The Gabriola Arts Council’s first executive director is leaving her post.
After eight years with the GAC, including the last six as executive director, Michelle Benjamin is stepping down in February to take up the role of program officer with the B.C. Arts Council in Victoria, where she will be working to support literary arts and community arts councils.
She said leaving was a difficult decision, but it was an opportunity she couldn’t resist.
“I could happily have stayed for another 10 years at the arts council on Gabriola. I’ve loved the job, I still love the job and I love the community here,” Benjamin said. “So it was a bit heartbreaking to decide to go but after eight years it’s a good time for me to step aside and make some space for somebody new to come in and bring some new energy and ideas.”
Benjamin said the GAC has gone through a lot of growth and changes during her time as executive director. She said they now have three new buildings, membership has more than tripled and she’s managed to increase the council’s access to grants from both public and private sources.
She said the renovation and completion of the Arts and Heritage Centre building is probably the biggest accomplishment she oversaw.
“It’s a wonderful physical presence for the arts council and it’s a great asset for the entire community,” Benjamin said. “It’s used in so many ways by so many different community groups and members, so I think that’s probably the single thing that’s had the most impact on the community and something I‘m really proud of.”
During her time, the GAC also put in place a number of arts-related programs. Benjamin said she’s most proud of the council’s Healing Power of Art program.
“It’s an art therapy program but it’s really a program that provides support for a variety of members of the community through art and it’s probably the program that’s closest to my heart,” she said.
Benjamin said what she’ll remember most from her time with the GAC is working with the artists in the community.
“It’s such an amazing group of artists,” she said. “So much skill and talent. So much commitment to the arts.”