The Sunshine Coast Art Crawl kicks off Oct. 19-21. For such a small stretch of coastline, our community houses an abundance of painters, mixed media artists, sculptors, writers and other creative types. I wanted to learn more about this fabulous event, which brings thousands of visitors through the doors of local businesses and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sunshine Coast artists and local businesses.
Linda Williams heads up The Coast Cultural Alliance (CCA), which has put on the event for 8 years running. This membership organization’s mandate is to support and promote artists on the Sunshine Coast. They formed in 1998, and produced their first Purple Banner Studio and Gallery Guide in 2001, which you may have seen on BC Ferries and throughout town. But, they soon realized the potential for hosting a concentrated event, where artists and galleries could draw back the curtain on their studios for a behind the scenes look at how these creative works come to life.
In 2010, they hosted the inaugural Sunshine Coast Art Crawl with 75 venues, showcasing 120 artists. This year, they’re set to feature 165 venues and 380 artists - with a waiting list to boot. Venues range from local businesses, such as a Golf Club, distilleries, public market, (no coffee shops and restaurants although they support with artists work in them). There’s even a contingent of artists coming over from the Powell River area. They’ll be exhibiting in the hall beside the Gibsons Legion.
“The joy [the artists] get out of it is the validity - that people come in and look at their work,” Linda says. “To them, it’s great if you make sales - and last year our sales were up to $400,000 - but, even if they don’t sell stuff, just talking to people and talking about art and people appreciating what of they’re doing - that has a huge impact as an artist.”
From an artists’ perspective, the crawl gives them a chance to be seen, to network and to share their vision with the world. I caught up with two prominent artists on The Coast to learn more about what the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl means to them:
Marleen Veermeulen is an amazing landscape painter. Originally from Holland, she took to the arts at a very young age. After studying for graphic design and having a successful career in The Netherlands and London, she immigrated to Canada with her husband and two young children. It was then that her life on the Sunshine Coast began.
With her husband commuting to Vancouver, Marleen opted to be a stay at home mom. Slowly, she began picking up painting again, but soon discovered it was much more than just a part-time hobby.
“If you want to become a painter, you need to paint. I started painting an hour and a half to two hours per day,” says Marleen. “That really gave me traction internally and in my results.
When she realized her potential, Marleen was determined to get representation. She funded and hosted her own art showing in Vancouver in hopes that she would attract a curator. And, it worked! She’s now represented by Kurbatoff Art Gallery in Vancouver.
Marleen’s incredibly vibrant and detailed paintings leap off the canvas. Her subjects - cherry blossoms, old growth cedars, wildlife, and ocean vistas - are characterized by dancing light, dreamy hues and a sense of romance.
“If i think about why i’m painting … it’s about connection with the subject first of all. Like it’s the subject that you get to know better because if you paint the forest or the ocean, you start looking at it differently. You have a more intimate relationship with it,,” Marleen says. “...Going on that journey of creative expression I think, ultimately, you connect with yourself. You come across yourself so many times. I always say I move the paint around until it feels right.”
Marleen says she needs a combination of introspection and community, so the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl is a great way for her to connect with her fellow artists - and new clients. In fact, her home studio sees approximately 1,000 people throughout the course of the three days. More and more, she’s noticing a Vancouver crowd taking notice of the event.
“I really enjoy being part of the Art Crawl. I find it amazing how many people get mobilized. Visitors, but also artists and how many volunteers are included. For me it’s always a very happy and positive experience. Everybody always seems to be so happy and engaged. Everybody seems to really enjoy it.
With a body of work that spans 15 years or so, Marleen is keen to share her artistic process with others - to help them connect with their inner creative, and themselves in the process. She and her business partner/fellow artist Marlene Lowden host annual art/yoga retreats to Jeseu, Spain through their Open Your Art tour company. The next trip is scheduled for September 2019, so if you’re feeling inspired after the Art Crawl, this could very well be your next step. After all, Marleen started painting again, and look what happened!
Todd Clark is an abstract painter who has called the Sunshine Coast home for 25 years. My husband Ross discovered him while he was hunting for artwork to place on one of the movie sets he was working on. Ever since, we have both been fans of Todd’s work.
Like Marleen, Todd began his interest in art at a young age. But, an interest in sports sidelined his artistic endeavours until he was into his 30s. That’s when the magic happened. HIs move to the Coast gave him the space and mental freedom to pursue his creative passions.
A a self-professed introvert Todd was too shy to share his work around at the start of his career. His wife, Carol, was the one who brought his work to galleries and generated interest in his colourful and emotional pieces.
Now, Todd is a well-respected artist,, both on the Sunshine Coast and across Canada. Hes represented at Shane Norrie Gallery, Canvas Gallery, The Art Junction Whistler, and Art Works Vancouver.
He’s also a teacher in North Vancouver and is a District Art Specialist with Artists for Kids at the Gordon Smith Gallery. Through this program, he introduces elementary school aged children to the world of art.
So, how does Todd ideate and deliver these incredible pieces? When I asked him about that, he shared a favourite quote by American painter, Charles Thomas "Chuck" Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs.”
“Really if you’re a working artist, the work doesn’t come from inspiration, it comes from work,” Todd explains. “It comes from putting the time in, from exploring, failing, succeeding, all those things. It’s all part of the process of creating art. So inspiration - that’s kind of a romantic notion about art. I think art usually comes from hard work and dedication and just committing yourself to it.”
Todd believes that The Art Crawl is a great asset for the Sunshine Coast Community and helps gives context to an artists’ work when people can visit their studio and see how the work is created.
“[The Art Crawl] is so good for the community. Absolutely stupendous.”
Come visit Todd’s studio this weekend or be sure to check out one of his painting workshops. I'll be visiting his studio not only for the art but also for cuddles with their three horses, four dogs and peacocks!