Artists unite for oil-free coast

NANAIMO - Artists bring images of Great Bear Rainforest to Nanaimo during exhibit.

Pelagic Cormorants:Diving for Gobies by Mark Hobson

Pelagic Cormorants:Diving for Gobies by Mark Hobson

Artists in the province have banded together to create an exhibit showing their opposition to oil tankers travelling along the B.C. coastline.

More than 50 artists trekked to the Great Bear Rainforest last summer to see the natural area and create artwork for the exhibit Art for an Oil-Free Coast.

The exhibit features more than fifty artists including Robert Bateman, Roy Henry Vickers and other notable Canadian and Nanaimo artists.

It will be unveiled in Nanaimo Thursday (Dec. 20).

“It’s a really pristine part of the planet,” said Alison Watt, a writer and painter from Protection Island, about the rainforest. “It’s a planetary treasure.”

Watt’s poem Creekwalker opens the chapter on salmon, which also includes her painting Sockeye. She said people may not have the chance to see the rainforest because it is remote.

“We needed to bring the place to the people because it is so hard to bring the people to the place,” said Watt.

Watt said the artists wanted to bring awareness to the risks of running tankers down the B.C. coast.

“This is something that we really have to stand up and fight against,” she said.

It’s a viewpoint Tofino artist Mark Hobson shares. Hobson initiated the project.

“Many feel, as I do, that it will only be a matter of time before incidents like the Exxon Valdez and Nestucca oil spills repeat themselves in this incredible coastal ecosystem,” said Hobson, in a press release.

The Great Bear Rainforest is an area of “extremely rare abundance and natural beauty,” said Protection Island’s Brian Falconer, marine operation coordinator for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

During salmon runs there are “incredible explosions of life” he said.

The project includes a short film, reflections, which documents the artist’s journey and an art book, Canada’s Raincoast at Risk: Art for an Oil-Free Coast published by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.  The unveiling features a screening in Shaw auditorium and a book launch at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location. Opening night is already sold out; however, the exhibit runs at art gallery until Jan. 5 and the film will be shown at the gallery.

Nanaimo poet Kim Goldberg’s poem Title Pull opens the chapter on estuaries.

“It’s a massive display of creative energy,” she said.

The artwork has been donated to the travelling exhibit by the artists. It also includes an online auction. The two parts of the project are meant to raise awareness and money for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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