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Artists take over Moss Street at annual Paint-In

An estimated 30,000-people turned out for the event, which features the work of local artists.

There were more paintings displayed than trees along Fairfield’s Moss Street on Saturday as crowds gathered for the annual TD Art Gallery Paint-In.

It was one long stretch of artful sights and sounds, from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria just south of Fort Street to the Dallas Road waterfront — nearly two kilometres that took about half an hour to navigate if you only stopped to avoid bumping into the people packing Moss. The art gallery, which runs the annual event, estimated the turnout at 30,000-plus.

In one of the many pavilion tents, Sandy Terry took a moment from painting to explain her process to a curious child who stopped to watch.

“I have anywhere from three to 15 layers of paint in one area. It’s a very time-consuming process I taught myself,” she said.

Terry, an award-winning acrylics painter who specializes in large scale representational-style depictions of florals and koi fish, began painting professionally in 2010 after retiring from 32 years of teaching in School District 61, many of those years spent at Gordon Head Middle School.

Her first time being featured as an artist at the Paint-In was in 2010.

“I was just learning, and it was so great to get the feedback from people about my work,” Terry said. “It’s where you find your audience. So it was really important for me to make those connections.”

Terry now gets commissions from as far as Missouri but still treasures the face-to-face opportunity that she gets at the Paint-In.

“When you look at them online, it’s like a little postage stamp,” she said. “It’s a whole different experience and whole different reaction to the work when they’re seeing what it really is.”

It’s hard to argue with the in-person viewing experience of one of Terry’s paintings, one of which stood nearly six feet tall.

While Terry may not have been looking to land a sale, many of those drawn to the Paint-In left with a newly purchased artwork in hand.

Every year, the swell of pedestrian traffic inspires some neighbourhood residents to add to the hubbub with garage sales, busking, and pop-up lemonade stands manned by youths hoping to raise funds for one cause or another.

Some even sell art.

One such guerrilla artist was Paul “Poly” Tanner, who had set up a table of handmade tiki mugs in front of his mother’s home on Moss Street to coincide with the event.

Tanner remembers growing up on Moss Street and wandering up and down the Paint-Ins when he was younger.

He now lives in North Saanich and is a full-time parent and part-time artist who draws from his experience working in the video game industry to design and create hand-glazed, slip-casted porcelain mugs that evoke and draw from cultures all around the Pacific Rim.

“It’s better than Avon or Amco or whatever pyramid scheme,” he said, laughing.

Nancy Noble, director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, said that the gallery does not encourage residents to join in with displays but concedes that it’s part of the event’s charm.

“The community really enjoys it,” she said. “We don’t change much, because it’s a winning formula.”

People were arriving at 10 a.m. on Saturday even though the event didn’t start until an hour later, she said.

All gallery employees were working, assisted by about 80 volunteers, to ensure a smooth Paint-In, which doubles as a major fundraiser for the gallery.

It’s a good way to support local artists, which many art galleries across Canada aim to do, Noble said.

Noble, who has worked in the art sector in Halifax and Vancouver, said that she’s always telling her colleagues to take a look at what’s happening in Victoria with the Paint-In. “You guys should look at this model, because it’s amazing.”

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