What do artists with a collective sense of identity do when their funding disappears?
They band together and get creative.
Watershed Artworks Society’s gallery and gift shop in North Delta gives visitors an idea of the talent and enthusiasm in the local arts community.
With a fresh – and eye-catching – paint job on its exterior and a refurbished interior, 500 square feet of space is filled with paintings, sculptures, jewelry, decorative objects (including wood), photography and textiles.
Watershed Arts Society came into being earlier this year after the Delta Arts Council (DAC) gave up control of their gallery shop to the Corporation of Delta following major provincial funding cuts announced two years ago.
At the same time, Delta took over the nearby Firehall Centre for the Arts, as well as the Tsawwassen Arts Centre – although the DAC was given an extra year in the buildings to sort things out.
In March, several members of the DAC decided to keep the gallery shop open themselves.
“We want to bring art back to the community. I think it’s been sadly neglected,” says Watershed president Bev Mason. “If a group like ours gets together, it becomes a lifeline of artists in the community.”
“The arts council was in a lot of flux and they had a lot of issues between them and the Corporation (of Delta) to sort and we felt like we didn’t want to be possibly missed out in all the decision-making,” says Kathy Lane, a Watershed director. “If we wanted to maintain a shop, we’d have to be proactive and maintain it ourselves.”
Watershed, a non-profit society, is a separate entity from the DAC, but its artists are still members of the arts council.
“Our mission is to provide a space for local artists to display and sell their work,” says Watershed vice-president June Bergen-Holt.
While the DAC continues to organize theatre and musical events at the firehall and Tsawwassen Arts Centre, it lets Watershed run the day-to-day operations of the gallery.
“We stay open based on volunteer hours,” explains Lane.
Several artists share duties running the shop; those putting in more hours pay less commission to Watershed when their pieces sell.
The challenge for Watershed is to make itself known to the public as well as the arts community.
“We have to be really creative about how we reach out to the public when we don’t have money to spend on advertising,” says Lane.
To increase the society’s visibility, Watershed members mingled with the crowds at June’s North Delta Family Days, directing visitors to the Social Heart Plaza area and the gallery shop, and co-sponsored a wine-and-beer event at the Tour de Delta bike race in July.
On Sept. 11, they held their grand opening show and sale, called A Whole Lot of Art, in front of the building Watershed shares with the North Delta Potters Guild and Reach Child and Youth Development Society.
Things are fairly quiet at the gallery, for now.
“It’s a tough location because we don’t have a lot of walk-by traffic,” says Bergen-Holt. “You literally have to decide you’re coming here.”
That may change in the future, as Watershed’s building will be replaced with space in an expanded North Delta Recreation Centre.
Delta council endorsed a design concept for a 25,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the rec centre at their Sept. 19 meeting.
Ken Kuntz, director of Delta’s Parks, Recreation and Culture, says Watershed’s building will be decommissioned due to its age during a restructuring of the entire Social Heart Plaza area.
The potters guild will move to a section of the Firehall Centre for the Arts (designated as a performance theatre), while Watershed and Reach are incorporated into the planned footprint of the new centre.
Further financial and design decisions – with some public input – will take place at Delta council in 2012, says Kuntz.
The Watershed Artworks Society will hold their artists’ Christmas market, the “Deck the Halls” creative gift sale on Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Delta Recreation Centre, 11415 84 Ave.
The public is also invited to meet artist Marilyn Lyon on Dec. 10 from 1-3 p.m. at the Watershed Artworks Gallery Shop. Refreshments will be served. Lyon’s “Just Breathe” collection of paintings and photographs will be on display in the gallery shop throughout the month of December.
For more information, call 604-596-1029 or search Watershed Artworks on Facebook.