Mary-ellen Threadkell prefers not to be in the spotlight.
As assistant director of advancement at the Greater Victoria Art Gallery, she is a graceful presence, apart from the non-descript, two-by-four piece of pinewood she has tucked under her arm. Along the spine of the wood is a chronology of years past that correspond to miniature weather drawings, laid out like a primitive iPhone app.
“It’s superstition. I say that the Paint-In will not be rained out,” she explains before rapping gently on the wood.
Her fastidiousness as co-ordinator for the TD Art Gallery Paint-In the past 12 years seems to have worked, as each drawing displays a shining sun.
“Last year, I was sorely tested. At 10 minutes before opening, somebody turned off the tap. But it was a downpour like you rarely see here,” she said.
Now in its 25th year, the Paint-In has blossomed into an annual celebration that showcases more than 160 artists and attracts close to 35,000 visitors along the length of Moss Street in Fairfield.
It has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the gallery’s Art Rental and Sales office, when the likes of Bill Porteous and Fleming Jorgensen put pieces up for sale.
Threadkell attended her first Paint-In in 1988 and became enthralled with the unique opportunity it presented to view artists engaged in the creative process.
“I saw Toni Onley … painting on Dallas Road on the waterfront. He was painting about 12 watercolour pieces at the same time. He had them all taped to boards, spread out on the grass,” she says.
While many artists sell their work at the Paint-In, it’s also an ideal opportunity for artists to demystify their process and illustrate the differences between mediums, from paint to chalk to sculpting.
“A lot of people are looking for an art teacher as well, and this is an ideal place to find someone whose work really interests you,” Threadkell said. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity for artists. There’s nothing anywhere like it.”
In addition to the artists on display along Moss between Fort Street and Dallas Road, the art gallery parking lot will be packed with food and drink vendors, as well as a stage featuring Latin band Kumbia.
TD, the title sponsor, will also have a “Monster Mural,” a metres-long canvas that can be painted by all attendees.
On Saturday morning (July 21), Threadkell will be gently co-ordinating 200 volunteers, police officers and thousands of curious onlookers, but when she steps out into the warm sunshine, she’ll be sure to tap her lucky charm one last time.
Did you know?
• TD Art Gallery Paint-In, Saturday, July 21, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• Art Gallery open house, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Food and beverage garden, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• Dancing to Kumbia, 5 to 9 p.m., art gallery parking lot.