After two decades of documenting, reviewing and celebrating the burgeoning arts and entertainment scene on the Sunshine Coast, writer Jan DeGrass is moving on.
DeGrass plans to continue writing, but without the burden of an “unrelenting weekly deadline.”
“My book is going to be published in the spring of 2019. It’s tentatively titled The Co-op Revolution and it’s going to be published right here on the Coast by Caitlin Press,” she said in an interview. “It’s an account of my time with the co-op movement in Vancouver in the 1970s. I’ve got some other books I want to write, too.”
She recalled her first assignments for Coast Reporter in 2001.
“In the beginning, I had maybe one little listing in Art Beat and maybe one article, that was about it back then,” she said.
Prior to that, DeGrass would review the occasional book or concert for the now-defunct Coast Independent. “It grew from there. Now we have so much happening here.”
The big difference today is the number of places where artists and their work can be seen and heard, she said.
“Back in the 1990s, there weren’t as many people on the touring circuit coming here because there weren’t that many venues.”
Since then, DeGrass has witnessed the opening of Rockwood Centre Pavilion in Sechelt, the securing of the new home for the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and the renovation of the Women’s Institute Hall into the 146-seat Heritage Playhouse, which for years had been little more than a public works storage building for the Town of Gibsons.
“Once we had the venues for people to put on performances, we started to get the musicians on the touring circuit to come to the Coast and perform here,” DeGrass said. “And after [the Pavilion] was there, the Festival of the Written Arts just blossomed.”
As a long-time friend of the arts, DeGrass has many fans of her own in the community.
“She has a passion for writing and for the arts, for the creative mind and the arts community,” said Linda Williams, a board member of the Coast Cultural Alliance and key organizer of the annual Art Crawl and many other cultural events. “She gets read quite widely. She’s tried to keep herself very unbiased throughout the years. I think that’s a challenge for a writer.”
DeGrass was quick to return the compliment and to note the crucial role of many local unheralded arts supporters.
“It’s volunteers like [Linda] who have built a lot of the entertainment on the Coast,” she said “They’ve built the audience and brought in new and interesting people. Like the Sechelt Arts Festival also does, they find something or somebody new to bring in and it’s great.”
Sheenah Main, administrator for the Sunshine Coast Arts Council, praised DeGrass’s steadfastness as a reporter and critic.
“She is someone who really believes in the arts. This is not just a job for her,” Main said. “She attempted to be very honest in her critiques. She was very conscious of supporting the arts on the Sunshine Coast, but not afraid to have an opinion as well.”
Main added: “I get the sense that we’re going to be seeing Jan just as much after she leaves her role at Coast Reporter.”
True enough. DeGrass said she will continue to support local arts, only now as a fan, not a reporter.
“I’m not going to miss a lot because I still want to go to these arts events,” she said. “I discovered that I like classical music now. That’s a new thing for me. But I’ll still be going to events and living in Sechelt.”
DeGrass’s final stories as Arts and Entertainment Writer appear in this week’s edition of Coast Reporter.