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New gallery promises engaging experience in Tofino

Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art unveils inaugural exhibit on June 13

A new art gallery has officially opened its doors in Tofino.

The Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art unveiled its inaugural exhibit on June 13.

“I am excited, I’m nervous and I’m looking forward to sleeping again,” laughed gallerist Leah McDiarmid in an interview with the Westerly News prior to opening.

McDiarmid has been tenaciously preparing her new space since January with the hope of creating a cultural hub for both locals and tourists.

“It’s coming along beautifully. It’s an intimate space with wonderful acoustics,” she said.

“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a labour of love and I have been supported and mentored by just outstanding people within the arts community at large and I really appreciate that support. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but I have not run an art gallery, so this is a new venture, but one that I am very passionate about. I will give it my best and give it my all.”

She said the contemporary gallery will not be confined to any modality or genre and will give established and emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their work in Tofino.

“Tofino is a world-class destination situated at the literal end-of-the-road, bordering the shores of Long Beach and the lush forests that sit on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation,” reads the gallery’s announcement.

McDiarmid said the idea to open a gallery in her longtime hometown of Tofino has been percolating for several years and she seized the opportunity when a cozy space at 105 – 430 Campbell Street became available, tucked behind Rhino Coffee via a short alleyway that now leads to her gallery’s elegant storefront anchored by a Birgit Piskor sculpture.

“I love the arts and I love the art environment,” she said. “The arts are a wonderful and necessary component of everyday life and I just want to support that and be a part of it..We just want to be part of the creative hub here in Tofino, very much a local community art gallery.”

The gallery’s inaugural exhibit features a collection of works from Vancouver Island and B.C. artists, including painters Marion Evamy, Irma Soltonovich, Paula Callahan, Arden Rose and Ira Hoffecker, photographer Stacey Bodnaruk and sculptors Birgit Piskor and Fran Solar.

“This group exhibition examines and explores ideas of place, space and form within each artist’s concepts, materials, and processes,” the announcement reads.

McDiarmid hopes her contemporary gallery will become a hive of meaningful engagement with artists and their work.

“The space itself is very experiential,” she said. “It’s a very tactile, sensory experience.”

McDiarmid, who has a background in interior design and recently completed an Art History and Visual Studies degree at the University of Victoria, said Tofino has a vibrant art culture that continues to be nurtured and added to with many local artists exploring a variety of mediums.

“The arts have been nurtured here for quite some time. It’s just a very important part of any community and hopefully we’ll be a welcomed addition to the arts community here,” she said.

“It’s a community gallery and the art that we represent will be accessible. We’re going to give it a try and I think that it is something that will be supported by the community. I think it will be great.”

After its June 13 inauguration, the Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art is expected to be open everyday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More information can be found at

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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