This year’s Gabriola Island Thanksgiving Studio Tour has been cancelled, but thanks to a $40,000 grant, guests are still welcome to a virtual visit.
The Gabriola Arts Council announced in a press release that while the 24th edition of the annual studio tour won’t be taking place, a website called The Arts on Gabriola is being put together that will feature 360-degree views of artists’ studios that guests can view from their own homes.
GAC executive director Carol Fergusson said the website is possible due to a $40,000 grant form the Vancouver Foundation’s community relief fund for rural arts organizations. Fergusson applied for the grant as soon as she became executive director in the spring, as she was already worried that the tour might have to be cancelled. It was the first grant application she ever wrote but she said it was a passionate plea “straight from my heart.”
“After I had finished writing it I told the board what I had done and they kind of rolled their eyes like, ‘Good luck with that, people just don’t give away $40,000 every day,’” she said. “And then I got the email that we got the grant and I’ve been interviewed by them and they’re super excited about what we’re doing with it.”
GAC president Jeff Malmgren said cancelling the in-person studio tour was a hard call to make, but it was done with the support of the arts community. The press release notes that the majority of Gabriola artists surveyed were either “uneasy” about participating or closing their studios altogether during the tour and “there was an understanding that the risks could outweigh the rewards.”
“In a time of tough decisions, this one was maybe the toughest,” Malmgren said in the release. “The Thanksgiving Tour holds a critical place in the culture of our community – its value extends from the artists themselves to the people and businesses in the community to the hundreds from off-island who mark it as a must do in their cultural calendar each year.”
Fergusson said 60 artists will be featured when The Arts on Gabriola is launched in mid-to late-September, but it will eventually be open to artists outside of the tour as well. She said the website will serve as a permanent GAC resource where people can look up artists, learn about them, see their work and be able to contact them.
“That’s why it’s called The Arts with an ‘s’ on Gabriola, is because it will be opened up to musicians, we’ll be able to host videos and audio clips, and on everyone’s page there is a form that is a direct link to the artist … so you can start a conversation about a piece that you see online,” she said.