Petrina McNeill, manager for the Lake Country Art Gallery and member of the Public Art Advisory Commission, examines the Robotic Tree Sculpture at the end of Berry Road. The sculpture was installed to commemorate Canada’s 150th celebration. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Lake Country’s art scene thrives as population grows

As the population continues to grow, so does the local art scene

Lake Country’s growing population is changing its art scene for the better. å

Since its inception in 2010, the Lake Country Art Gallery has seen an increase in traffic by 1,000 every year, said gallery manager Petrina McNeill.

McNeill, who also sits on the Lake Country Public Art Advisory Commission, said the focus of the gallery, which saw 11,539 walkthroughs last year, has been giving up-and-coming artists an opportunity to thrive.

“It’s partially population growth but it’s also about people getting to know it’s there,” she said. “The growth in the population is there, but also people are visiting and travelling.”

The 2018 exhibitions at the gallery have been on humanity, climate change, the natural world and the role of the artist, all of which fittingly tie in with Okanagan issues and are often planned years in advance.

“What often happens is that things end up being more topical than we imagine,” McNeill said.

READ MORE: Lake Country local featured in art gallery

Next year will be focused on mentorship, which is an ongoing theme at the art gallery. It also differentiates it from Kelowna’s, Vernon’s and Penticton’s galleries, she said.

“It’s very important for a lot of reasons. We have a lot of young artists coming out of UBCO, so obviously supporting them in the early stages in their career is important. It also has a lot of people that do art part-time or are just interested in art and we do workshops as well as exhibitions,” McNeill said. “There’s a whole row of public art galleries that are all bringing different things to the public. We’ve constantly had to think about what we bring that’s different, what are we doing for the community.”

The Lake Country Public Art Advisory Commision has been busy with multiple projects this year, including: maintaining artwork within municipal hall, creating new district entrance signs, completing the final phase of the birdhouse sculpture project on Berry Road, turning graffiti into art at the Berry Road retaining wall, commemorating Canada’s 150th anniversary with a robotic tree sculpture, working with the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art for the installation of the Ponderosa Sphere Sculpture at George Elliot Secondary, an art bench at Jack Seaton Park and new streets banners which will be installed in time for the 25th anniversary of Art Walk.

READ MORE: What is that giant bark ball in Lake Country?

This year’s public art commission projects came from saving funding over time, and the public sculptures allow the community to join the conversation, McNeill said.

“People go into a gallery expect to see art, but they also go into a gallery because they want to see art and in a sense, those who don’t go into the galleries or don’t go out of their way to see art are missing part of those conversations. The public art advisory commission, it’s our duty in a sense to share the benefit of those compositions to the people,” she said.

Art Walk is also a large draw for the community; the gallery sees about 1,500 visitors walk through its doors and 7,000 visitors in Lake Country for the event, McNeill said. The District of Lake Country has 13,000 residents, according to census data.

“I’ve often asked myself because there are a lot of artists in the Okanagan and there are a lot of artists in Lake Country, and I sometimes wonder is it the landscape that brings the artists here or is it the landscape that brings out more people? That’s the question I’ve never been able to answer,” she said.

The commission will work to include artwork in Lake Country’s section of the Okanagan Rail Trail, adding public art to the renovated Pelmewash Parkway, and to install existing sculptures around the community.

The Carr’s Landing Art Tour, which featured seven Lake Country artists and wrapped up in early August, also experienced larger than normal volumes of traffic, said organizer Noreen Malmkvist.

“It was the best one we’ve ever had,” she said. “The first day was crazy here, crazy crazy good.”

Malmkvist said 177 people signed her guest-book, which means double the visitors have stepped through the doors of the Carr’s Landing artists.

The art tour has been growing each year, thanks to Lake Country’s increasing population and the advertising on Facebook and in articles published in local papers, Malmkvist said.

Residents from The Lakes, Lakestone and Predator Ridge supported the Carr’s Landing artists during their weekend tours, she said.

Art Walk celebrates 25 years with “Art of our Times” Sept. 8 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features more than 200 Okanagan artists.

The Lake Country Art Gallery is also hosting a Picnic in the Night event, which features an outdoor art gallery, food, artisans, raffles and prizes, Aug. 16 from 6-10:30 p.m.


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