To engage, enhance, and inspire cultural vitality through collaboration, leadership, and service
The Gabriola Arts Council—like many great grassroots initiatives—was conceived around a kitchen table by a group of committed community workers and artists. They understood that the arts community on Gabriola could be better served by a formal organization working towards common goals, and so in April 1997 Festival Gabriola Society was formally registered. The goals were to create events and opportunities for “shared artistic experience” in the community.
In 2006, the name was changed to Gabriola Arts Council. For more than twenty years, the board (80 directors in 20 years!), the members, and a dedicated volunteer force have been supporting, presenting, and creating art on Gabriola. GAC’s active membership has continued to grow, and has more than tripled since 2012 with a current list of more than 500 members. The volunteer efforts of the board are now supported by full- and part-time staff, and numerous freelance and contract workers.
Arts are essential to community and individual development—both social and economic. The Gabriola Arts Council, through dynamic programs and events, makes a significant contribution to the local economy—hundreds of visitors are drawn to the Island each year to participate in festivals and events, creating income-generating opportunities for artists, as well as for local businesses.
The Thanksgiving Studio Tour has been the key visual arts event on Gabriola more than 21 years. One of the most extensive studio tours in the Pacific Northwest, in 2017 the Tour featured almost 90 artists at more than 60 studios, and attracted hundreds of visitors from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and beyond.
GAC hosts additional annual events: Isle of the Arts Festival in April, Gabriola Theatre Festival in August, and in 2017 presented a new Music Festival in September, while managing a year-round Healing Power of Arts program and a Youth Engagement Initiative. GAC also co-manages a Youth Artist in Residence program in partnership with the Haven, while participating in numerous community-wide projects and initiatives.
In September 2014, the Gabriola Women’s Institute donated a heritage building to GAC (one of Gabriola’s original one-room schoolhouses). A thorough upgrade and renovation project has resulted in a high-quality, multipurpose community and performance space. The building, re-named the Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre, is also the administrative headquarters for GAC.
The Gabriola Arts Council’s future is bright, as more artists in all disciplines make Gabriola home, and more arts lovers, supporters, and consumers embrace the great Gabriola art vibe.
Gabriola Arts Society
Visual artists, writers, musicians, and supporters formed Gabriola Arts Society—memorably acronymed as GAS—in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Offering mutual support and inspiration, members also sponsored workshops, exhibitions, and special events (such as observation of National Book Week), with the additional intention of community outreach (including organizing of the first community Christmas Dinner, now the Spirit Feast).
GAS produced the precursor to the Studio Tour: Artmap Gabriola Island: Studio Guide to Artists & Artisans, featuring numerous local artists, some who are still participating in the annual Tour. As new organizations evolved, GAS dissolved, but the spirit of the work they did infuses and inspires the Gabriola arts community to this day.
Gabriola Inspired: Isle of Many Arts
Every day is a celebration of the arts in this community of writers, actors, poets, painters, dancers, musicians, sculptors, and potters. According to a 2011 study conducted on behalf of Canada Council for the Arts, Gabriola Island ranks sixth across Canada with respect to concentration of artists in the local workforce (5.8% compared to the national average of 0.8%). Gabriola also enjoys substantial participation in the arts from non-professionals at all ages, interests, and skill levels. Artists are key to the island’s cultural, economic, and social fabric.
What is it about this island that has inspired, nurtured, supported, and bred so much creativity? Which came first, the creativity or the creators? Is it in the water? The forest trails? The artist’s studio on every corner? The question was put to local artists. Answers varied—given the diversity of art and artists, we wouldn’t expect just one response. But common themes emerged:
Artists breed more artists (sometimes literally!)—this supportive community of creators includes many inspirational teachers, mentors, and muses. Steve Cole, stone carver and multimedia artist, says, “It’s acceptable to be an artist here; it feels good to be surrounded by art and artists who understand how you think.”
This island is chock-a-block full of creatives, many of whom have made a conscious choice to live more simply and in tune with not only the natural world, but their own creative muses. —Sheila Norgate, Painter & Performance Artist
Spectacular natural beauty is also a powerful force, not only as subject matter but also in the creative space it helps to create and nurture, and the peace—and peace of mind—that comes from spending time in nature. Writer Dede Gaston says, “Nature and art seem to go hand in hand.”
Nature has always moved me with its beauty and its palpable sense of the sacredness of life, and these inform my art. —Ali Hosein, Multimedia Artist
For some, with nature comes solitude—a quiet but prevailing force, a sanctuary in which art can happen, even alongside and within an active community of artists. Painter Antoinette Herivel says: “I appreciate small community life and the quiet to do the work I want to do.”
The quiet pace encourages productivity … the access to constant, uninterrupted beauty is inspiring, and a solace when the work is hard. —Frank Moher, Actor & Director
It’s arguable, but it can be said that art thrives with an appreciative, knowledgeable audience. Gabriola audiences—for theatre, music, visual art, and every other creative endeavour—are enthusiastic, generous, engaged. That magnificent conversation between artist and audience—described as “a circular exchange of energy”—has been another nurturing force for artist development and expression.
Gabriola audiences tend to be positive, smart, curious, enthusiastic, charismatic, open, bold, and charming. … Performing for a Gabriola audience is a uniquely fulfilling and affirming experience. —Kathy McIntyre, Musician & Actor
street address: 476 South Road
mailing address: P.O. Box 387
Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X0