A husband-and-wife team in Gibsons has come up with a proposal that could see the town rival Chemainus as an outdoor art mecca.
But, unlike the murals of Chemainus, the Gibsons outdoor art galleries would change annually, the artwork would be sold to the public, and all artists would be local.
Bill Baker, a chartered professional accountant and entrepreneur, pitched the proposal to Gibsons council on May 6, saying the idea came from him and his wife, Montreal-born artist Elizabeth Evans, who studied under the Group of Seven’s Arthur Lismer and whose work has appeared in major exhibitions across Canada.
Baker said the outdoor art galleries project would provide exposure for local artists, beautification for parts of the town, and a strong draw for tourists. With BC Ferries charging $112 for a family of four to travel to the Coast, “we need to provide them with reasons to come over, and the more the better,” he told council.
The exhibition would consist of large, hand-painted panels attached to freestanding wooden structures that would be placed on public lands or on the walls of buildings.
“In fact, we already have an offer to put one on the wall at Zócalo,” at 441 Marine Drive, Baker said. “We have been speaking to people in town about the idea and universally we seem to be getting a pretty good response.”
Baker said the couple intends to raise seed money through a crowd-funding program and then seek sponsors for ongoing funding.
“We will be working with the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and having them assist us in providing a jury panel,” he said. “We’re in discussion with them now for them to become a partner in the program. At the end of each season, if they’re not already sold, we would auction off the art and the artist would get the proceeds from that, less the gallery commission.”
Outdoor art has grown in popularity recently with the Paint the City exhibits in New Westminster, Toronto and Montreal, which feature artwork displayed on large electronic billboards, and the Art Everywhere program in the U.K., which Baker said has really taken off.
“They’ve got 22,000 billboards and poster boards that they put artwork on from the National Gallery, and it’s become a sensation. Unfortunately, it only last two weeks, but it’s very, very popular, so successful that they’re moving it to the U.S.,” he said.
“We believe that we’ve got a really good project and all we need to do right now is get it started. One of the things we’d like to do is move it up the Coast, so that we have a Coast-wide network of outdoor art galleries. But it all starts right here. We have to get it going in Gibsons before we move it anywhere else.”
Baker said he was looking to council for approval of installations, selection of appropriate public sites, and “some encouragement to proceed.”
He said the small group involved in the project would like to see it launch in time for the Art Crawl in October.
Mayor Wayne Rowe noted that council is committed to making Gibsons an attractive destination for visitors. “This might be part of it,” he said. “Like so many things it depends on how it actually looks. We want to be careful we don’t just have billboards all up and down the street.”
“The word appropriate is very important,” Baker concurred.
Rowe said the group would have to talk to staff so the proposal could come back to council as part of a committee discussion.
Councillors said they liked the idea, but asked Baker to provide more information on the project’s business plan.
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