Sooke lays on a feast of West Coast fine art

The Sooke Fine Arts Show

When: Purchasers’ Preview tonight, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Show opens to the public Friday through Aug. 4. On Saturday and Aug. 4, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; all other days, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Where: SEAPARC Leisure Complex

Tickets: $8 one-day pass, $7 senior day plus, $15 show pass, $30 Purchasers’ Preview evening, $15 Taste of Sooke, children under 12 free. Tickets available at the door.



The Sooke Fine Arts Show may be in its 28th year, but it’s a first for juror Michelle Jacques.

Jacques was tasked with selecting nearly 400 works that will appear in the show this week from 1,500 submissions, alongside fellow jurors Jeremy Herndl, an instructor at the Vancouver Island School of Art, and Saltspring Island gallery owner Celia Duthie.

“The thing that stayed with me is how much community is built around the process of putting the show on,” she said.

“The people who participate and who were selected for the show are extremely accomplished makers.”

Jacques moved west from Toronto in the fall of 2012 to assume the role of chief curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. She was previously a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario for about 20 years.

Although her inclination is toward conceptual art, which was not common among the submissions, she said she evaluated works based on their integrity. When looking at landscape paintings, for example, she chose works in which the artist’s voice was expressed with clarity.

“Thinking about all those people who are so dedicated to making art really makes me think differently about this region and what art means to the communities around here,” she said.

The Sooke Fine Arts Show opens tonight with a Purchasers’ Preview, for serious buyers. The hundreds of works — ranging from jewelry to sculpture — will be open to the public Friday through Aug. 4, featuring daily artist demonstrations and talks, live music and activities. The artists’ celebration is on Saturday, with awards distributed at 7 p.m. and live music at 8.

Taste of Sooke, featuring local food samples, takes place July 31 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The show, hosted at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex, means turning a 16,000-square-foot arena into a massive art gallery each year.

“The transformation is pretty mind-boggling,” executive director Catherine Keogan said.

Works range in price from the minimum $200 to a one-tonne forged iron gate priced at $70,000, Keogan said. There are fragile pieces such as a hand-carved ostrich egg. While there are several octogenarians in the show, the youngest artist this year is 11-year-old Liam Singh, whose photographs will be shown alongside work by his father, Sandhu Singh.

All the artists live on one of B.C.’s coastal islands, including Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii.

“We try to represent the outer fringes of Canada’s West Coast art,” Keogan said.

Jacques will not be the only new face at the art show this year. About one-third of the artists represented are first-time participants, Keogan said.

There’s an increased focus on youth and emerging talent. Nearly 100 works by students at three high schools will be featured in the bistro outside the main gallery space, dubbed the Youth Art Gallery.

The show is sponsoring a $750 scholarship for one of the students planning on studying the arts at a post-secondary institution.

Artz4Kidz, hosted Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., features live music and activities for children 12 and younger, followed by youth performances organized by the Sooke Youth Council from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Two afternoon teas, served with scones on fine china, will be held for seniors on July 30 and 31 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For visitors interested in seeing where art comes from, the Stinking Fish Studio Tour opens creative spaces nearby. Twenty artists and artisans in Metchosin and East Sooke will open their studios to the public. Drop by Thursday to Monday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. A map of the “art trail” is available at

All Stinking Fish artists are juried by peer professionals.

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