Tofino’s Main Street Gallery celebrates Island’s artists

“I’m just pleased to give these artists a chance to show their work to the public.”

Within the walls of one of Tofino’s oldest kayak shops is the Main Street Gallery. The creative space opened up three years ago as a community art gallery to showcase collections of work by local artists. (Drew Penner Photo)

Nestled between the Tofino Coast Guard Station and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust office, the Main Street Gallery has become a hub for displaying established and emerging Vancouver Island artists.

The creative space exists within the building that also houses Tofino Sea Kayaking; one could not ask for a more picturesque spot to nurse a coffee, contemplate life, and admire paintings on the wall in tandem with boats on the water.

“I love this old building,” said gallery founder and longtime Tofino resident Dorothy Baert. “The walls are filled with stories.”

Baert opened the gallery three summers ago to fill a void in the town’s art community.

“I would love to see Tofino have it’s own stand alone community gallery. Until that happens this is one venue that can take place,” she said.

“There was one at one time, where the Wolf in the Fog is now. There was a gallery created there. There was a kind of art and craft gallery, but it was more artisanal crafts. And, of course, we have Mark Hobson and Roy Vickers, but they are specific to those artists.”

“I just wanted something that had an opportunity to showcase even in a small way the breadth of a particular artists work.”

Exhibits at the Main Street Gallery changeover seasonally. Baert acknowledged there is an element of personal taste with each artist on display, yet said she always tries to select one that is stimulating to both visitors and residents.

“I like work that is provocative,” she said. “I had Lori Kenney because I thought her work spoke a lot to our concern about oceans and the environment, as far as plastics and debris and how as an artist she kind of captured the intensity of that effect. I thought it was very striking and worthy of a show.”

While, unfortunately, Kenney’s exhibit didn’t garner a sale (each unique exhibit generally results in at least one sale), the artist said it was generous to be offered a show nonetheless.

“It was really wonderful to be there and do something that was involved with Tofino rather than just being totally a tourist. That was nice,” said Kenney.

“I think [the gallery] is great for the community. For me even as a visiting artist to connect with some of the guests who came there, be either artists or art appreciators, and have dialogue.”

The art of Jacques De Backer and artist Alison Watt Baert are currently on display. In the fall, Melanie MacLeod, who lives in the heart of Clayoquot Sound on Catface Mountain, will takeover the space with her paintings, sculptures and craft pieces.

Baert said she wasn’t 100 per cent sure where her gallery on Main Street would go.

“We’ll just keep doing what we are doing until we see a need or opportunity to separate out or expand. For now, I’m just pleased to give these artists a chance to show their work to the public,” she said, adding that she is hoping to hear from artists whose work she might not be aware of.

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