Emily Vance photo - Christopher Smith’s glass salmon weave through steel bull kelp made by Nelson Shaw, with Robert Held’s glass herring ball lit by Jennifer Bate in the background.

Closing date draws near for popular Parksville MAC summer exhibit

Centerpiece of ‘Soft shore’ could live on as public art

As the final month of summer comes to a close, the McMillan Arts Centre is starting to plan the tear down of its summer installation.

That’s a wrap for both Soft shore: where land and water meet, the MAC’s seven-artist summer installation, and ETHOS, the corresponding interactive educational series that brought together environmental partners from across the mid-Island.

If you haven’t been through the MAC to check out the collaborative works of seven artists — Robert Held (glass), Haa’Yuups (textile), Joe Bob (cedar), Christopher Smith (glass), Nelson Shaw (steel), Ray Bob (acrylic) and Cristina Mittermeier (photography) — then you have until 4 p.m. on Sept. 1, when the exhibit officially closes its doors.

Jennifer Bate, executive director of the MAC, says the reception from the community has been incredible.

“Without exception, most people say ‘I wish you guys could keep it up a little longer,’ or ‘is this going to go somewhere else?’” said Bate.

Bate says approximately 7,000 people have walked through the doors of the MAC since the exhibit’s opening in early July. She notes traffic has picked up near the end of the summer, since people have realized their window of time to visit is shrinking. Although the exhibit’s official end date is final, the project has the potential to live on within the community and beyond.

READ MORE: MAC’s summer exhibit draws on internationally acclaimed local talent

Bate says she hopes the City of Parksville will give her team the green light to display the exhibit’s centerpiece, a giant herring ball flanked with steel bull kelp and glass salmon, somewhere in the city.

“We’re actually going to be appearing before the city council, hopefully in the next month or so, and Robert Held, Christopher Smith, Nelson Shaw and myself are going to appear and ask if the City of Parksville would consider having it as a piece of public art,” said Bate.

They have also had inquires about creating a touring show, or hosting the exhibit in another gallery.

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but Bate is hopeful the project can live on in some way.

Soft shore and ETHOS are both deeply focused on raising awareness on environmental issues.

Bate says the exhibit started as a highlight of the work of local glass and steel artists, then morphed into an environmental conversation.

The issues addressed are particularly timely, mirroring environmental issues that are making headlines worldwide.

Ocean debris, dwindling salmon stocks, preservation of biodiversity – all these themes are addressed in some way through the exhibits.

“This is the conversation we’re all having anyway. And Soft shore is that conversation through an art lens. Just by virtue of the fact that it’s through an artists’ lens, it’s a very powerful, visual message,” said Bate.

“Having the Indigneous artists from the Snaw-Naw-As and the Nu-chah-nulth Nations — we’re all having the same conversation.”

As reports of dwindling Pacific salmon stocks swirl, the conversation is poignant for those on the west coast, especially Indigenous peoples who have relied on salmon as sustenance since time immemorial.

“The centerpiece of this entire conversation is salmon,” said Bate.

Adding to that conversation were the community groups that took part in ETHOS. A range of environmentally-focused mid-Island partners were involved, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific Region, Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region and Research Institute, VIU Deep Bay Marine Station and Mount Arrowsmith Elementary School student ocean stewards.

“This has been the highlight of the MAC. This is the biggest thing we do here,” said Bate.

ETHOS ends Aug. 30, and Soft shore will follow, closing on Sept 1.

For more information visit www.mcmillanartscentre.com.

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