We wanted to create opportunities to get artists actually paid to show their work,” says director Heather Hughson. “A lot of times, if you want to show your work somewhere you have to pay to have it hung or pay for the space and then pay commission, as well.

“We wanted to create events where the artists themselves weren’t the ones paying to show their work.”

For their first event, the team has partnered up with the City of Campbell River and the Campbell River Garden Club to place artists in the annual Garden Tour, happening July 7 and 8 this year.

They will then be doing Zentangle at the River City Arts Festival on July 20 and hosting a fancy soiree in the lobby of the museum in September.

“That one is going to be amazing,” Gosselin says. “We’re going to have four to six different artists who work in various mediums – painters, sculptors, photographers, etc. – unveiling new work that night that will be tying into the tree theme that is going on in other projects around town this year.”

Then there’s the biggie, Gosselin says.

The organization’s major fundraiser for 2019 will be their Wearable Art Fashion Show at the Tidemark Theatre Oct. 5.

“It’s a juried show, and we’re going to pull out all the stops,” Gosselin says. “I’ve already been talking to Jim Kent (managing director of the Tidemark) about building a runway from the stage that goes out over the seats. It’s going to be spectacular.”

But aside from planning events and giving local artists more opportunities to show their work, Gosselin and the team are focused on just one thing: fun.

“We want to celebrate art, and we want everyone to be involved,” she says. “The art world has, historically, been a little hoity-toity, and we’re knocking that down and opening it up to everyone.

“At least, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

An annual membership to be part of the organization is $120 (which includes an annual membership in the Campbell River Arts Council) and entitles members to exclusive events and benefits, as well as first crack at tickets to events that are open to the public.

$100 of the membership is also tax deductable.

For more on POTA, to purchase a membership to help them support local artists, to apply to be a part of the wearable art show or to plan to be at any of their upcoming events – some of which will be exclusively for membership holders – head online to pota.ca or find them on Facebook.

You can also contact Gosselin directly at pgosselin53@gmail.com

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