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An Artistic Explosion: Artisan Square and Beyond

LORRAINE ASHDOWN Contributing Writer An explosion of colour, texture and intrigue is our midst.


Contributing Writer

An explosion of colour, texture and intrigue is our midst. In the next few weeks there will be not three, not four, not five but six working artists exhibiting their work in local, visible galleries with high traffic and potential for sales and shows.

Shamon Gallery

Artisan Square now hosts artists Shane Tweten and his friend and fellow carver Winadzi James in their brand new studio. Shamon Gallery officially opened on February 19.

Shane Tweten is a self-taught chainsaw carver who has worked under Robert Barrett, an international award-winning carver and teacher living on the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Barrett himself trained under Norman Tait and Lucinda Turner, both renowned Canadian carvers and totem pole artists. Winadzi is from the Kwakwakwawakw Nation. He has been carving and working as an artist for the last 26 years and dealing with top galleries in Vancouver and internationally for 20 years. He is also in partnership as a creator and producer of Raven Tales, the award-winning animated series based on Aboriginal mythology. Winadzi has lived on Bowen since 2008 with his wife and newest addition, his baby boy Ryuki Kolus.

James and Tweten decided to continue working together after creating the sculpture "Embracing the Spirit of the Flame", which now stands outside the Bowen Island Library.

Embracing the spirit certainly defines these working artists in Artisan Square. "All of the sudden," Tweten says with an undeniable sparkle of excitement in his eye, "this location opened up, and it was so easy, it was as if it were meant to be."

The two are hoping to inspire the charge of visible artists on Bowen Island. "All of us artists can work together. We are here to get everybody focused on Artisan Square until this is a happening spot. We need to change the whole aspect of Bowen as far as tourism goes on a commercial scale. I think the climate for artists on Bowen is stale right now."

James thinks that by having a visible, working gallery, the buzz felt up in Artisan Square will spread around the island and fan out to the Lower Mainland and beyond. "

Josh Van Dyke

The buzz is not just confined to Tweten and James and their artistic power. Having recently moved in next door is fellow artist Josh Van Dyke who will celebrate his Studio Opening on Friday, March 4 from 1 to 6 p.m. Van Dyke is responsible for the creation and installment of the mural entitled "Corridor", recently unveiled in the cove to greet passengers and drivers as they journey to and from the island. "We are excited to see Josh move in," James says, "and have Artisan Square re-claimed by artists."

Born in 1980 on the west coast of Canada, Van Dyke graduated with an honours degree in fine art from the Glasgow School of Art in 2007. He has exhibited in Canada, Scotland and Finland. Josh is very excited to be sharing his artwork in Artisan Square as well. "This studio is the culmination of the last 10 years of my life, where my artistic process has led me. It provides a platform to produce and share my work with the community and develop new ideas. I would like to open up the space to other programs such as art workshops for youth, visiting artist residencies and film screenings. But first I want it to function as a working studio."

Van Dyke, Tweten and James all share the same sentiment: Bowen's visual artists are not visible enough and the community of artists remains far too remote. They dream of bringing Bowen's artists together through the use of their studios and to give artists a sense of belonging. " I think there is so much creative energy on Bowen," Van Dyke says, "but there is not a place for people to come together. It is just not yet our culture."

Rob Wall

Artist Rob Wall holds a similar vision to the other creative spirits he will soon be surrounded by. "The more the merrier with art", says Wall, an established artist for over two decades. He will be opening his studio in early March in Artisan Square, underneath Artisan Eats.

As a teenager in Cornwall, Ontario, Wall was involved in music, theatre, recording, and special lighting effects for the music industry. At the age of 20 Wall stopped painting and performing music and started raising a family which eventually led to living on Bowen Island where he has been for the last 18 years. During this time he directed his artistic talents to the advent of computer graphics and digital photography. Today he is an established designer and digital artist in the local advertising industry with several co-awards, including Lotus Awards and placements in Art and Design Magazine.

Recently, Wall and fellow artist Bill Hoopes had a gallery in the cove but, sadly, it was not long lived. The success of the gallery was compromised by the ferry frenzy. Wall says, "People were too paranoid about getting on the ferry and would spend one and half hours sitting in their cars rather than coming into a gallery and enjoying, and possibly buying, art."

Now that Wall will be among fellow artists in Artisan Square, he hopes to create a feeding frenzy for art buyers and art lovers, not a ferry frenzy for anxious folks leaving the island. If we can get people to climb the hill to Artisan Square, leaving the anxiety of the ferry behind, Wall is confident that people will "become fully engaged and start to relax."

Stacey Beamer and Daniel Waeflar

If you have been counting the artists, Wall makes four in Artisan Square. Now, we leave Artisan Square and head down the hill towards the cove where we turn our attention to the fifth and sixth players in this new game of working visual artists on Bowen Island.

Directly across from the Bowen Island Pub lies an impressive wood and iron structure created by local artist Stacey Beamer and his partner Daniel Waeflar. Behind the fence and gates lies an old garage that has become the new home of Bowen Island Metalworks, owned and operated by Beamer with support from island newcomer Waeflar. Beamer has designed many of the elaborative gates around Bowen Island including the gate at Bowen Island Montessori and the Bowen Island Children's Centre. He now creates everything from hard landscapes and driveways to metal sculptures, fences and all kinds of elaborative, intriguing projects.

Beamer is very drawn to the old garage that he now calls his artistic home. "I love this site. I love architecture. This is actually an architectural icon, this old garage. From that perspective I like the traditional, old-style workshop that this really is. I think it is great to have something on the corner."

For 10 years Beamer had a workshop at the Bowen Island Building Centre. "It is kind of like the blacksmith has moved back to the village," Beamer smiles. "Most of what we do is functional art. Instead of making a standard deer fence we will go and build something funky and beautiful. Creative function. "

Beamer, his partner Daniel Waefler, Winadzi James, Shane Tweten, Josh Van Dyke and Rob Wall. That is a strong production line of form and function, design and colour. Bowen Island is very fortunate to have this team leading the way for other local artists to come out of the woodwork, creating a transformation of artistic trade and commerce.

Gregg Simpson

The domino effect is truly having an impact on our creative community. As recently as last week, when artist Gregg Simpson learned of so many local painters, sculptors and carvers opening their doors, he also decided to publically fan the creative flames. "I hadn't been looking but the space came up and with everyone else opening a gallery, I thought, 'What about us?'"

Simpson has been active in the contemporary visual art scene on the west coast of Canada since the mid-1960s. He creates works of vibrancy and colour and his work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Canada, the United States, Europe, Malaysia, and South America and is included in over 100 private and public collections in Europe, Asia and North America.

Simpson, along with his partner, writer Carol Cramm, will shift into 582 Artisan Square, the former home of Bowen businesswoman Amrita Sondhi's Movement Global Design clothing store (which is moving into the space formerly occupied by Bottoms Up.) The move will occur in early April.

Simpson is planning to run his studio as an atelier, a working studio, for him and Carol to create in and sell from. Recently Simpson was in Paris, working in a small gallery. "People were coming and buying the artwork before I even finished," he said with excitement. That is the kind of attention he and his fellow artists on Bowen are hoping for. "I think we can get this place on the map," Simpson says confidently.