When Ian Niamath moved from London, England to Nanaimo over 30 years ago he knew he wanted to get involved with the arts community, particularly the Nanaimo Art Gallery.
“It was one of the things I was always interested in,” he said. “I always visited galleries in whichever town or city I visited. The public gallery was the first place I would normally head to because that’s a reflection on the cultural level of the city or town.”
Niamath soon became involved with the Nanaimo Art Gallery and has since dedicated years of his life to improving the arts scene in the city.
“I felt that I had something to offer,” Niamath said. “I wanted to help get it established.”
More than three decades later, Niamath, who recently stepped down as president of the art gallery, received the Honour in Culture Award from the City of Nanaimo for his various contributions to the community.
“The gallery is near and dear to me,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the board, of course it’s not just myself. It’s all the other board members and staff who have done an incredible job of getting it to where we’ve got it.”
Niamath along with Shayd Johnson, Pat Coleman, and the Gogo family will be recognized for their achievements on Wednesday (March 12) at the Port Theatre as part of the city’s annual arts and culture awards.
Niamath, who is an architect by trade, has also been involved in organizing the annual Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival. His architectural work can be found throughout the Harbour City.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be in Nanaimo during these years because we’ve been able to contribute buildings and so on to the architectural theme in the community,” he said. “It’s been rather nice and it’s been gratifying to see people using the spaces that we’ve done. For instance, the waterfront walkway and the Pioneer Plaza and that whole area, which we did some time ago. It’s lovely to see how many people are using it. Even in the winter. It is wonderful to see it being loved by the general public.”
The Nanaimo Art Gallery has come a long way over the last three decades since Naimath got involved with the organization, he said.
“It has become much more sophisticated. We are basically recognized as an upcoming gallery in Canada, and certainly in B.C.,” he said. “The quality of our exhibitions has improved dramatically and that is because of the staff that we have. They are doing such a fantastic job. We’ve been able to attract very high-quality people, who work with us in the gallery.”
The Nanaimo Art Gallery is working toward merging its two gallery locations into one downtown location in an effort to make art more accessible.
“We’ve been working for a long time and we’re getting to the point where that can happen so we can be open and accessible to the public,” Niamath said.
The downtown gallery location is undergoing renovations and is expected to re-open in late April, according to Niamath.
“We’re doing some renovations at the gallery right now that is going to increase the accessibility for educational programs at the gallery. This involves students and children and so on,” he said.
Niamath believes that winning the Honour in Culture Award from the city will give the art gallery a higher profile.
“I feel very proud having gotten the award, which then provides a slightly higher profile for the gallery and all the things that we try to do,” he said.
In addition to awards for Ian Niamath, the City of Nanaimo is also recognizing the work of Pat Coleman, the Gogo family and Shayd Johnson at Wednesday’s (March 12) award ceremony at the Port Theatre. The event is free, beginning at 7 p.m. Please see Thursday’s News Bulletin for more profiles on the cultural award winners.