Residency program in Sointula brings artists from abroad

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Published in the North Island Eagle, June 2017

By Trish Weatherall



Two Sointula residents are bringing more artists to Malcolm Island with their artist-in-residence program.

Kerri Reid and Tyler Brett moved to Malcom Island in 2013 to create the Sointula Art Shed, a shed-turned-studio and cottage for visiting artists to focus on their art.

“An artist residency is a retreat of sorts,” said Reid. “It’s for artists who need to get away and spend a month where all they do is focus on art and creating.”

Artists pay for their own travel and a modest rental fee for the opportunity to surround themselves in the rugged beauty of the North Vancouver Island area, usually for one month.

The Art Shed has housed more than 30 visual artists, musicians, and writers over the past four years, from as far as France, Germany, Netherlands, and New York. They welcome both established artists and those just starting out. “It’s open to artists at all stages of their careers. We just want people who are excited to come here.”

Some artists come, and some decide to stay. April 2015 artist-in-residence Sylvie Ringer now lives on the island, and April 2017 artist-in-residence Dominique Ferraton is planning to relocate there this Fall.

Reid and Brett are also artists and musicians themselves, with a passion to encourage, promote and inspire art and creativity, and a love of the Malcolm Island lifestyle.

Both originally from the Vancouver area, Reid and Brett ran a similar artist-in-residence studio in a former bank building in Saskatchewan, aptly named the Arts Bank. But they both felt a pull back to BC, and after some research, they felt Malcolm Island was the perfect place to live, work, pursue their artistic goals, and raise a family, which includes two-and-a-half-year-old Teddy.

“Everything we read – it just seemed like it was calling to us. The ocean, the history, and the community. We threw caution to the wind, followed our gut,” she said. “But it was a series of miracles that got us here, and that we ended up finding this perfect place, with a home, shed, studio, and cottage for an artist.”

The residency program also gets artists involved in the community, sometimes through open studios, workshops, and classes. Current artist-in-residence, Toronto photographer Michael Barker, is working on a gallery of portraits of Malcolm Islanders. His goal is to photograph both temporary and permanent residents of Malcolm Island at their home, workplace or within the landscape of the island, and eventually exhibit the project in both Sointula and Toronto.

“I want to develop a personal and partial portrait of Sointula that captures something of the complexity, beauty, and uniqueness of it’s people, architecture, and landscape,” he writes on his web site.

While the studio itself is not open to the public, except for artist exhibits or classes, the Art Shed created the Window Gallery facing the street, which holds a changing display of artwork for public viewing. The first half of each month exhibits a local artist’s work and the second half showcases the current artist-in-residence’s work.

“The community has been really supportive,” said Reid. “Things like this are making us really happy…. things that can include the community more are what we are interested in.  The Window Gallery has only been up and running for a few months now, but it has already added so much to our experience here.”

The Art Shed residency is booked for the year and into 2018, with painters, poets, sculptors, photographers, and a fashion researcher.

Plans for the future include renovating the main part of the Shed to include a space for artist workshops for local adults, youth, and children. “Maybe an after-school drop in thing. I have ideas about doing stop-motion animation with kids, and also basic crafts, and if we can ever afford a kiln, I would so love to have a small ceramics workshop.”

Like many artists, Reid and Brett have more routine ways to make a living, although their other career also demonstrates a desire to contribute to the world around them. Reid is an administrator for Living Oceans Society and Brett is a paramedic. Both are also passionate about the environment.

“The other thing that made us extremely happy was getting chickens – Tyler built the sweetest coop imaginable, and we love our chickens, and we love sharing their eggs – and veggies from our garden – with the artists who stay here with us.”

She notes that it’s not all selfless. “It’s also an opportunity to focus on what we love. We find it gratifying and inspiring. The artists-in-residence really enrich our lives, and often become good friends.”