Walter Morgan Studio will host its first full artist-in-residence.
“It has always been our plan to make the Walter Morgan Studio back into a useful space for community arts,” says Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council, “and we’ve finally gotten there.”
Blackburn is speaking, of course, about the launch of the latest artist residency at the studio, located on the Sybil Andrews Cottage property in Willow Point.
While two local artists – Libby King and Orland Hansen – did residencies in the space last summer, they were short stints designed to gauge the feasibility of hosting an artist in the space for a longer-term project.
Those “few-week” residencies, Blackburn says, paved the way for local photographer Sarmad Al Mouallem this summer.
Al Mouallem will be basing his photography practice out of the studio for four months, and says he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity.
“I was educated in renewable energy engineering, but when I came to Canada, I knew what I really wanted to do was my art,” Al Mouallem says. “I mean, it’s what I wanted to do back home, but sometimes you don’t have those choices.”
He hopes that in taking on the residency, he can both take the time to explore his own artistic methods and practices, as well as give back to the community that has given him so much over the past six years.
“I love street photography and personal portraitures, so when we were discussing the residency, we talked about how I could explore photographing other local artists, as well as look at the town and some of its issues,” he says. “I might be based out of this space, but my studio is everywhere. It’s wherever I am at any time. I love that.”
In working with – and photographing – other local artists, he says, he might be able to get them some additional exposure, as well. No pun intended.
And that’s not the only way he’ll be giving back. On Aug. 15, he’s running a workshop out of the studio where he will teach people how to use their camera better – whatever that camera might be.
“We all have cell phones in our pockets all the time, and we all take photos with them,” he says. “But do you know how to make it take the best photos it can? Do you know how to look at light and consider framing a photograph to tell the best story in one frozen instant? These are things I can help you with and I’m happy to do that.”
There is also an open house reception planned for Sept. 18 where the public will be invited to see the work Al Mouallem has been producing over the course of the residency, which Blackburn, at least, is excited to see.
“I think it’s important for a community to look at itself through a different lens once in a while,” Blackburn says. “It can be very easy to see things the way you’ve always seen them, but to have someone like Sarmad, who is relatively new to town, not only bring a fresh perspective but also capture it and show it to us, is really an opportunity we should relish.”