Grade 6 students Alexis Woo

Mount Tolmie artists tour delivers eclectic mix

May 2 and 3 event features 10 local artists, including 'woodland installations' by artist Bruce Fast

Artist Bruce Fast first took to painting as an outlet to help deal with the stories he took home each night as an early-career social worker.

“The stories were too hard to enter into my journal,” he says. “I started painting what I felt from the hardships I’d seen, the emotions.”

Years later, the Mount Tolmie resident is now a professional artist whose selection of paintings will be on display during the annual Mount Tolmie Artist Tour this weekend, May 2 and 3. Fast was selected as of five home studios open to the public, and this year’s tour will raise money for the Shelbourne Community Kitchen, which opened its doors in March.

“(The studios) are close to each other and it’s really easy if you’re cycling to go from one to the next to the next, or even walk,” says organizer Gerald Fleming, a painter who will also open his home studio this year. “Home studios tend to bring folks out to a different neighbourhood. We usually get between 60 and 80 people as long as it’s nice out.”

There are 10 artists contributing with pottery, painting, jewelry, woodworking and Fast’s more unusual “woodland installations.” While he will display some of his sold originals in his studio (on loan), Fast’s backyard will showcase forest debris and refuse he uses to create a variety of outdoor installations.

“Some of the visitors are not ready to see the art – they just see garbage,” he says.

Ever since the painter became hyper-sensitive to chemicals, he switched up his approach based on his daily ventures into the local woods.

“My art is about using what I find, garbage and discarded belongings, or wood and branches, anything I find in the woods. I’ve pulled in what I estimate is about 10,000 pounds worth of garbage from the woods in Greater Victoria.”

Some might have seen Fast’s work in the woods around the University of Victoria, where he uses natural forest debris to create shelters and sculptures. He also brings garbage home.

“I don’t want to create art that might become garbage, I want to re-use what’s been left behind,” he says.

Visitors to Fast’s will also see that he’s committed a sizeable garden towards food production for the neighbourhood’s newest tenant, the Shelbourne Community Kitchen.

“Everything here is for (the community kitchen),” says Fast, pointing to sprouting spinach and salad greens, and a healthy rhubarb plant.

The Mount Tolmie Artist Tour is May 2 and 3 from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call Fleming at 250-477-8277.

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