Some of the glass salmon created by Smith weigh up to 4 kilograms. (Emily Vance photo)

MAC’s summer exhibit draws on internationally acclaimed local talent

Robert Held, Christopher Smith, Nelson Shaw and more collaborate on ‘Soft Shore’

The McMillan Arts Centre is in the final stages of preparation for its summer exhibit Soft Shore: where land and water meet, which opens July 6.

The event draws on the success of last summer’s exhibit, Monet reVisited, which saw Robert Held pay homage to Monet through a glass recreation of Monet’s garden at Giverny.

Held is back again this year, but this time, he’s not alone.

Far from it, in fact.

The interactive, multi-medium art installation that is Soft Shore features the work of Robert Held (glass), Haa’Yuups (textile), Joe Bob (cedar), Christopher Smith (glass), Nelson Shaw (steel), Ray Bob (acrylic) and Cristina Mittermeier (photography).

READ MORE: Lt.-Gov opens Robert Held exhibit in Parksville

Soft Shore celebrates the unique landscape of Parksville-Qualicum Beach and the surrounding area, focusing on the creatures and landscapes found where the tides meet the shore.

Visitors can expect to see cast glass salmon sculptures by Smith, steel grasses and herons by Shaw, and hundreds of delicate glass herring fish by Held hanging from the ceiling in imitation of a herring ball.

“I think it’s an interesting collaboration. I think it’s going to be a beautiful show,” said Held, in a video on MAC’s website.

Alongside the menagerie of glass and steel, internationally renowned Indigenous artist, scholar and historian Haa’Yuups of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nation has created a painted salmon screen that will fill an entire gallery wall. Joe and Ray Bob of the Snaw-Naw-As Nation will also showcase their cedar and acrylic work.

READ MORE: Carver represents Snaw-Naw-As at Coast Salish artisan market

Jennifer Bate, executive director of the MAC, hopes that the focus on the beauty and emotion of the natural world will serve an environmental purpose.

Soft Shore… is a spectacular and unique art event which reminds us of the awesome responsibility we have to maintaining healthy natural environments,” said Bate in a release.

The environmental focus is a driving force for many of the artists involved.

“The quiet and solitude of these rivers, creeks and forest are being eroded at an alarming rate. I hope this exhibition will help educate and focus attention on how fragile and precious this unique environment is to all of us,” said Shaw.

National Geographic photographer, activist and conservationist Cristina Mittermeier will display photos taken during her effort to designate the Salish Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage Site through her conservation society, SeaLegacy.

READ MORE: Push continues for Salish Sea’s World Heritage Site designation

During the month of August, the MAC will host their summer education program, ETHOS, alongside Soft Shore.

Working with the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, Vancouver Island University, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the MAC will host hands-on educational activities, including a marine touch tank, microscope lab and aquariums.

Members of the public are welcome to attend Soft Shore’s opening ceremony on July 6 at 1 p.m. in front of the MAC. The ceremony will begin with a blessing from Snaw-Naw-As Councillor Lawrence Mitchell, then follow with speeches from Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards, MLA Michelle Stillwell, and Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne, as well as an artist’s address by Robert Held on behalf of all seven artists. The exhibit runs until Sept 1. For information and a detailed look at how Held, Smith and Nelson create their pieces, check out https://mcmillanartscentre.com/soft-shore-installation-updates.

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