Illana Hester, the exective director of The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach. (NEWS file photo)

The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach gears up to re-open in August

Work underway on digitization

Things have been busy at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach – they’re getting ready to re-open later this summer after being closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illana Hester, executive director, said they’ve been working hard to digitize things at the centre, as well as finding ways to safely reopen the gallery. They don’t have a set date yet, but Hester said people can expect to be welcome at TOSH sometime in August.

“We have a WorkSafeBC protocol officer that has to sign off on our safety plan before we reopen. That, in addition to digitizing almost every aspect of what we do under this roof, which is very extensive, has just taken us a little bit more time to open up,” she said.

The resident artist studios will be open, with mask-wearing mandatory. Since COVID, they’ve done some exhibits virtually, which Hester said has been a good opportunity to reach a larger audience.

“Just to be able to leverage our website and leverage social media in a different way and engage with people in a different way has been really interesting,” she said. “A big learning curve… but I’m really excited about the possibilities for the future.”

They recently partnered with Nordicity, an arts consulting firm, to conduct research around creating digital strategies. TOSH is one of six Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands arts councils working with the firm – making them all part of a Digital Innovation Group (DIG) with help from funding received through the Canada Council of the Arts Digital Strategy fund.

READ MORE: 20/20 vision: Qualicum Beach’s Illana Hester on the future of TOSH

Over the summer, TOSH is continuing with its Grand Prix d’Art painting race. It’s the 27th year and although modified, Hester is happy the event is moving forward. Finished works will be on display in the Dorothy Francis Gallery throughout the summer until Sept. 28.

“We hope this event will entice artists out of their studios and onto the streets of Qualicum Beach to paint their visions of our beautiful community for three hours, anytime between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Friday during July and August,” read a TOSH release. “Visitors are encouraged to watch the process and the progress of the artists at the various locations (in a socially distant manner) which will all be within walking distance of The Old School House Arts Centre in downtown Qualicum Beach…The painters must complete their work within a three-hour limit and then bring them to the arts centre to hang.”

Overall, Hester said she’s excited about the future of TOSH and the adaptations they’ve made to be able to welcome the community back.

“This was an institution that was completely based on paper before, so it wasn’t just an aspect of building from scratch, it was like there were already these systems in place and then we had to clean them up,” she said. “So it was a multi-phase project.”

More information on the Grand Prix d’Art painting race and other happenings at TOSH can be found at

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