Arts aficionado Eve Smart of Gibsons was always fond of saying, “These days when I get out of bed I hit the ground running.”
She was a doer. She moved to the Sunshine Coast in the early 1980s for a supposed retirement here, but her activities kept her busy every day, writing, painting or playing music.
Smart passed away on Dec. 10, 2011 at age 87, but her legacy lives on.
The Gibsons Public Art Gallery (GPAG) thanks her immensely for her bequest to the non-profit organization that allowed them to move from their downstairs gallery to a new, bigger one on Marine Drive in Gibsons. They will be showing a retrospective of Smart’s work opening this weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the gallery with a reception at 2 p.m.
Smart held a showing of her work in the gallery in 2010, titled Coast to Coast to Coast, a series of landscapes that depicted her previous home in Ontario, the Maritimes, and the north, along with her Sunshine Coast pictures.
She volunteered to sit as desk attendant at the GPAG in the years before her knees gave out and she couldn’t climb the gallery’s stairs, making her an advocate of a move to a more accessible, ground level location.
Smart was a huge supporter of the Sunshine Coast Community Orchestra from its early days. She played the violin, and she made firm friends with other musicians Michelle Bruce and Doreen Savien, among others. She loved music, and in the last years of her life decided to take up the most difficult instrument, the French horn, much to the surprise of teacher Janice Brunson who was accustomed to teaching younger students.
Gallery coordinator Pat Drope recalls that when Smart could no longer play the violin because of a shoulder injury, Drope drove her to concerts.
“Eve had a wide circle of friends,” Drope said. “She kept busy with cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening, plus her writing, art and music. She kept a daily journal, recording her activities. Eve once said, ‘I am blessed to have good friends.’”
It was friends who helped her through the untimely deaths of both her children: daughter Linda and son Edward.
“Eve had a strong sense of justice,” Drope recalled, as demonstrated by a poem she wrote about Nova Scotian Donald Marshall, falsely accused and jailed.
In the 1980s Smart served with the Sunshine Coast Arts Council and was instrumental in setting up the Hunter Gallery in Gibsons. She later wrote this history in an article, Heart O’ Culture, for a local publication, Our Sunshine Coast.
My first encounter with Eve Smart was as a member of a writers’ organization, the Writers’ Forge, that met in Sechelt every month. Not content with this monthly prod to novice writers, Smart decided to organize a writing group in Gibsons in the early 1990s, and she asked a Vancouver Island college instructor to lead it. The teacher came once a month and stayed overnight in Smart’s spare bedroom where Smart’s dog, Donald, would snuggle with the guest, much to Smart’s annoyance.
That writing group launched many Coast writers and exists today with two of the original members. Smart was working on a memoir of her service in the Air Force, which she later fictionalized into the story Naomi Goes to War.
During the reception on Jan. 12, author Anthea Penne will read from the story and also from Smart’s dog story, based on the friendly Donald.
The reception takes place this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the new gallery (431 Marine Drive, Gibsons) with music, readings and refreshments. Since Smart was also a good cook who gave many wonderful dessert recipes to her friends, you can expect that the refreshment tray will be full.
On Sunday, Jan. 20 there will be another event at 2 p.m. in the gallery featuring a vocal performance from Gibsons-born, London-based mezzo soprano Patricia Hammond, who, along with her mother Jo Hammond, was a good friend to Smart. I will also be in attendance to read a poem that Smart wrote many years ago and to offer a few of my memories. All are welcome.
See www.gibsonspublicartgallery.ca for more details on all GPAG events.