Signy Cohen received the Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Rainy Coast Arts Award in recognition of her longstanding dedication and support of West Coast arts and culture and her significant body of work that reflects local life. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Signy Cohen received the Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Rainy Coast Arts Award in recognition of her longstanding dedication and support of West Coast arts and culture and her significant body of work that reflects local life. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Local artist honoured for inspiring Tofino and Ucluelet

Signy Cohen receives Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Rainy Coast Arts Award.

A well-known and revered member of the West Coast’s art community is being heralded for her impressive body of work as well as the work she’s inspired others to create.

Signy Cohen recently received the Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Rainy Coast Arts Award.

The award recognizes a “longstanding dedication tothe craft, steadfast support of local arts and culture and the production of a significant body of work reflecting life on the West Coast.”

Cohen moved to Vancouver Island around 1989 and, after arriving in Tofino from Nanaimo, began teaching local belly dancing classes and helping to organize art events throughout the West Coast.

She also launched the Signy Cohen Studio and Art Gallery, offering drop in art classes in the courtyard in front of her space, which is now housed by Chocolate Tofino. She also collaborated with the Tofino’s recreation department to offer drop-in classes for local youth.

“The award was a really good time for me to reflect on my life and all that I have done and contributed to the community,” she said. “I really want to thank the awesome community for really appreciating the gallery and all the local artists and for continuing to support local art.”

She said her Reflecting Spirit Art Gallery, which she opened roughly 26 years ago, was a key reason she received the award as it has been a consistent source of support for local artists to display their work and be encouraged to continue their artististic pursuit.

“That includes not just showing their work to the general public, but also mentorship and encouragement and support for artists,” she said. “I like to encourage new artists coming in and over the years I’ve seen a lot of these novice artists become professional artists in their own rights and it’s a very good feeling to see that happen and to watch an artists work evolve and grow with them.”

She said Reflecting Spirit quickly became a valuable venue for local artists.

“In the early days there wasn’t many opportunities for artists to display their work,” she said. “This was a way for them to have their work out there, provide some income for the artists and it gives them some encouragement too.”

She said the West Coast’s art community has benefited greatly from the establishment of strong local markets as well as the work of the Pacific Rim Arts Society to promote local art.

“Right now, we’re really coming into a beautiful surge of artwork from young artists as well as the more mature professional artists. There’s a lot of blossoming of work coming forth,” she said.

“It’s who we are. We’re artists. We’re speaking from our soul and that’s our inspiration and what motivates us, it’s what gets us up in the morning.”

She added the West Coast’s booming tourism sector has provided a key source of financial support for artists.

“When tourists come to these areas they really like to find something local. That’s what I find in the gallery. They’re looking for something that’s West Coast and of this area,” she said.

Cohen, a lifelong artist, was raised in a creative home.

“I was born into an artistic family. My father was an architect and my mother was an artist and potter and teacher so it was just part of my upbringing,” she said adding she was in her 30s when she moved to Tofino and was introduced to a new world of First Nations art.

“Within that introduction to that culture, was a great inspiration to my artwork.”

She said she is currently focusing on large format ocean scenes and has been inspired by her son, avid windsurfer Jesse Jared Cohen, to incorporate an “extreme windsurfing element” in her painting.

She also continues to create portraits for the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in Saskatchewan.

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The District of Tofino is cycling through new electric bike regulations in an effort to prevent the rapidly growing industry from putting Multi-Use Path users and beachgoers at risk. (Nora O’Malley photo)
POLL: Would you support more restrictions on electric bikes in your community?

E-Bikes under consideration as path being built between Tofino and Ucluelet

Tofino’s affordable housing project at District Lot 114 took another step forward last week thanks to a $3.8 million grant. (tofinohousingcorp.ca)
Tofino scores $3.8M for affordable housing project

Tofino Housing Corproation and Catalyst Community Developments secure funding

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van burst into flames just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

A 58-year-old B.C. woman says she was attacked by a deer while out walking her dog last week. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Deer attack in southeastern B.C. leaves woman cut, battered and bruised

Liz Royer says she was out for a run last week when the deer appeared out of a bush and charged

Most Read