Debra Fairweather works on some art in her studio that’s part of the St. Joseph’s complex. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Art studios make an impression on the community

New life for former St. Joseph’s School in Chemainus featured during grand opening

The transformation from St. Joseph’s Elementary Catholic School to St. Joseph’s Art Studios has been remarkable.

No one was certain what would happen to the site after the Chemainus school closed in June of last year. But nine artists now occupy eight of the building’s classrooms full-time (one is a shared space), showcasing their work environments and variety of art during a grand opening last Wednesday.

One of the artists, Barry Strasbourg-Thompson, took on the financial obligation of getting the studios established going back seven and a half months ago to last September. Each of the artists pays a fee for their respective spaces to Island Catholic Schools, the building’s continued owner.

“It was my vision to see it up and running,” said Strasbourg-Thompson, who’s thrilled with the reception the concept has received.

“The big thing is the community itself showed up. The comments were they were so happy the building was being put to good use.

“I’m pleased with the quality of the people that have rented there.”

Strasbourg-Thompson spent many years of his life in the Ottawa region before coming to Chemainus in 2007. “Since that time I’ve made a full-time living at this,” he pointed out.

“I’ve been well-supported. This is a chance for me to give back.”

An original idea to house an arts centre in the building was dismissed simply because of the time commitment for administration that would be necessary.

“But we do have the time to set up a working studio building,” countered Strasbourg-Thompson.

So that’s what happened and he sees the health and well-being elements of the art environment as being significant, too.

Dennis J.A. Brown of Ladysmith has been in the location for about two months.

“I think this is a heckuva idea,” he said. “It’s nice to come into the community and explore our art with people around here and put a presence in the building. It’s also nice to be in a village of artists.”

Brown is among the resident artists who also offers various classes, workshops, displays and demos to the public.

“I find teaching classes I learn more about myself,” he observed. “I have to be able to draw that out succinctly to them and make sense of it. I have fun at it.”

Art has been a lifetime passion for Brown.

“I never quit,” he said.

Brown has considered himself a full-time artist for 25 years and works on perfecting his techniques constantly.

“Every day I haven’t got an appointment, it’s ritual,” he conceded. “You have momentum, you don’t want to lose that.”

Brown started out doing frequent landscapes and realistic paintings before changing direction.

“About 20 years ago, I switched to abstract and never looked back,” he indicated.

“This is more a personal statement than landscapes.”

Brown has found influences from his travels over the years to places like Japan, Italy, Scotland, Holland, Mexico and more.

Debra Fairweather, who previously lived in Mexico and on Gabriola Island, joined the artists’ haven in January.

“The ferry became a bit of an issue,” she said of her time on Gabriola.

Fairweather just made the move last October and is enjoying the transition.

“It’s a great little town,” she said. “I hope it picks up a bit more.”

The studio space has proven to be a godsend for Fairweather.

“We moved to a very small house – a low basement and I couldn’t swing my canvas around,” she explained.

“There’s sort of a community here of other artists. We just have a nice space to explore whatever I want – express whatever I want.”

Others who’ve become part of the artist community in the building include: Sara Robichaud, Kim Oakes, Monica Maya, Lorraine Taylor, Katherine Boudreau and Skye Skagfeld.

 

Barry Strasbourg-Thompson with some of his art displayed outside his studio at St. Joseph’s. (Photo by Don Bodger)

There were balloons and cake (concealed until absolutely necessary) at the St. Joseph’s Art Studios opening. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Keefer Pollard, left, of Island Catholic Schools with artist Barry Strasbourg-Thompson for the ceremonial cake-cutting. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

Stouffer in a class of her own without Proteau in the field

Fairwinds golfer captures Mount Brenton ladies’ golf tournament by 15 strokes

Tour de Rock cyclists gear up on training ride

Stops in Ladysmith and Chemainus part of the fanfare and preparations

Sculpture relocation plan works perfectly in Chemainus

Heavy lifting required to place Cline’s work into Heritage Square

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island teen was discovered

Brewers go down swinging in baseball semifinal playoff

Chemainus junior men’s squad falls just short of a second straight trip to the finals

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab in Surrey

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

B.C. seizes 1.5M grams contraband tobacco, down from 5.75M grams the year prior

The 2019-2020 seizures were a sharp drop compared to the 2018-2019 year,

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Most Read