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Gabriola Thanksgiving Studio Tour keeps growing

Organizer says 15 new artists join the event each year
Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin Works by more than 20 Gabriola Island artists are currently on display at Charcoal: Eclectic Artisan Emporium and Henna Lounge. This weekend (Oct. 7-9) 85 artists will open their doors to the public at the 21st annual Gabriola Thanksgiving Studio Tour.

Local potter Graham Sheehan says the Gabriola Thanksgiving Studio Tour has come a long way over the past 21 years.

“There were about a dozen people in it. Maybe 15 people. And it was just word of mouth,” he said of the inaugural event.

“It’s really grown into something.”

This year 85 artists will display and demonstrate their work at 65 sites across the island from Oct. 7-9, and the tour keeps getting bigger. Alina Cerminara, events manager for the Gabriola Arts Council, said each year around 15 additional artists participate in the event.

“We’ve got new artists coming over every year and we always ask them why and they’re just enthralled by the artistic community … I think that’s why [the tour] has been running so long,” she said

“You get to not only see their fabulous art, but you also get to see where they work. Lots of them are giving demonstrations throughout the weekend so you can see how they work, you can talk to the artists and then you also get to see lots of really cool artists’ spaces like their homes and their studios and their workshops.”

Sheehan said he always tries to time his projects to coincide with the studio tour. As a longtime art instructor he’s no stranger to having strangers watch him at work. He said he may be in the process of making a series of pieces, so when guests arrive over the course of the weekend his work will be in progress.

He said “everybody’s game jumped up a whole level” when the arts council took over organizing the event a few years into its existence and he credits the organization for for keeping the tour going.

“I don’t think we thought it was going to be an annual thing… If they hadn’t come along it probably would have petered out,” he said.

“I think initially it would have been just us selling to ourselves. Anything on the island was like that because Nanaimo people really didn’t go over to Gabriola.”

Nanaimo residents who are unable to make the trip to Gabriola over Thanksgiving can still check out the work of about 25 of the island’s artists in the Gabriola in the City exhibit at Charcoal: Eclectic Artisan Emporium and Henna Lounge in the Old City Quarter. The show runs until Oct. 15.

“We wanted to show off Gabriolans to the world and we thought that this was a good step in that direction,” Cerminara said.

WHAT’S ON … 21st annual Gabriola Thanksgiving Studio Tour takes places at 65 studios across Gabriola Island from Oct. 7-9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Map available at Gabriola in the City exhibition at Charcoal: Eclectic Artisan Emporium and Henna Lounge from Sept. 25-Oct. 15.