Downtown businesses will once again double as galleries as the Nanaimo Artwalk returns after taking a year off due to COVID-19.
On Dec. 4 and 5, the 23rd annual Nanaimo Artwalk will take place, with 30 locations in the downtown area and more than 50 artists representing a variety of art forms participating in the event.
This is the first year the Nanaimo Arts Council is organizing the Artwalk and committee chairwoman Laurel Karjala said her focus is “we’ve got to get people downtown.”
“Woodgrove mall, Country Club, all those places are great but there’s so much downtown,” she said. “We’ve lost businesses downtown over the last year and a half, two years. I grew up in Nanaimo and I remember when the only place was Commercial Street.”
This is also Karjala’s first time participating in the Artwalk as an artist. She’ll be displaying paintings that feature repeated scribbled shapes made using a needle-like “fineline applicator” tool. It’s a technique she’s been experimenting with for the past year.
“I’ve always been a landscape painter, so I was trying to push past realism and get into, ‘Is that a cloud [or] is it a flock of birds?’ That sort of thing,” she said.
Also new to the Artwalk and first on this year’s list of artists is R. Michael Fisher, who created an outdoor stone sculpture at Nanaimo Innovation Academy on Hecate Street.
Fisher’s project started with a Zen garden he made using stones he found along the side of his house after recently moving to the neighbourhood. In the following days Fisher went for walks around the area and noticed piles of garbage and encampments and asked himself, “Why do I have such an aversive reaction to that? What’s that about?”
“As an artist, I don’t want to be averting my eye from things that are not pleasant. That’s the first mistake an artist can make,” he said. “I think we need to be totally wide open 24-7, more or less, and that’s what our role is in society.”
Fisher’s walks also took him to Nanaimo Innovation Academy, a daycare for young children, where he’s been the artist-in-residence since June. Inspired by his Zen garden, Fisher had a dump truck deliver six square yards of stones that he turned into a sculpture, which he’ll be showing along with some paintings during the Artwalk.
“The dump truck’s also an interesting metaphor. It’s another dump, it’s another waste, it’s another excess…” he said. “And then the kids are also dumped here. OK, they’re dropped off, but so were the stones. So I started thinking of all these metaphors of what we value in society and how we leave it. Maybe cared for, maybe not cared for.”
WHAT’S ON … The 23rd annual Nanaimo Artwalk takes place across downtown Nanaimo on Dec. 4 and 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a map and list of artists, click here.