‘Outside the box’ fibre art festival returns to White Rock, South Surrey

Eight-year tradition returns, but with a twist

Contributed photo ‘Point Taken’ is derived from a view of Point Roberts.

The Outside The Box festival – which for the past eight years has championed the possibilities of fibre art in White Rock and South Surrey – is back again this year, but with some key differences.

The director, internationally-noted Peninsula multi-media artist Alicia M.B. Ballard, reports that the event has now been revised as a ‘biennale’ exhibit, which means that it will be scheduled once every two years.

And she’s frank to say that its current reduced scope is of necessity.

“I had a stroke in December of 2017 and have not been able to paint since,” she told Peace Arch News.

Ballard had taken over organizing the festival the previous year from its founder, fibre artist Pauline McLean Dutkowski, who had moved out of White Rock.

And while Ballard had endeavoured to keep it at the same multi-venue scale over several years, she acknowledges her personal health challenges over the last two years have made it difficult.

The good news is that the festival, like Ballard, is back again – with a little help from some friends – inviting residents to “stretch your imagination” and celebrate the potential of art that utilizes fibres of all kinds as both material and inspiration.

In keeping with the motto “anything fibre goes,” the event includes art exhibitions, demonstrations and displays highlighting “fun in fibre” with paint, thread and much more.

Although it does not have a formal opening this year, it will run Sept. 1-30 at three venues – White Rock Library (15342 Buena Vista Ave.), The Arnold Mikelson Mind and Matter Gallery (13743 16 Ave.) and White Rock Museum and Archives (14970 Marine Dr.).

“I’d like to thank Linda Baird at White Rock Library and David Thiessen, manager of the Fraser Valley Regional Library; also Chris Magnus at city hall and Mary Mikelson, who have been instrumental in keeping this going,” Ballard said.

“I’d also like to thank the (dance group) The Fusionistas and the White Rock Museum and Archives staff.”

And starting Sept. 3, White Rock Library will host a display of Ballard’s most recent mixed-media paintings, along with work by guest artist Kat Siemens.

Ballard’s series – titled Semiahmoo Magic – was originally displayed at White Rock Museum and Archives, although one piece is still in Europe following a gallery showing in Tuscany.

“It was a labour-intensive series,” Ballard said.

“It’s mostly based on photos that I had taken of Semiahmoo Bay when I lived in South Surrey; photos and memories. I was mesmerized by the colours of the sunsets, and so were all my neighbours – we used to call each other about them all the time. There’s also another one inspired by clouds reflected in the Serpentine River.

“The images were eventually lifted – using an ancient technique – and applied to canvas. They’re mostly acrylic semi-abstracts, but not so abstract that you can’t identify the location. There’s also one of Point Roberts that is called Point Taken – some of the names are double entendres.”

In an associated event, artist Bryce Willushaw will also be demonstrating some of his watercolour portrait techniques at the library on Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

It will also be Outside The Box Month throughout September at the Mind and Matter Gallery, highlighting various in-house artists who work with fibre materials, starting Sept. 1; while White Rock Museum and Archives is hosting its current exhibit Castles In Your Mind: The Sandcastle Phenomenon (until Oct. 7) – and both venues are open on the Labour Day long weekend.

One previous venue that won’t be included this year is the White Rock Community Centre, Ballard said.

She said it has proven – based on multiple years’ experience – unsatisfactory as an arts venue.

“We feel it really has no access for the public during business hours, and it’s also occupied by other groups intermittently,” she said.

“It’s a public space – but it’s a non-gallery,” she said.

For more on the 2019 edition of Outside The Box, visit studiogaleria.blogspot.com

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Contributed photo ‘Serpentine Fire’ was taken from cloud patterns reflected in South Surrey’s Serpentine River.

Contributed photo ‘Tangerine Passages’ (canvas on birchwood) was inspired by a vivid Semiahmoo Bay sunset.

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