Community dives into art fundraiser

Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre

They called it the Rockfish Decorating Party – a community art project aimed at supporting a popular community resource, the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre at Gibsons Public Market.

Gibsons Building Supplies donated the wood and the labour to create 100 intricately cut, 60-cm (two-foot) plywood silhouettes of the fish, while families and individuals showed up at the market on Saturday, May 4, to buy the “rockfish canvases” for $25 each and decorate them with supplied arts materials and lots of imagination.

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“I like to do artistic things with my family and to support the [Marine] Education Centre, and anything that has to do with ecology,” said Frances Foran-Sera, as she and her husband Phil and kids Ben and Beatrice applied paint and other decorative elements to their cut-out. “Anything we can do to bring awareness and help the environment, we’re all over it. We hope they raise lots of money.”

The Marine Education Centre (MEC) is hoping many of the rockfish images that participants took away after Saturday’s event – or took home to decorate there – are brought back and donated to the market by May 21. Starting on May 23, the artworks will be displayed throughout the market building and will be put up for silent auction leading up to big celebrations planned for World Oceans Day, which is being celebrated June 7 to 9.

Proceeds raised will go to the MEC. “The funds will go mostly to our educational program,” said the aquarium’s Animal Health Manager, Maddison Proudfoot. “We have a community development committee that was formed earlier this year to help get awareness of the market and the aquarium more out into the community. This was an idea that came from that committee.”

Proudfoot noted that the project is a revival of the annual Salmon Festival from a few years ago, which featured large plywood cut-outs of that species that were bought and decorated for semi-serious art purposes and as a fun family activity. Proceeds went to support the Gibsons Landing Business Association.

“We wanted to do a different species than salmon,” said Proudfoot. “We wanted to highlight a very important animal, one of which is the rockfish.”

There are 34 species of rockfish in B.C. waters, many of them around the Sunshine Coast, including the Pacific snapper.

MEC Manager and Curator Graham Starsage called the May 4 turnout “fantastic,” and said this would be the first year of an annual fundraising arts event involving marine-life images.

“We’ll do a different marine animal next year,” Starsage said.

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