Sooke lays table for visual feast of fine art

What: Sooke Fine Arts Show

When: Purchasers’ Preview, tonight, 7 to 10 p.m. Show runs Friday to Aug. 5, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Saturday and Aug. 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Where: SEAPARC Leisure Complex, 2168 Phillips Rd., Sooke

Tickets: $8 per day, $7 seniors; show pass $15; free for children under 12; Purchasers’ Preview $25


Times Colonist


The Sooke Fine Arts Show is a visual extravaganza for art lovers as well as an opportunity for established and emerging artists to showcase their talents to a wider audience.

The 11-day community art show, in its 27th year, is the longest-running juried art show on Vancouver Island. More than 8,000 visitors are expected, admiring 382 pieces of art created by 261 artists.

“The show attracts the highest calibre of artists,” said show manager Catherine Keogan. “While many are from established artists, some are first-time submissions by emerging artists.”

The show is hosted by the Sooke Fine Arts Society, a non-profit organization created to encourage an appreciation for the arts.

Pieces at the show were selected from more than 1,400 initial submissions. Works include paintings, sculptures, fabric, photographs and mixed-medium pieces. They are judged by a panel of experts and winners in different categories share $12,500 in prize money.

All the pieces at the show are for sale. They range from $300 for a print to $34,500 for an imposing, life-size gorilla fabricated with recycled chrome car bumpers.

Anyone eager to get an advance look at items in the show can attend tonight’s Purchasers’ Preview Night, which is expected to attract about 450 people.

Art considered for the show is restricted to artists living on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s coastal islands, including Haida Gwaii.

Opening the show to artists living on far-flung islands is a positive step, say veterans of the show.

“More people submitting means more variety and new blood,” said Michael Desroches, a local artist who has entered his his work at the Sooke Fine Arts Show for the past 25 years. “It is also an opportunity for an artist who lives in the middle of nowhere to get discovered.”

Among the throng of visitors to the show are art collectors and gallery owners with a keen eye for new talent.

Keogan says she knows of at least a half-dozen artists whose career took off thanks to connections that began at past Sooke shows.

Part of the experience of the show is how a community hockey arena is transformed into a temporary art gallery. For 11 days, the 1,600 square feet of display space holds title as the largest art gallery in Greater Victoria.

Credit for the visitor experience goes to Alan Graves, an exhibition and graphic designer who runs a company that bears his name.

“The key is to capture a community feel to the show,” said Graves, who worked at the Royal B.C. Museum before branching out on his own. “We didn’t want it to be formal, but still have gallery and museum standards when it comes to the care and handling of art.”

The cavernous interior of the ice rink shrinks to pools of light that allow guests to appreciate the art on hand.

“Our goal is to show the artwork at its best,” Graves said.

Over the course of the show, visitors will be serenaded by live music, from jazz to folk. Artists range from Heather DeRome to the Sooke Philharmonic String Quartet. There will be children and youth music performances on Tuesday. A seniors tea will be served Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

“The show has become a big part of the fabric of the art community,” said Keogan. “It has helped put Sooke on the map.”

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