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Qualicum Beach arts centre welcomes 3 unique exhibits by mid-Island artists

Work by Jack Duckworth, Charles Hébert, Arrowsmith Federation of Canadian Artists
Jack Duckworth’s exhibition ‘Our Island’ is one one of three new exhibits at the Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Art can mean so many things to different people, and the Old School House Arts Centre’s newest displays illustrate that diversity.

Jack Duckworth (Our Island) rekindled his love for painting in retirement and lately he loves to create landscape and coastal scenes. Our Island depicts images of Telegraph Cove, Victoria’s Chinatown, Rathtrevor Beach and a wharf in Bamfield.

“I just paint because I like to,” said Duckworth, who started painting at a young age while living in Duncan. He took an extended hiatus while he was busy with his family and pastoral vocation, which drew him as far away as Ukraine, Armenia, Amsterdam and Haiti to teach practical Christian theology modules.

“I started again about eight years ago. And it’s almost a selfish view,” Duckworth joked. “I paint because I want to and if people don’t like my stuff I don’t care. People seem to like the stuff, which is kind of nice.”

He switched to acrylic paints a few years ago because oils have such a strong smell, and discovered he preferred the vivid colours.

“The colours are a little more raw,” Duckworth said. “They’re more brilliant, more bright too.”

Our Island can be found in TOSH’s Volunteer Gallery.

The Arrowsmith Federation of Canadian Artists’ Fall Exhibition brought together an amazing array of different art styles and inspirations from dozens of artists in the mid-Island region.

First place went to “Shoreline Collage #3” by Sherry Mitchell, second place was awarded to Peggy Burkosky for “Hilltops of Prince Rupert” and “When Black isn’t Black” by Brenda Matsen took the bronze.

Honourable mentions were given to Margery Blom, Deb Peters and Lucy Wallace.

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Art has been a road to recovery for Charles Hébert, 66, who has dealt with mental health issues for most of his life.

Hébert was introduced to art seven years ago, during a mental health hospitalization. An art therapist gave him some mosaic tiles, but he asked for paints and paper instead.

“Painting has saved my life. The darkness disappears when I am painting,” Hébert said in a submission to TOSH, as told to Jaqueline Smith, who has mentored and helped him curate his exhibition Recovery.

His paintings are vividly colourful, made up of numerous geometric shapes — and represent things Hébert sees in his mind’s eye. One titled ‘Inner Space’ shows a time warp.

Smith met Hébert at a local food bank where she volunteers. She noticed a painting he gifted to the food bank and was amazed with his artistic ability.

She later showed his work to Illana Hester, executive director of TOSH.

“I just found it completely astounding that one, this artist was not trained in any way,” Hester said. “That the work was so fine, that the colour palette was so precise, that the geometry of the work was so well-done.”

Hester loved the work and purchased a piece, which currently hangs in her office and was Hébert’s first sale.

He lives without internet in a small cab over camper in a campground in Nanoose Bay.

For a long time he has enjoyed a quiet life away from most people.

Before he moved to Nanoose he resided in a remote cabin in Manitoba and then on a boat in Nanaimo Harbour, according to an account written by Smith and Hébert.

Hester said Recovery is a testament to the importance of showcasing artists who don’t have otherwise have access to the funds necessary to produce a show, frame a piece or buy art supplies.

“When you do have access to that in an equitable way, it is life changing,” Hester said.

“There’s real power in being able to tell somebody’s story like this and to be able to show this kind of work because it’s so equalizing. Art is an equalizing force when we all get access to it.”

Hébert is not a fan of crowds, but Smith hopes he will venture out to see his exhibition at the arts centre.

In just a week and a half, four of his paintings have already sold.

“He doesn’t want money. He wants to give it away. He wants to give his paintings away,” Smith said.

Hébert donated the money from his first art sale back to the food bank. Since he began to paint he has not required hospitalization for mental health. Recovery can be viewed in the arts centre’s DF Gallery.

All three exhibitions will be at TOSH (122 Fern Rd.) until Dec. 15.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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