Corinne James was the executive director of The Old School House Art Centre in Qualicum Beach for 17 years. (Photo submitted)

Former TOSH director: ‘I will miss that challenge’

Corinne James looks back fondly on memories made at art centre

Corinne James has stepped out of the limelight in Qualicum Beach’s arts community.

In May, she retired from her role as executive director of The Old School House Arts Centre, a position she held for 17 years.

She retired alongside her husband, Ron Hadley. Hadley was the music program director at TOSH for 21 years.

James says there were many lessons learned over the years, and many aspects of the job she will miss.

“I will miss not only all the people that I worked with, but I will miss the challenge,” said James. “It was a great challenge for me to have that platform, and be able to dream up lots of events and have an enthusiastic volunteers there to help me.”

She lauds the dedication of TOSH’s volunteers, and the strength they’ve brought to the centre over the years.

“There was never a time that I didn’t have anyone to help create the idea that I had come up with. And that’s really a great memory for me,” said James.

She fondly remembers the 100th anniversary of the School House building, which saw the centre host a big dinner in their back field, complete with live jazz music and approximately 100 guests.

Also a favourite down memory lane was the 30th anniversary of TOSH itself, where the centre brought in work from many of the artists who had shown there.

The largest project James spearheaded at TOSH was a national art show in honour of the Vancouver Olympics in February 2010.

The Centre juried more than 500 submissions from across Canada to find the final 70 pieces. The entire project took a year and a half, and awarded a prize of just more than $2,000 to the first-place piece.

James also had the pleasure of selecting her replacement, Illana Hester.

She wanted to find someone from outside the area, who wasn’t a practicing artist, and who had extensive experience in art administration.

“I was really pleased when she applied. Because she’s got this great background in art, she’s done a lot of art exhibitions in New York City, and so she would take the entire art centre up a notch,” said James. “That’s what you want, when you leave something, you want to know that it’s going to grow from where you had taken it.”

Bringing in a new face meant the new director could see the art scene in Qualicum Beach with fresh eyes, not holding any preconceived notions about what the community had to offer.

James and Hester worked together for the month of May as the new director got comfortable in her role.

The two had very kind things to say about each other.

“I think she’s going to be absolutely wonderful. She has the same appreciation and excitement about artists and exhibitions,” said James. “She’ll continue the way that we have established TOSH, but she’ll put her own spin on it as she goes along.”

James and Hadley have settled in the South Surrey/White Rock area. James says she’s a city girl at heart, and feels like she’s getting back to her roots. The two are also getting the time to focus on personal goals, like travel, and just generally taking it easy after a long career. James and Hadley will head to Japan in the fall for a few months, and are planning a European trip in 2020.

Hadley’s role will be filled by Theresa Whitely and Phil Dwyer.

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