A collaboration between two Ucluelet artists has launched a unique opportunity for locals and visitors to tour through the town’s creative talents.
Carly Butler and Nelly Heyduck have cut the ribbon on a new, two-month, pop up art exhibition entitled Heyduck & Butler. The vibrant experience opened on July 1 and will run until August 31 at a space the artist’s have rented inside Ucluelet’s Whiskey Landing building. Along with Butler and Heyduck’s own work, the exhibition includes contributions from Lydia Karpenko, Karla Strickland, Hjalmer Wenstob and Jens Heyduck.
A sampling of the show can be found on Instagram:@heyduckandbutler.
Butler told the Westerly News that she hopes people will check out the exhibition and experience the strength of Ucluelet’s local art scene.
“One of the reasons for doing this is that we haven’t had the opportunity to even talk with people about our art work, it’s been a very isolating time,” she said, adding she plans to be making work within the space on a tabletop letterpress and is happy to show anyone interested how it works.
“It’s lovely to get out and actually talk to the public about our work. You don’t have to come and buy, you can come and look and chat and learn more.”
The pop up exhibition was launched, in part, to help showcase artists who have watched their exhibition opportunities obliterated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There has been the loss of exhibitions and resulting sales, which cannot be completely replaced online. Many people need to see work in person before deciding whether they want to live with it, particularly if they’re paying a substantial amount for a piece,” Butler said. “And then, of course, there’s the closing of galleries themselves, as we’ve seen here in Ukee. Museum shows have been cancelled, and that means artists aren’t receiving the exhibition fees they would normally be paid.”
Along with events and exhibitions being cancelled, artist residencies and grants have also disappeared.
“It’s tough and unusual times, but we’re trying to make the best of the opportunities that come our way,” Butler said.
She added that, along with diminished opportunities, some artists have struggled to make work in isolation as they tried to process the pandemic’s toll and faced doubts around where their work would be shown, whether it could be sold and how to create relevant work in a fast-changing world.
“I think, for a lot of us, we stopped making work because it’s very hard when you feel like the world is going through such a huge crisis. You really have to adjust what you’re doing, especially if your art work is reflective of the world around you,” she said. “We got a little bit paralyzed for a month or so there and, I think, that’s also why this exhibition is nice because it’s kind of like exhaling and trying to, not pretend things are normal, but establish some sort of normality. If other exhibitions and opportunities are closing, what are the ones we can create for ourselves?”
Butler and Heyduck also helped launch the Ucluelet Artists Collective and received funding from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust to launch a website showcasing local artists at www.ukeeart.com.
“The idea behind the website was just to help promote and support each other as artists in the community,” Butler said, adding the site currently features a community of roughly 24 artists and continues to grow.
“It felt important, in these times in particular, to do something to help local artists promote their work online. I hope people will look at the site and be pleasantly surprised at how much incredible talent there is in our small community.”
She added Ucluelet provides an inspiring and spacious landscape for artists to explore their work, but with few opportunities for local exhibitions, many residents might not be aware of just how robust the local art scene is.
“Ucluelet can be a great place to make art and be inspired by nature, our local geography, and history, and it can also be rewarding to be removed from the hustle of the larger art scene that exists in urban centres as it can give you more space, figuratively and literally, to develop your own art practice,” she said. “On the flip side, being an artist in Ucluelet can sometimes feel lonely and with less opportunities for exhibition and promotion and it’s this we’re trying to address with both the Ucluelet Artist Collective and this pop up exhibition…It’s exciting to see what a lot of artists are doing in the community, sometimes behind closed doors.”
She added her own most recent art show, prior to the pandemic, was in China.
“There’s artwork based on Ucluelet currently in China, but I haven’t had the opportunity to show that work in my own backyard, so that’s exciting.”