Last year, people continued to turn to art for light, joy, and inspiration even though the anxiety of the pandemic grew; not to mention the added stress from natural disasters caused by the climate crisis. These are the times when the voices of culture and creativity need to be heard most.

In 2021 The Campbell River Art Gallery welcomed Karver Everson, Nicole Crouch, Jake James, Kari Kristensen and Marni McMahan to explore the legacy of Campbell River’s beloved Sybil Andrews. Audiences who visited Finding Sybil: Contemporary Responses to Sybil Andrews had the benefit of learning about the icon through the embodied experiences of artists that introduced new ways of understanding her life and art. Each artist was represented in their own section, with photographs, quotations, and artworks of Sybil Andrews located throughout. The reading room contained objects that belonged to Andrews as well as the artwork of some of her students: a window into her life at the Willow Point cottage.

From March to November the Campbell River Art Gallery held a three-part exhibition series entitled Exploring Care. Each section aimed to consider one facet of the relationship between the ethics of taking care, taking care as related to art practices and professions, understanding different approaches to self-care, and being aware of the fatigue that results from IBPOC artists sharing their experiences and educating the public. The aim of the exhibition was to create a space of safety and knowledge, where people felt welcome to share their experiences and connect with others around issues pertinent to mental and physical well being. Contributing artists included: Shelley Vanderbyl and Lam Wong, Skeena Reece and Whess Harman, and Lindsay Dawn Dobbin and April Mary Lynn White.

From May to July, the aesthetic of the gallery became a rich dark blue to accent the gold highlights of Karen Tam’s solo show Autumn Tigers. In the work, she explored the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada through extensively researched and immersive installations. Autumn Tigers centres on the history of anti-Asian racism and Chinese culture on Vancouver Island, while celebrating the advocacy and resistance of contemporary Chinese communities.

The CRAG also took time in 2021 to reflect on their own permanent collection with the exhibition Representation. They asked how the story of the collection represents the ongoing history of art and culture in Campbell River and the remote communities it serves, and how can they do better at telling that story? This initiative is part of the ongoing work to adopt decolonizing practices and engage actively in reconciliation.

The final exhibition of 2021, examined humour as a tool for healing, activism, and open communication. Humour as Medicine featured the work of contemporary Indigenous artists Sonny Assu (Ligwiłda’xw), Lori Blondeau (Cree/Salteaux/Metis), and Hjalmer Wenstob (Nuu-chah-nulth) as they explore how humour can be a powerful coping mechanism for trauma and emotional distress. The exhibition was extremely well-received and attended, with visitors continually using words like “powerful,” “important” and “amazing.” We are grateful to have had the opportunity to host such an impactful show.

Campbell River Art Gallery, Humour as Medicine

Looking ahead to 2022, the Campbell River Art Gallery will continue to support artistic projects from under-represented positions within contemporary art practice and be a critical space for thinking, producing, and sharing knowledge about contemporary art and the issues it addresses within society.

Upcoming curated exhibitions include themes on the exploration of landscape as a metaphor for our internal worlds in the face of climate change and a global pandemic; a group exhibition that illuminates aspects of the Black experience in this country we call Canada; an artist commemorating the resilience and knowledge systems of her Muslim, South Asian mother and aunties. 

This year, the gallery and the Campbell River Arts Council are also celebrating the 40th Annual Members’ Show, opening on January 13th, featuring art by professional, amateur, newcomer and veteran artists in the community who live, work, and play right here in the mid-North Island region.

Last year’s success would not have been possible without the Campbell River Art Gallery’s dedicated volunteers, talented artists, committed staff and generous funders, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of British Columbia, the British Columbia Arts Council, the City of Campbell River, as well as to the many members and donors.

The Campbell River Art Gallery Team is grateful to be located on the unceded traditional territory of the Ligwiłda’xw people; the We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum, and Kwiakah First Nations, whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day. As uninvited guests to this territory, this acknowledgement is emblematic of the enduring relationships Indigenous communities have with this land and the commitment settlers have to defend the land when called upon to do so.