Penticton Art Gallery exhibits feature local artists’ diversity

Two new exhibits open Friday at the Penticton Art Gallery exploring the creativity of local students and artists from around the Okanagan.

Director and curator Paul Crawford of the Penticton Art Gallery looks over some of the work of the district's three secondary school students this week which will be included in the exhibition entitled Electric Circus which opens Friday. Beginning at the same time will be another show

Director and curator Paul Crawford of the Penticton Art Gallery looks over some of the work of the district's three secondary school students this week which will be included in the exhibition entitled Electric Circus which opens Friday. Beginning at the same time will be another show

Eclectic Circus is a title that area secondary school teachers say pretty well sums up the day-to-day activity in the art room.

It is also the name of the latest exhibit showing in the Toni Onley Gallery and Project Room at the Penticton Art Gallery opening on March 22. This exhibit is part of an annual installation that features visual arts students from Penticton Secondary School, Princess Margaret and Summerland Secondary School.

“Every year it seems the teachers become more competitive with each other so it is always exciting to see how they push each other and their students to create stuff. For me it is always illuminating and interesting to see where the students’ heads are at,” said Penticton Art Gallery director/curator Paul Crawford. “It’s cool to see the projects and makes me wish when I was in high school that I had teachers that really got me to push the boundaries and stretch my mind.”

Crawford said one of the neat aspects of bringing in exhibitions by local students is seeing their friends and family getting a chance to see their work in such a public space.

“It’s incredible for the kids because it builds such great self esteem. It is pretty gutsy to be able to stand up and expose yourself. It’s one thing for the parents and kids, but inevitably every year I will have some person come in off the street and ask if they can purchase a piece. Kids have sold works of art out of these shows and that is a major boost to their self-esteem,” said Crawford. “The people showing in the main gallery also get inspiration out of what the kids are doing and vice-versa.”

Work on the exhibit began this week to get ready for Friday’s opening, which will include ceramic art and unique t-shirts that feature paintings done by the students then set in glue among other pieces of work.

“My basic philosophy is, and has been for 20 years as an art teacher, that it is opportunity that gives us permission to be the best we can be,” said Dawn Richards of Penticton Secondary School. “Providing an array of approaches to art-making gives students that opportunity to try different media and techniques. As the old Buddhist proverb goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Teachers have given the students an opportunity to play, experiment and express rather than prescribed learning outcomes or prepackaged lessons. A wide variety of talent presented in different skills and abilities mimics the theme of the circus as a forum for diversity.

“The materials we manipulate often reflect the diverse approaches we all can take when creating art. The art room is a place to celebrate triumphs and failure. The process of creating should allow room for joy and frustration. Unlike the circus and gallery, the process of making art never ends,” said Brad Gibson, teacher at Princess Margaret Secondary School. “It is my hope that students discover that learning to be creative is an event that hopefully never stops. There is always room to grow and learn form the old as we move forward to new challenges.”

Also opening on Friday is Terroir: Physically Speaking in the main gallery and features work from Stephan Bircher, Rose Braun, Michael Hermesh, Wanda Lock, Shauna Oddleifson and Johann Wessels. This is the second of an ongoing series of exhibitions which are intended to explore and celebrate the incredible depth and breadth of the region’s visual arts community. Borrowing the word terroir from the wine industry, the series of exhibitions seeks to discover if there are any special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of the Okanagan Valley has had on the artist who live here and their work.

An exhibition tour of Terroir: Physically Speaking and artist walk on talk will take place on Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m.  On March 27, Hermesh will be the feature artist for Topics and Tea, a free event at the Penticton Art Gallery at 2 p.m. Wessels is the feature artist for April 24.