Gallery Lounge – Marian Craft

The Kootenay Gallery has been fortunate to have Marian Craft give her time and energy for over 17 years as a volunteer, Board Member and bookkeeper.  Marian and her husband Ed semi-retired here in Castlegar twenty-four years ago, after years of moving throughout BC. At a time in her life when most people fully retire, Marian followed her calling and became ordained as an Anglican Priest in 2017.

How did you get involved with the Gallery?

All throughout my life, I’ve connected through art. I took painting classes, I went to exhibitions and so on. In around 2000, Derek Lepsoe at the church asked me if I’d help at the Gallery. It had just re-opened after it’s closure and they needed help with setting up the Gift Shop. Sandy Korman and I worked hard. We even took a trip to the East Shore to find artisans. Shortly after I volunteered, I became a Board Member and aside from a couple of years as Bookkeeper, I’ve been on the Board ever since.

What do you like best about being on the Board?

I like the camaraderie and I like how it gets things done. I love seeing how it has grown. When I started, we were on a shoe string budget, with a strict business plan. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow. The Gift Shop has always fascinated me and my husband Ed. I love to see the variety of work done – pottery, art,  jewelry. There’s so much talent in the area.

What are you looking forward to?

The move to something bigger and more visible. Continued growth and more involvement in the community. I look forward to coming to the openings, especially to the kids’ one. When I think about the struggle we started with to now, it’s just WOW!

Thank you Marian, for you dedication. Your long-term experience is invaluable.

Gallery Lounge with Judy Wearmouth

This month, we are featuring a long-time Board Member and a woman who is familiar to many in our community. Judy Wearmouth has been a part of the Kootenay Gallery Board since 2003. Born in England, Judy moved to Canada with her husband and three children. Judy worked for the Castlegar 29 years, presiding as Head Librarian for twenty-five of those years.

How did you get involved with the Kootenay Gallery of Art?

Well, I have always been very interested in all the arts. When I was retiring from the Library in 2003, Sandy Korman, who was the Executive Director at the time, made a personal request. I’ve taken a couple of breaks to have hip operations and for a while, I was on the Board as a Member-at-Large but now I’m back on the Board as a full Board Member.

That’s fortunate for us. What do you enjoy about being on the board?

It’s very stimulating and fun. I like the camaraderie of the board. I also enjoy feeling as if we are doing something for the community.

You are on the Fundraising Committee. Why did you volunteer for that one?

I’m not afraid to ask for money and I’ve initiated quite a few events. The Gallery gets the majority of their funds from grants but they are quite specific as to what the money can be used for. They have to be used for specific operating costs or specific projects. The Gift Shop is wonderful but it doesn’t make enough money to fully support our needs. Through our fundraising, we can have more flexibility to arrange art exhibitions beyond those ones that are funded or to do special programming or to do miscellaneous things, like planning the relocation.

What fundraising activities have you been working on recently?

I’m on the committee that is organizing the Monday Night at the Movies. We showed Maudie in September which was well attended. We’re hoping for a good turn out for all of them, including Their Finest.

We had organized the Great Dinner Lottery but unfortunately we had to post-pone that event. I went to a similar event organized by Selkirk College and it was a lot of fun so I’m looking forward to putting that on later.

Are there any events coming up?

We are talking about doing another Lottery similar to the one we ran two years ago. And there is Soup for the Soul coming up in February.

Thank you Judy, for both the interview and for being so effective on our Fundraising Committee. We appreciate the dedication and spirit that you bring to the board.

Gallery Lounge with Linda Miller

This month we interview Board Secretary Linda Miller

Linda Miller has been an integral part of the Kootenay Gallery Board since joining in 2014. Linda took on the task of being the Secretary for which we are grateful.
Linda, her husband Rick and two daughters moved to the area in 1993. She has spent 42 years nursing and continues to work in semi-retirement.

How did you get involved with the Kootenay Gallery?

I’ve come in to the Gallery off and on over the years. I paint, I draw. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated art in all forms all my life. It’s the most amazing thing to see how people create. I appreciate the creativity and thought processes that go into it. I’m semi-retired now so I thought I could contribute my skills to the Gallery Board.

What do you enjoy about being on the board?

I enjoy working together with a group of people with a common goal. I like seeing the progression of projects we’re working on. I want to see the completion of the relocation project, not having a clue in the beginning how it would come about. Since sitting on the board I’ve gained an appreciation of all the connections and networks within the community. We’re such a diverse group with a variety of backgrounds but we all have the same commitment to our goals.

What strengths do you bring to the board?

I’m a hard worker – I don’t mind work. Give me a task and I’ll do it. I’m also practical minded. I’m the one who asks “Why would you want to do that?”

Those are great skills, Linda. We’ve definitely benefited from them. What excites you about the relocation project?

I think it will raise our profile so people can see all the possibilities the gallery has to offer. It will be a better place for local artisans to be promoted. It will be a central point in the community to showcase the huge talent pool that we have in the area. I see it as a comfortable place to exhibit art – I’m hoping anyone in the community can come, feel welcome and see what’s going on. We’ll also be able to offer more programs – we’ll have the space and a better location.

Thanks, Linda. We appreciate all that you bring to the board.


Kootenay Gallery Lounge – Maggie Shirley

Curator/Assistant Maggie Shirley (right) with ED Val Field and artist Tsuneko Kokubo




The Gallery Lounge

Maggie Shirley joined the Kootenay Gallery in 2015 after moving to Castlegar. Maggie had lived in the Kootenays, in and around Nelson throughout the 90’s. In 2001, Maggie spread her wings and moved to Ireland for seven years where she studied art. In 2008, she returned to Canada and lived in Banff and Kelowna before returning to the Kootenays.

How did you get involved with the Kootenay Gallery?
I’d been to the Gallery off and on over the years but when I moved to Castlegar, I was looking for work and also to get involved with the community. I joined the board and a few months  after that, when (former assistant) Joelle Beaulieu had to leave, I applied for the job of Gallery Assistant and luckily, I was hired.

What do you enjoy about your job?
Just about everything! My job now includes curatorial duties which is both a challenge and a delight. I love working with Val. She’s the cat’s pajamas. And the Board is so great – it works together well and we all respect each other. We have great discussions and we’re moving ahead on projects but in a wise and responsible manner. I also enjoy that I get to do curatorial projects that fuel the artist in me, like 150+ Creative Acts.

The 150+ project is happening at the moment. How does this relate to curating?
I have several passions in my curatorial and artistic practice. One of the is community-engaged or socially-engaged work which means that I like to establish projects where the public are actively involved in making things. For a long time, I think some people have felt excluded from art and art galleries. I believe they should be open and welcoming to as many people as possible, places and activities where we can experience fine quality art by professionals and also celebrate art and creativity of everyone. Art has a greater impact on people if they can respond to it or engage with it, rather than being a passive viewer only. This goes against the traditional notion of a gallery. Art galleries can have  important roles to play in a community as spaces where relevant issues are examined and new ideas are developed. At the same time,  we can move art outside the gallery walls to public spaces and digital spaces – like we have with Sculpture Walk and in other experiential ways, like I’m attempting with 150+ Creative Acts

So why 150+ Creative Acts?
Well, celebrating 150 years of Canada is a socially-charged event, particularly given our history with our First Nations communities. I think we as a nation have a lot to celebrate but we also have a lot to account for. I wanted to address the future of Canada. How are we going to move forward as a nation with issues including climate change, including economic and labour force change? There seems to be growing intolerance and racism. We need to come together, to work on reconciliation and cooperation.  One thing that can help us find solutions is developing our creativity. It is an attitude as much as an activity. It’s about celebrating uniqueness in our thinking and expression. I have no illusions that this project will bring about world peace, or anything. But I know for myself how expressing my creativity has changed my own life and I hope others can experience that as well.

Thank you, Maggie. If you would like to check out the project web site, click the link below.

150+ Creative Acts Website

Gallery Lounge – Beth Hickey

Beth Hickey is a multi-talented woman whose skills are invaluable to the Kootenay Gallery Board and staff.  Originally from Manitoba, she met and married her husband Doug in the Kootenays and has lived here ever since. Doug is a familiar figure in the community through working as a Principal in School District 20. Beth is likewise well-known, having been the community Notary Public for many years. She now is a consultant on business and financial matters.

How did you get involved in the Kootenay Gallery Board?
I worked with many sports and cultural organizations that my son and daughter belonged to when they were children. After they left home, I took a break. Around the time that I wanted to get back to community service, Audrey (Board Chair, Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff) called and invited me to join the board.

Why are you part of the Kootenay Gallery Board?
I have a love of art. I’m interested in writing and art as a hobby. I also have business experience which is useful. I think of myself as a creative person, not so much in art but in the way I approach my work. I like to challenge myself to make it interesting. By being on the board, I’ve gained some great friends. I’ve also shared in the excitement of the growth of the gallery in the community. I feel satisfaction to offer service to the community. The Gallery Board is a good fit for me and for the skills that I offer.

You are the Board Treasurer and have done a fabulous job of keeping the Gallery in a healthy financial state. What are the biggest challenges to the position?
One of our sources of funding is government grants. As grants become less consistent, additional sources of creative input are required. We have developed a focus on increasing Earned Revenue as we go forward in our period of potential change that may require a new funding vision. We have big dreams but we need to be fiscally responsible as we realize them.

What are Earned Revenues?
There are six categories of Earned Revenues – the Gift Shop, Memberships, Sponsorships, Donations, Fundraising and Workshops. We need to meet the challenge of identifying ways of creative means of increasing earned revenue without taxing the staff and board who are busy. There’s been an increased interest from the community in programs and exhibitions.

If and when we do relocate the Gallery, there will be even more demand on staff on the operations side of things. The Gallery hopes to realize growth in Gift Shop revenues and the number of donations through a rise in visitors but it is hard to forecast. We are looking for ways to increase all the channels of Earned Revenues. The obvious option is fundraising but we need to utilze all options of Earned Revenue.

We would like to challenge our members and the public to be cognizant of supporting us as we strive to meet the needs that have be identified by the community.

Thank you, Beth.

Summer Student Position Available

Community Project /Curatorial Intern – 150 Creative Acts

The Kootenay Gallery of Art in Castlegar is looking for an enthusiastic and organized student to help make 150 Creative Acts a success in our community.  The project aims to encourage citizens to try new creative acts in celebration of Canada’s birthday. The job involves but is not limited to helping install art exhibitions, assisting to organize and facilitate community art workshops, promoting the project on traditional and social media, finding participants to take part in the challenge and documenting the project.

Students are required to be:

  • A Canadian citizen or legally entitled to work in Canada.
  • Willing to commit to a 30 hour per week work assignment for 16 weeks
  • 16 -30 years of age and registered in, and returning to, full time education

Skills required:

  • very good presentation & facilitation skills
  • strong communication & interpersonal skills
  • adept with social media and simple web sites
  • ability to organize events
  • ability to follow direction and work independently when needed
  • positive and creative outlook
  • maturity and dependability
  • flexible working schedule (will require some weekend/evening work) with time off in lieu of overtime.

The job pays $13 per hour for 30 hours per week. Hours may vary, depending on event schedule.  Position begins May 8 and runs until August 27.

To apply:
Please send a résumé, listing references to:

Kootenay Gallery of Art 120 Heritage Way, Castlegar, BC V1N 4M5
(250) 365-3337

Deadline for application: April 20 at 5:00 pm
Position contingent on successful grant funding.

Gallery Lounge – Denise Chernoff

The Gallery Lounge

This month featuring Vice Chair Denise Chernoff

The Kootenay Gallery is fortunate to have Denise Chernoff as our Board Vice Chair. Denise is a true “people person” and full of energy. Born in the Lower Mainland, raised in the Okanagan, Denise and her husband Ed have lived most of their adult lives here in Castlegar. Both she and Ed are creative people, in different ways. Ed is known locally for his photography (including the photo of Denise above). He designed and built their home in Ootishenia. Denise is a dancer, musician and crafter. As Denise says, all arts cross over and support each other. Denise has been a Board Member for approximately 5 years.

What do you like about being on the Kootenay Gallery Board of Directors?
I like the interaction with people; the people on the Board and also the people in the community who come to the Gallery. I like to be involved with something important to the community. The Gallery is an arts organization that has a big impact on the community.

Are you involved with other boards in the community?
Right now, I’m on the Sculpture Walk Board and on the board of the Kootenay Old Time Fiddlers. I’ve been quite involved with running the Fiddle Camps each summer.

You are Vice Chair and are also part of the Membership Committee. Is the Gallery looking for new members?
Yes, we are. The neat thing about being a member is that people don’t realize how much the Gallery depends on it’s membership. We have to demonstrate to our funders that we have community support and appreciation. Also, artists depend on the Gallery. We can support the artists by purchasing art and of course, this also supports the Gallery. Many people have never been to the Gallery and they get so excited when they do come. They feel a sense of community. And when they take that next step and become a member, they find they are now even more a part of the community. They are part of a club. They can give feedback and support.  We all want to belong. People want well-rounded experiences for their kids – swimming, hockey and art. We provide an important part of that. Everyone can appreciate fine art and beauty but not everyone can create it. So we can experience it through the Gallery. I think when people see new things they get inspired. Inspiration comes in many forms.

Is it difficult to recruit new members?
It can be challenging to spread the word as to what people can gain by becoming members. So we hope our current members will encourage their friends and co-workers to join. We hope that people who receive the newsletter who haven’t signed up yet will do so. But, honestly,  we are gaining new members every month as more people come on board.

What would you say to current members?
As a Board Member, I have to say how much we appreciate our current members. We are grateful for your support and feedback. As an organization, we hope to return your good will, to earn your support. We do that by providing art shows and programs but also we try to make our fundraising fun and offer social events, like Pour Your Art Out! and Soup for the Cultured Soul, the New York lotto, and so on. We hope to continue this. Not everyone has time or energy to volunteer for the Gallery but they can support us by getting a membership. Memberships mean a lot.

What does the money go toward?
Memberships (and fundraising) are important because we can get grants from the government for specific projects, like putting on exhibitions. With money from the community, we have flexibility. It can go to operations, or to the relocation project or be put towards a project that we can’t get funded through grants. So that means that our members and the collective community are our partners in creating a successful Gallery.

Spring Exhibitions at the Kootenay Gallery of Art

The Kootenay Gallery of Art in Castlegar opens it’s 2017 Exhibition Schedule with two shows that explore migration and settlement through the perspective of East Asian Canadians with reference to the West Kootenays. Plant Memory and High Muck a Muck both open Friday, March 3 at 7:00 pm and run until April 15.

Plant Memory is a collection of new paintings by Silverton artist Tsuneko Kokubo, inspired by the artist’s own family history. Kokubo’s family spent time in the internment camps in the Slocan Valley.  The plants in her mother’s garden originated from BC Coastal communities and before that from Japan.  This realization led to an exploration of the connection between the origins of plants and the movement of immigrants as they came from Europe to eventually settle in the Kootenays. The paintings not only depict images of plants but also reference what historical or cultural story they may tell.

High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese returns to the Kootenays, where it premiered at the Oxygen Art Centre in 2013. This interactive media installation explores the theme of Chinese immigration to British Columbia, both historical and contemporary and the tensions that exist between them. The exhibition is largely directed by the viewers who participate in an historical Chinese lottery game resulting in the projection of a fortune. The random nature of the fortune reflects the uncertainties faced by new immigrants and often echo the tradition of Chinese proverbs and fortune telling. Directed by long-term Kootenay resident Nicola Harwood, participating artists in the project include former Nelson resident Fred Wah, Jin Zhang, Thomas Loh, Bessie Wapp, Tomoyo Ihaya, Phillip Djwa, Hiromoto Ida, Patrice Leung and Harwood herself.

On Thursday, April 20, an annual exhibition often cited as a favourite of gallery visitors opens. Young Visions 2017 highlights work created by secondary school students from Castlegar, Trail and Rossland. The work is chosen by the art teachers in each school, including Stanley Humphries, JL Crowe, and the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centres (both Trail and Castlegar).  Audiences are given an opportunity to appreciate the talent, diverse vision and creativity that exist in our communities’ youth. The show runs from April 20 to May 27.

Rounding out the spring schedule is the West Camera Club’s annual Photo Salon. The club takes over the Gallery, organizing and hanging by the show themselves. The show is adjudicated by professional photographers who offer scores and feedback on all work and award prizes for the top photos in ten categories such as Human Interest, Nature, and Open. The Salon runs in conjunction with Sunfest festival in Castlegar. It opens on June 2 and finishes June 10.

The Kootenay Gallery of Art is located next to the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, across from the Castlegar regional airport. Admission is by donation, free for members. Hours of operation are from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. All exhibition openings are free to attend and everyone is welcome.

Gallery Lounge – Valentine Field

Val Field, Executive Director of the Kootenay Gallery

Valentine Field is the Executive Director of the Kootenay Gallery. Many people in Castlegar will recognize her warm smile from the Gallery or one of her many other roles in the community – volunteering at the Food Bank, helping to organize the Kootenay Festival or maintaining the sculptures for Sculpturewalk. She also is the new President of the Castlegar Arts Council. Val tends to avoid the spot light, letting artists and others shine.  She truly leads by example with her hard work, wisdom and graciousness.

How did you become the Executive Director at the Kootenay Gallery?

I grew up in the Okanagan in an artistic family. My mother, Percival Ritchie, had quite a successful career as a painter.  I volunteered at the Penticton Art Gallery for years. When I arrived in Castlegar, I decided to volunteer here and did so for about nine years. In 2005, I was asked to become the Executive Director and have continued since then.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

I’d have to say it’s the people that I meet – the artists and the public. Everybody.

What are you working on at the moment?

Well, we’re quite busy at the moment. The opening of the Exhibition Season starts in March so we’re preparing for that. It’s also grant writing season both for operating funds and for special projects. Our major fundraisers are coming up – Soup for the Cultured Soul in February and another Pour Your Art Out in March. Kids’ Camp is coming up during March break so we’re planning for that. It’s also the annual inventory so I’m working with volunteers every day this week to find and count all the items in our Gift Shop and in storage. All this work makes me more aware of how much we need to move and how easier it would be to organize in a place with proper storage and work space.

Speaking of which, there was a stakeholder engagement session for the Relocation project here recently. How did that go?

Really well. All sectors of the community were represented. There was a great response to our invitation. There was very good feedback to move forward with the project and all sorts of ideas for what that can look like. The Relocation Committee is going to take a look at all the information and put it together for the Project Manager.

Audrey talked about the Project Manager in the December Newsletter. What will they do?

We’re hoping to find funding to support a Project Manager for the next three years. They will be working with the Relocation Committee to create a Business Plan to determine the best location, potential partnerships, funding sources and so on. This is a huge project and requires somebody with expertise beyond what our current staff has, and also requires someone to dedicate themselves to the project. Both Maggie (Curator/Assistant) and I are already stretched to our full capacity. At first when we began to look at it, I think we all thought two or three years. That was about three years ago! I now understand that this is going to be a long-term project that will take years to complete.  It’s a step-by-step job of building a vision and relationships and momentum as well as building or renovating a structure.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m really looking forward to the planned exhibitions this year. We have an exciting line up. I’m also looking forward to keeping the enthusiasm and momentum for relocation that was created at the Engagement Session going. If anyone has any questions about the Gallery or relocation, please feel free to call me at 250 365 3337 or email me at

The Gallery Lounge – Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff

audreyWe are excited to introduce a new conversation series called ‘The Gallery Lounge’ which will feature stories and interviews with our Board Directors, staff and volunteers. We are so lucky to have a group of visionary and committed people helping us govern and lead the work of the Gallery. This month we are showcasing our Board Chair, Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff, so you can get to know her better and understand the work she is involved with at the Gallery.

Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff
Audrey is a performance artist and dancer at heart who cares deeply about arts, culture and community development. She was born in Dublin, Ireland and grew up in Vancouver and fell in love with dance after hearing her best friend talk all about it. Her parents asked her to choose between piano and dance, and she chose dance and never looked back. After moving to Castlegar and spending many years teaching for the Recreation Complex, Audrey eventually opened her own dance studio on a part time basis while working full time.

Audrey has been involved in leading and supporting multiple community arts and cultural initiatives. She has been on the Kootenay Gallery Board for the past 7 years and Board Chair for 5 years. She loves being a part of the Gallery, and working with an amazing staff, board and volunteers who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work for the benefit of the arts.

What’s the most enjoyable part of being the Chair of the Board?
For me, it’s getting to know the people on the Board. And of course being involved with an amazing staff and volunteers  that celebrates and promotes art and artisans.

What’s been your biggest initiative as Chairperson?
I would say the Relocation Project is definitely the biggest initiative I have been involved with to date. Ensuring the Gallery is more visible and accessible to people in Castlegar and the whole region has been on our radar for a long time. So a few years ago, during a Strategic Planning Session, we decided it was time to move on this.

What’s been done so far?
Well, we formed a strong Relocation Committee, which includes myself, Beth Hickey, our Treasurer, Val Field, our Executive Director, Rachel Schmidt, one of our Board Members, Maggie Shirley, our Curator/Gallery Assistant and Geoff Yule. Christy Anderson was also a key player on the committee initially but is now in an advisory role.

The Committee so far has put a strategic plan together to move forward – which included a strong community engagement component. Data gathered from surveys and a Round Table showed support and interest in a relocation initiative. So we got support from the City of Castlegar, the Columbia Basin Trust and RDCK Areas I and J to hire a consultant to do a Feasibility Study. This was our first real step in a five year plan.

What did the Feasibility Study show?
The preliminary findings show that this is going to be a long-term, labour intensive project which we expected. This is not something that’s going to happen in a matter of months or even next year. It’s going to take planning, consultations, fundraising and more. Our next priority is to secure funding for a Project Manager who can help our staff and Board chart the course for a possible relocation.

What else will the Project Manager do?
They will be responsible for ensuring our strategic plan is on track with realistic timelines, evaluating location possibilities, identifying possible foundations and grant opportunities, and developing a fundraising plan. The Project Manager will also assist the Relocation Committee with Communications so that we keep our members and the community informed and engaged in this exciting project. We really need everyone to help make this happen.

Who can people contact if they have questions?
Anyone can contact Val Field, our Executive Director at 250 365 3337 if they have any questions or feedback about the Gallery Relocation Project. There is also great video we watched as a Committee, which tells a story about a gallery relocation project in England, and really explains the process we are involved in.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I would just like to thank the staff and volunteers that work so hard and give their valuable time to the art gallery.  Also, to remind everyone to come and shop for Christmas at the Gallery, which supports over 100 local artists and craftspeople.

Thank you, Audrey

Here’s a link to the video that Audrey refers to above.

Stay tuned for ‘The Gallery Lounge’ next month where you will meet our Executive Director, Val Field.