Young art students participate in an after-school Art Club session that sparks their creativty with plein air painting as part of Ultramarine Art Supply’s new youth classes in Tofino. (Photo - Erin McGillivray)

Tofino art shop welcomes youth to creative spaces

“It allows them to think creatively and get messy.”


Special to the Westerly

Tucked inside a funky little two-storey house around the corner from Fourth Street on Main Street in Tofino, Ultramarine Art Supply is jam-packed with art supplies, art-making spaces indoors and out—including a sun-filled deck and courtyard—and a killer espresso machine for parents accompanying their children or adults dropping in to open studio night.

Owner Erin McGillivray, in a knit-sweater threaded through with a rainbow of colours, is on hand to help provide guidance to customers seeking specialty supplies and to admire the handiwork of children’s finger-knitting as they check in from the afterschool program being supervised in the brightly-lit back room. From Tiny Artists (age 1.5 up) through Youth Art Night (10-17), all programs offer child-led exploration, allowing children to develop their own sense of self-expression and to experience art as a process.

“Children love art,” says McGillivray, “It allows them to think creatively and get messy.”

Having a space like that can get messy removes the inhibitions of the art process, she explains.

“Through art children learn how to express their own ideas and feelings, develop fine motor skills, reasoning, social and emotional development, independence and learn that they can do it,” she says.

She explains that Ultramarine started offering classes “because we love making art and it seemed like a nice way to experience that with the community. It’s great to see kids and adults immediately drop in, create and play in the space. There is a real desire for learning in our community and art is just one of the areas we are able to contribute to.”

Art-making also promotes bonding and communication whether between parent-and-child or peer-to-peer. The emphasis is on process over product, whether it’s allowing “each little artist’s voice to heard in their own work,” or fostering positive social interaction and talent as part of a youth-only art collective. A new technique is explored each week and, while supplies are provided with drop-in fee, youth are encouraged to bring along a journal to catalogue their experiences.

Stressing the incredible work coming out of Youth Art Night, McGillivray suggests the more avenues like this that exist for youth, the better. She credits Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and Tofino Arts Council for helping to kick-start this drop-in program.

“A healthy community needs art…Tofino has a really great art scene that is created by the community but we just don’t know about it. Everything from Mark Hobson painting in his gallery, Carmen Larsen’s workshops at the Botanical Gardens, Andrea Fergusson’s life drawing, Creative Tofino’s workshops, TAC’s workshops, all the events that PRAS facilitates, Guerrilla art openings that just happen and are amazing,” says McGillivray. “What I think Tofino needs is space to create and exchange inspiration. Facilitating open studio has shown us that. We have a fluid community and with that comes a lot of chances to learn new techniques and ideas. Creating successful art equals a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment and that is important for one’s well being.”

“We believe strongly in the importance of art to a community’s well being and we want to encourage the creativity and ‘out of the box’ thinking that happens when children are exposed to art activities,” said Maureen Fraser, Tofino Arts Council.

Fergusson, parenting five boys from infant to teenage, points out “that the ability to approach the world from a holistic perspective is related to art and our creative encouragement and development from a young age.”

Larsen, who has also worked as a children’s arts educator adds, “Erin at Ultramarine Art Supply has delivered a much-needed creative space in our community delivering programming to all ages, especially children and youth…Creative expression is a vital component in the development of a community’s vibrancy, uniqueness, and collective story.”

Ultramarine Art Supply is located at 451 Main St. in Tofino. Drop-in programs include: Tiny Artists (Age 1.5 and up): Tuesday, Friday 10-11 a.m. ($15 including materials and a coffee) and Youth Art Night (10-17), Tuesdays 5-6 p.m. ($10 including materials). For more information visit:

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