“Celebrating Women 2010” – Confessions of an Amateur Art Show Curator

In 2008, the Vancouver Island North Women’s Resource Society celebrated its 25th anniversary and International Women’s Day by hosting a public art show: “Celebrating Women”. Our hope was the event would celebrate the creativity and talent in our community while spotlighting our agency and honoring the contributions of women. The event proved so successful that here we are, in 2010, gearing up for our third show. 

When I first acted as curator for the show I believed that my duties would simply require soliciting, hanging and returning pieces of art. However, I now believe that this event is about something much larger, if less tangible, than its theme, for it is also an energetic celebration of our relationship with our creative selves and others. 

In the most obvious sense, the art in the show represents the artists’ connection with their own creative drive and personal truth, but viewing art requires us to not only make a visual connection with the work but to translate that work through the filter of our own world view. The transformative nature of art means that our final understanding of the work may, in fact, be much different than the artist’s. 

As a curator I often have the privilege of knowing the back-story behind a piece. I may know, for instance, that a particular artist sometimes goes without food so that she can pay for her paints and canvasses. Yet her art, with its clean and vibrant lines, speaks of her vivid connection to a rich internal life and not to her daily struggles with poverty. Or I am aware that an incandescent piece that uses whorls of primary colour to create a sense of abandon and sheer life force is actually an outlet for the rage and fear of a cancer survivor; and that a smaller piece, a serene and sepia-toned portrait of a beautiful young woman, is actually a tribute to a life lost in child birth. 

These types of invisible factors may influence my placement of any given piece, and because of the nature of our show I am also able to juxtapose works of professional quality alongside works created by people completely new to the idea of visually expressing themselves. Three years into this process, I’ve finally come to understand that it’s the way that the pieces connect with each other that gives the show its trademark dynamism. So what I hope, as this year’s curator, is that when people take in the show they will experience it as more then a series of separate displays but also enjoy and participate in it as a collective expression of creative energy. 

We will be kicking off “Celebrating Women 2010” with a gala opening on March 6th in the lobby of Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre, at 7:00 PM. This year’s celebration will feature the song-stylings of Freeman and Hill, the grace and energy of the Shimmy Sisters Dance Troupe, sweet treats and a silent auction. Admission is by donation, but we hope our audience will be generous since all the proceeds will go towards client support services at the Campbell River Women’s Centre. We hope to see you there.

The deadline for submissions for this year’s show is March 2nd and anyone interested in entering a piece, or donating to the event, can call us a 287-3044 or email us at: womenscentre@shawcable.com


Marnie McLachlan is Coordinator of Volunteers at the Campbell River Women’s Centre, Curator of “Celebrating Women 2010 Public Art Show, has been involved in the non-profit sector, most particularly the field of social justice, in Campbell River since 1987 and has been employed by the CR Women’s Centre since 2005.