A new arts council for the westside

SWAC arts council

For the last four months since Westside Culture Days, this has been the focus of much of my time.  I am proud to be part of an outstanding, motivated and active team who cares about our community and wants to make a positive impact here on the westside. I hope you join us and be part of this ground breaking organization that joins aboriginal and non aboriginal, business, artists and governments working together side by side.  Come to our public launch, a luncheon during Heritage Week at the Cove Lakeside Resort, sponsored by the Greater Westside Board of Trade. More info follows below.


SWAC arts council
SWAC Logo create by Matthew Brown

Press Release

Suk’ʷtəmsqilxʷ (sook tem skayl hoo) West Kelowna Arts Council (SWAC) came into being after the inaugural Westside Culture Days 2014 weekend.  In October 2014, after recognizing the enthusiasm of the attendees from both the businesses and the artists, a call went out to all Culture Days participants to see if forming an arts council on the west side of the bridge was relevant and timely. The response was highly favourable.  This new arts council hopes to bring awareness to our diverse and rich cultural resources by working with interested and invested businesses.

The arts council connects two distinct governments through culture. The Okanagan word “Suk’ʷtəmsqilxʷ” means “half indigenous, half non-indigenous” and represents the connection between two worlds.  Suk’ʷtəmsqilxʷ celebrates and demonstrates the council’s unique positioning. By utilizing a First Nation word in the name, the arts council recognizes West Kelowna is part of the traditional, unceded lands of the Syilx people.

The incorporation team solidified over the next two months.  The inaugural board consists of westside businesses and artists: artist Julia Trops, WFN Heritage Officer Tracy Satin, artist Rebekah Wilkinson, business graduate Brenna Mackaay and business student Kimberleigh Trops, artist Matthew Brown, film maker Jason Woodford, Westbank Blenz owner Melissa Brown, artist Pat Raphael, artist Ralph Carlson, Dogwood Nursery representative Arlene Currie, and artist Pat Huber.

In December, the incorporation documents were filed with the BC Government and the public launch is scheduled for the Greater Westside Board of Trade’s luncheon on February 18 at the Cove during the Canada’s Heritage Week. During that luncheon, attendees will be treated to the first members of the arts council and learn how they can be part of the action.  Tickets are $20 for this event and may be purchased from Karen Beaubier, 250.768.3378 or admin@gwboardoftrade.com.

SWAC’s vision is one of cooperation, inclusion aimed at enriching our community by developing a vibrant cultural landscape.  Our Constitution emphasizes the focus on community and partnership of artists, businesses and community members in events, cultural programs and education.

To date, many local artists and cultural creators have looked outside of our two westside communities to take advantage of needed cultural services such as exhibition and programming opportunities. This has created a void on the westside and the local population has no comprehensive identity or little cohesive structure for cultural activities.  Our citizens have acknowledged this as a concern that needs to be addressed. By creating and fostering cultural activities, SWAC hopes to help to enrich the community and provide an avenue for cultural tourism.

All are welcome to join and our email is SWAC.Arts@gmail.com.  The website is under construction, but we do have a facebook presence: http://www.facebook.com/SWArtsCouncil.

The Charity Donation Condundrum …. solved?

mares of diomedes

I get the feeling that artists are finally willing to stand up for themselves and not be bullied or “shamed” (you expect to be paid? but this is for charity!) in to donating their art, and I think that they would almost jump at any effort from non profits and businesses actually respecting their work as a valuable commodity… obviously it is valuable enough that their work is constantly requested for a silent auction or other fundraising project.

This is a problem that I feel personally invested in, and I’m trying to establish a win win scenario for all involved.  I think I have found a way it can be done

The Proposal
It’s been a common goal of many businesses that they become more involved and invested in their local arts and culture.  At the same time, I am suggesting that the non profit approach the idea of art in silent auctions or art in their fundraising schemes, in a different way.  Here it is:  they ask their favourite business to choose their favourite artist(s) and buy an artwork from them, then donating that work to their charity.

The Benefits
What would be the benefit to the business and the charity?  Bragging rights of donating, bragging rights of supporting (really supporting as in $$) the local art scene, being able to pinpoint a favourite artist,  plus they get their tax receipt for their purchase price from the organization supported by the receipt from the artist (why this is important will be explained in a minute). Because they are invested, they share this with their business partners and customers, boosting the event’s promotion, and the charity gains the exposure it so desperately needs.  The artist and the artwork is respected.  It becomes important for that business’ donated work to get a higher bid. I can’t see how this would fail. It just needs to be championed and done!

Better than nothing, you say?
There is a misconception that perhaps the artwork was originally purchased  by someone and then donated to the charity for auctioning off.  Nine point nine times out of ten, this is not the case.  Charities who ask for work from artists  expect it to be given for free, and we artists are expected to be honoured to be asked. (We aren’t.) Oh, but there is a reserve, and the artist gets paid 50 or 60 or 70% of the money coming in. What does that work out to, really?  50% of 30% of an artwork’s value… you tell me.  It’s better than nothing, some people say.  I say, artists, hold out for the brass ring, and keep a reserve all right … reserve your work for those who really respect it.  There is no one strong arming you, and they came to you.  Be the apple at the top of the tree.

Remember the point about a receipt?

Canada Revenue also recently changed the guidelines for cultural donations. Quite frankly, it does not do artists or investors any favours. Normally, for cultural institutions such as public galleries, art is not purchased from the artist, it is donated by the artist, and or donated by the patron.  The quick and dirty on that new CRA guideline is that artworks considered Cultural Property donated to Art Galleries and such, may be given a taxation receipt, but that receipt must be the value of what that patron paid for it, regardless of how many years ago.  So that means is if an Emily Carr, for example, bought by Mr Z in 1960 for 20,000$ is donated to the local gallery, Mr Z will get a receipt for 20,000$, regardless if that Emily Carr was worth 2.5 million today.

Changes such as what CRA did for 2014 really highlights the necessity of creating clean donations.  I would not be surprised to see CRA do audits on non profits, and really question why they are giving receipts to artists for their donation of artwork, when their artwork is getting less than 30% of the market value.  I might be naive, but I really think there are businesses out there who don’t want to do what was always done, and who are looking at a way to become personally invested in the local art scene, and perhaps support some local organizations at the same time.  I’d be interested in connecting with these businesses, so if you are one of them, send me a note.


Ryan Robson’s Lady-like exhibit at the College – my take

Recently, a number of people asked me to comment on Ryan Robson’s “Lady-Like” exhibit and what happened in those subsequent weeks.  I’ve taken some time to think about the events and the subject and for what it is worth, here are my thoughts.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the story is documented here:


and here:


and here on CBC is the interview with Ryan about the show (7 minutes long):


From the infotel.ca link:

“After receiving a number of concerns, we thought the time frame for this exhibit maybe should be left at two weeks. During that time almost all of our college community would have had time to experience the art,” Lister says.

So here are the facts as I see them:

  • Ryan Robson is a local Vernon artist.
  • Gallery Vertigo, an artist run gallery, has an agreement with the Kalamalka Okanagan College satellite campus in Vernon to have artworks on display for one month, so by my math, that is four weeks.
  • There was no financial cost to display the art.
  • Robson creates sincere and genuine works with the intention of helping herself, and helping others by opening a dialogue on a very distressing and confrontational subject.
  • The artworks are on display for a very, very short period of time (days?) before complaints come in to the Okanagan College administrators.
  • The artworks are no longer able to be up for the agreed amount time with the administrator citing the “complaints”.

Based on the actions of the administrators of Kalamalka – Okanagan College, my take is the following:

  • The Okanagan College failed in its role as a centre for expanded learning.
  • They don’t understand the value of art as a vehicle for education and understanding, compassion and empathy.
  • They see art as “conditional” rather than a “necessary”.
  • They should have stood up to the complainers and stood up for the art.
  • I believe that as long as the art is landscapes and flowers and fairies or objective abstracts then art is welcome on their walls.
  • Ryan Robson is a local artist.
  • Local artists are not taken seriously or their genuine work is seen as valid.
  • If this was an outside exhibit that they had to pay to display then the artworks would have been up for the agreed amount of time.

The College had an opportunity to expand consciousness and understanding of such a highly charged area of human life, and I am certain sexual molestation happens to more children and people than we know.  I am sure they could have taken advantage of this artist’s sharing by having her come and speak to the psychology classes, or other subjects they teach.  Speaking from the experience of someone who is coming to terms with my own identity and exploring the same in my work, the actions of the College are reprehensible considering that this area purports itself to be so culturally aware.

Instead, they shut her down and gave the message “we don’t want to see that”, or “we don’t care about what you went through, it isn’t valid art”. Regardless of what was said, actions speak louder than words, and that was the message, very clear to all.  And again, I think it is because she was a local artist.  If this was an artist from Toronto, or Vancouver, or if they had to pay for the exhibit, then this outcome would be very different.

Too bad the College succumbed to squeaky wheels and whiners instead of telling them to stuff it.  They could have made themselves the example of strength and leadership by standing up for the principle and needs of art.

But they didn’t.



Story of Otranto – Timeless Ideals

I love history, I love the human whys and hows. Where were these artworks coming from? The artworks completed are distinctly tied in with the surroundings, with the dichotomy of living in the present but with the influence of the past.

Here is a brief story of one of a short physical time, but a lasting effect on the people, the place and the existence in Otranto. It doesn’t matter to me what religion they were, it is the ideal of standing up for one’s beliefs in the face of mortality, with the knowing and understanding that ideals last longer than one’s breath on earth.

History of the Otranto Martyrs 1
History of the Otranto Martyrs 1
History of the Otranto Martyrs 2
History of the Otranto Martyrs 2
History of the Otranto Martyrs 3
History of the Otranto Martyrs 3
History of the Otranto Martyrs 4
History of the Otranto Martyrs 4
History of the Otranto Martyrs 5
History of the Otranto Martyrs 5
History of the Otranto Martyrs 6
History of the Otranto Martyrs 6
History of the Otranto Martyrs 7
History of the Otranto Martyrs 7

There was a place for the martyrs of Otranto, with heads and bones still in place behind the glass case, and the stone used to behead them, still containing fragments of bone and flesh, in the space under the altar. It was quite macabre, but it was effective. Strong visual reminders of the human ego, the requirement of other less evolved beings to dominate and to be right, the cruelty of humans to their fellow man, our mortality but our endurance and fortitude, strength and power over one’s own actions in spite of external pressures. These people lived by their own rules.

These kinds of stories abound all over the world, and are not particular to this region, but anyone coming here, can not help but be affected, if they are open. Time is different, and the veil is very thin. Somehow, the wind is the guardian I think…

I am reminded of Lao Tzu’s wisdom:

“He who gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful.”

The Otranto Martyrs shrine
The Otranto Martyrs shrine
The Rock used for beheading the Martyrs
The Rock used for beheading the Martyrs

The emotions of the people who lived here still linger. Remember during artwork creation, I was reacting instinctively and without thought to the place, reveling in experiences, feelings, emotions, intuition, just making marks, just being in the moment. It is only now, three weeks later, after the effects of being present are considered and thought upon that these conclusions are being reached. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to come to a place where I could immerse myself completely in all aspects: sensory and intellectual. Both the male and the female have been represented, and there is a balance.

Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops

The story of Otranto – The Mosaic Floor

The mosaic floor, done by the San Nicola Abbey monk Panteleone in 1063-66, holds much esoteric knowledge. Because many people could not read during this time, education was done through images. For those with the ability and interest to learn and understand, this information was freely given. For those who needed or could grasp only the simplest concepts, these were offered for them as well, without judgement.

Around the same time in other parts of the world, items such as The Bayeux Tapestry and the Unicorn Tapestry were being fabricated. Art was the tool of the few to educate the many.

Otranto the Mosaic Floor done by Panteleone from the San Nicola Abbey

Education also included pictorials on other cultures and animals.

The mosaic floor tells many stories
The mosaic floor tells many stories

Biblical stories such as King Solomon and the Tower of Babel to fantastic stories like King Arthur. Astrology was accepted as a higher education, indicated where it is placed on the floor. It appears that the images were set down by levels of understanding. The simpler, near the front of the church, gaining in increased symbology and complexity as one nears the altar.

The mosaic floor tells many stories

The mosaic floor tells many stories
The mosaic floor tells many stories

After visiting each of these places, there was a visible impact on the work produced. What does it all mean? I am not sure yet. It will come. What I do know is that the reference to the female is not obviously done. While the male presence is obvious, the female seems to be referenced and revered and is suggested through the senses.

Untitled Charcoal Graphite and Pastel Drawing Painting
Untitled Charcoal Graphite and Pastel Drawing Painting

Trip to Lecce, Roman Ruins and the Duomo

June 4th, the first Monday was our trip to Lecce (pronounced Lay’ cheh) and to the art supply store. It was a beautiful walk around the city centre to the ancient Roman ruins, and the Renaissance Duomo. Barry was not at the first trip, but he was at the second time I was there, so I took pictures with him:

Barry at the Duomo in Lecce Italy Where's Barry?
Barry at the Duomo in Lecce Italy
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
There's a concert tonight at the Amphitheatre in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry got locked up in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry got locked up in Lecce, Italy

I am not much of a church person, but the architecture was wonderful, the places people lived, again was stunning. Old balconies, palaces that have been turned in to flats, the history, the feelings, the eminence of life and living, souls who were trapped or who chose to stay. The streets were quiet when we went, as it was still the quiet time of the day where people did not go outside.

Dinner was at Alle Due Corti, and was grand, I thought. Many dishes were passed around, appetizers of zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, red pepper, so much! Then there was the actual dinner of pasta and vegetables. I have no idea the names of them, but the Italians certainly know how to cook!

The mornings in Otranto

This wakes me up every morning … (these are quicktime files)

All of these recordings were taken INSIDE my flat, but the window is open.

Birds in the morning

The birds, though, go all day, from first light which is about 430 am, to the evening setting sun which is about 8 pm.

And …
if I am really lucky, I sleep through this, which starts at 530 am to around 7…

This clip is about a minute long even though you hear silence during some part of it.
The janitorial staff in Otranto

Then at seven if I am not awake by then I hear this:

Bells in the morning Otranto

On the same morning within a few seconds:

Bells in the morning 2

Each bell ringer has his own personality. These last two are not full files, I managed to get only about 30 seconds of each. And these last two were on the same day as well, within minutes of each other:

Bells in the morning 3

and again:

Bells in the morning 4

These bells go off at 7 am usually, or sometimes as late as 7:10 am, and go on for about 2 full minutes. There is the first set that says Get out of bed, and the second one that says the time … I think it is the time, but sometimes the bell ringer goes over the count …

These bells also go off in the afternoon around 5 and 6. There is a constant presence of otherworldliness here. One would be hard pressed to only consider himself existing in this world. Do I think this has affected my artwork here? Absolutely.

The Otranto Flower Festival

The Otranto Flower Festival was on when I arrived. It was such a beautiful time, flowers everywhere, even on the stone tiles on the floor.

Otranto Flower Festival Italy 2012
Otranto Flower Festival Italy 2012

In the courtyard outside my window at Porta Terra Otranto

Boughs below my window at Porta Terra Otranto

Around the side of the old city wall where I live, there was a gazebo that was quite stunning. I looked closer and it was made up of recycled water/pop bottles, and a simple gazebo construction. This was art! What I also liked was that you could see how much water was in the bottles to see if the plant needed watering…. something I am always challenged at. Usually my plants die. But this … this I could probably do…

The first full day in the studio

The next day was the first full morning in the studio. I had reviewed my project proposal, and was setting my supplies out to get ready to work. I was not really sure what exactly I was going to do. I decided that whatever it was, I was not going to judge it, as the journey is a path that is yet to be traveled.

With that in mind I started thinking about the Castello, the people, and girls I had seen playing in the small streets and the piazzas. Using the Castello as a metaphor for man’s construct, it became somewhat of a setting, a drama that seemed to be unfolding, as the girls walked through the Castello. There were mysteries to be uncovered, doors to be opened, rooms to be explored. There were times these were done together and then there were the heartbreaking times apart. But each survived, and is stronger for the experience.

acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters Julia Trops
On our way acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing
acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters going on the adventure Julia Trops
It's all fun and games acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing
acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters in the adventure Julia Trops
Finding within acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing

These works were done over a period of a few days. The air is hot, but the studios were very cool and moist. The medium did not dry very fast so I worked on a few at the same time. It became increasingly clear to me, however, that what I was doing was not sufficient in terms of exploring this “place”. There was more than just the literal. There was more than just obvious. I was trying to get to the heart of the matter, to the centre of these vibrations, and the works I was doing, just did not seem to connect. They did on a superficial level, but they were not … meaty enough.

acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters going on the adventure Julia Trops
The Naive acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing
acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters going on the adventure Julia Trops
The Watchers acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing
acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters going on the adventure Julia Trops
It's dark acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing
acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing Sisters going on the adventure Julia Trops
The Beckoning acrylic charcoal pastel painting drawing

I decided to just go with what I felt was right. I did a break of a few artworks to … not really severe the psychic connection to the previous works, but to signal to my subconscious that this was a separate set of works, a separate path, but still in the same direction.

Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Sisters 2 Charcoal graphite drawing painting
Charcoal Graphite drawing painting Julia Trops
Sisters Charcoal Graphite drawing painting

Arrival in Otranto – the first night

We were never bored in Otranto. Between work, and sightseeing, and dinners and gelato and the regional market, and just people watching, there was a lot to keep us busy.

The first evening, we had a group dinner at Paola’s house. She was sharing with her assistant Dagmar, who came for two weeks before going on to take care of her personal business in Prague. I was sad that Dagmar only stayed two weeks, but I am sure we will meet again.

Paola’s house is almost directly across from mine, looking on to the Pizzia at Porta Terra. Much of the activities takes place here, from the flower displays to concerts for kids, to dances, to people just hanging out. Hers is on the third floor, but the fourth overlooking the square. Mine is directly across from her but on the second floor.

There were 15 people for dinner that night, it was quite wonderful. Everyone was eager to tell about themselves and what they were doing. It was a very active evening of sharing and learning. The food was so good. What a start to the journey, it is always good to be well fed before embarking on one’s path. We received our calendar with activities for the next two weeks, and I was very excited.

Paola was talking about the area, I don’t think I will ever forget her words. They spoke to my soul.

This area is very rich in culture. Everything comes from the sea, the ships, the men, the food. There is magic in this area, mysteries you can’t explain. Time is not the same here as everywhere else.

You will see.