In 2008, Susie Moscovich received a phone call from then-executive-director of the Campbell River Art Gallery, Jeanette Taylor.
Moscovich and her husband had started a music scholarship, and Taylor knew she was a dedicated supporter of the arts, “so she called and asked me if I knew where she could get funding for a student to take an art class that summer,” Moscovich says.
The ask was for $67.
“And I said, ‘you don’t have $67 in your budget for a kid to take an art class?’”
So Moscovich just covered that cost, but it got her thinking.
“My mother was an artist, she worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, she taught art, I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life. And I thought, all these museums and galleries and everything have a ‘friends of,’ that help them out. Why don’t we have one?”
So she started one.
They called it, predictably enough, Friends of the Campbell River Art Gallery (CRAG).
They set a $150 fee to join – 100 per cent of which would go towards supporting the art galleries initiatives and programs – but knew that in order to gain membership, there would have to be some kind of benefit to membership over and above community philanthropy.
Moscovich remembered a lady from back in her time in Minnesota, when her mother was working for the Minneapolis Institute of Art, who would take members of their “friends of” group on trips as a benefit of membership.
“I mean, her trips were to places like Egypt and Rome, so I knew that wouldn’t quite be ‘Campbell River,’ but I knew we could take some great little trips.
Why don’t we do that?
We could provide some really, really neat art-related events for people as benefits for joining.”
So every year, members of the group, besides helping the art gallery, get to go on at least one art-related trip, “that features something that you can’t do on your own.”
They started by heading to Victoria after setting up a private tour of the Asian Collection at the Victoria Art Gallery with the curator, a few studio tours and artist visits that aren’t accessible to the general public, stayed in a nice hotel overnight and had a nice dinner.
They’ve since gone over to Vancouver, Saltspring Island, down to Seattle, did a quick hop over to Quadra to tour some studios, and even set up tours of art studios right here in Campbell River and the Comox Valley that people wouldn’t normally have access to.
“It’s all organized for people, so all they have to worry about is getting in the car to go where we’re going and get out of the car when they get back.”
Mainly, Moscovich says, she just wants to encourage a love of art, in general.
“Another thing I’m trying to promote is, for God’s sake, don’t put a poster on your wall. Support a local artist. Spend whatever you can afford, but if that’s only $25, go buy a sketch from a local artist or something and put that up. Buy real art. The whole thing with this group is to foster a love for art, introduce them to artists, and just help people understand and appreciate art a little more, in a way that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
She gets a lot of comments from people who express interest in joining the group along the lines of “but I’m not an artist, so I probably wouldn’t get much out of it,” which she says couldn’t be further from the truth.
“This isn’t for artists,” Moscovich continues.
“I mean, it’s great if you are, I guess, but it’s not about that. It’s about, ‘do you like art?’ I don’t think we have any artists in the group.
“I can’t even draw a stick figure, I just love being surrounded by art as often as I can and want other people to have that feeling, too.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Friends of CRAG can contact Moscovich by email at firstname.lastname@example.org