Nixie Barton was an arts student when a friend asked her to pick up an artist named Grant Leier from the airport.
“My friend said to me that I have to go pick up Grant,” Barton recalled. “Then my friend said ‘You’re going to love him. He is just like you and you ask him marry you.’”
Barton, who was studying at the University of Victoria at the time, agreed to pick up Leier and meet her friend for lunch.
However, she doubted that she would ask Leier to marry her.
“I said ‘yeah right,’” Barton said.
But by the time their lunch had ended, Barton did tell Leier she was going to marry him.
“I really liked him a lot,” Barton said.
A little over five years later the two got married and have since gone on to become highly respected Nanaimo-based artists, who have had their work showcased throughout North America.
“I feel very lucky that he is in my life,” Barton said.
Tonight (April 9), the City of Nanaimo will honour the couple, who run Barton Leier Mixta, for their artistic talents and contributions to the city’s arts community.
“We are honoured and thrilled,” Leier said. “It is very nice to have the community acknowledge you.”
Originally from Saskatchewan, Leier, an illustrator and painter, attended the Alberta College of Art and the Illustrator’s Workshop in New York.
He has held solo exhibitions across Canada and in the United States and his work is represented in numerous collections, including the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Public Archives Canada.
In addition to attending the University of Victoria, Barton, a painter, attended and graduated from Malaspina College, now Vancouver Island University. Her work has exhibited in a number of galleries including the Hollander York Gallery in Toronto and the West End Gallery in Edmonton.
Barton says they inspire each other but not through their artwork.
“We kind of do our own thing but we appreciate each others work,” Barton said.Barton and Leier moved from Victoria to Nanaimo roughly 20 years ago.
They both say that the arts scene has grown significantly since they arrived.
“There are a lot more artists working in different media than when we first arrived,” Leier said. “There are a lot sculptures and glass blowers and jewelers. It is not just painters.”
Barton says that when they first moved from Victoria to Nanaimo, many people in Victoria questioned their decision.
“People were going, ‘why are you going to Nanaimo? Are you stupid?’,” Barton said. “Lots of people that we have known from our Victoria years are here [in Nanaimo] now.”
Following tonight’s award ceremony the couple will be getting ready for their next exhibition, which takes place at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery from April 23-26.
“It is a really nice opportunity for us to show there,” Barton said. “It’s not a gallery like we are used to. It’s a non-profit gallery and so this is totally new for us.”
The city’s culture awards will be held at the Port Theatre tonight (April 9) at 7 p.m. The free event requires reservations. Please visit www.porttheatre.com.