Seniors gather for a late-morning coffee. A row of young girls giggle and scurry between bistro tables and young man, gym bag in hand, arrives for his workout.
The café gallery at the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill exposes people from all demographics to the work of new and established artists in their community.
It’s one of the reasons why those at the helm of the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria (CACGV) are glad to have made the move from a small downtown Victoria gallery into the new arts wing at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
The CACGV is afforded two gallery spaces, an office, display cases, proximity to nearby studio space and use of an auditorium. One year since the move, with 20 per cent more members on the roster, the benefits are beginning to stack up.
“It was an absolute necessity,” said Jeani Reynolds, interim gallery co-ordinator and executive director of CACGV. “We had to do it. With funding cuts, we didn’t have what we needed to stay in that (Sussex Place) venue. Here, these (galleries) are open the same hours as the rec centre, so exposure to our artists has tripled.”
The mandate of the non-profit organization, which was founded in 1966, is to provide resources to artists and performers in Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt and Oak Bay and to promote interest in local arts and culture.
“The two things we wanted to do this year was beef up the cultural side and address all arts disciplines because downtown we became very focused on visual arts,” said CACGV president Bob Williams.
A roadblock to promoting some of the other arts had been the necessity to staff the previous gallery. With the eased staffing cost, the CACGV has become aggressive with community engagement.
This winter the council hosted a traditional Eastern European folk dance performance in the auditorium across from the main gallery. Plans are in the works to hold artist discussion nights, compile on-site grant resources, and possibly host juried shows in the future.
This week marks the finish of the CACGV’s first artist in residency program, funded by the Saanich Legacy Foundation. Tony Bounsall worked with students in the creation of altered image distressed prints for “Holga Dreams,” to be on display in the main gallery until July 30.
The show opens today (July 18), with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m., also in recognition of the café gallery’s opening show, Christine White’s “Obscura II.”
“We’ve been getting asked to be a part of things now, whereas before, we were more self-encompassed,” Reynolds said. “It’s opened up all kind of partnerships and so many more things than we ever expected.”
For Carole Ireland, manager of the recreation centre, watching the crossover between physical and artistic engagement at Cedar Hill has been equally rewarding.
“I love the fact that when I go past the galleries, I often see people with racquet bags slung over their shoulders checking out the art,” Ireland said. “People are eagerly awaiting the next show and the next show and the next show.”
The council has strived to keep their downtown presence active – and may be more so now than prior to the move.
During last month’s Victoria International Cycling Festival, CACGV member work was displayed throughout downtown. They’ve also been in talks with the Greater Victoria Public Library regarding a possible new partnership. The Look Show, open to any artist who pays a nominal hanging fee, was held once again at the Bay Centre in the spring.
“Since we’ve been here, our profile has been raised and we’re getting into all sorts of activities we didn’t have before,” Reynolds said. “It’s been a wonderful thing.”
Parking, studio space and an informal lounge were all items on CACGV’s wish list – a list of wishes that have completely come true, Williams said.
“All the stars lined up and we came here,” he said.
For more information on CACGV, membership fees and benefits, visit cacgv.ca or stop by the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, 3220 Cedar Hill Rd.