More than just an art gallery

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If we’re going to do a story on the Smithers Library, we need to do a follow-up story on the Smithers Art Gallery.

These two operations wanted to regroup in a new establishment, but the funding did not come together. The setback did not slow down operations, however.

Nicole Chernish has been in charge of the gallery for about three years and the many changes are part of their mandate to bring visual art to the community.

Nicole grew up in Edmonton and met her husband at university. She earned a degree in recreation administration and her partner earned a degree in geology. They have worked in many communities complementing each other in their respective fields.

Nicole leaned into administration at various museums and tourist spots until her dream job appeared. Nicole’s husband has accepted a job with Hy-Tech Drilling in Smithers, BC. The post of director of the art gallery has just been posted when he arrives in town.

It’s funny how your karma can show up from time to time. Although she is not an artist herself, her ability to work with people and achieve complementary goals made her a shoe and so began her process of bringing art to the people.

All organizations sit down and come up with their mission statement with a comprehensive strategic plan. The gallery is no different.

“We have three commitments,” explains Nicole. “First of all, of course, are the exhibitions. We have an annual call for artists, all styles of visual art. Our mandate requires accessibility to our space. We have an arbitration process, but we reach out to everyone.

“Secondly, we want to support artists. Art is an expression but it is also a profession that has to pay the bills. When an artist exhibits at an accredited facility, they receive a designation. This designation can put the artist in line for various funding opportunities.

The Smithers Art Gallery is just one of the few accredited galleries in the North.

The third commitment is education.

“We have an art space,” says Nicole, “The Creation Station, an installation across from CN Yard that was provided by the Town of Smithers. Not only do we host art workshops in this space, but we also provide walk-in studio space for artists.

“The city and the regional district are our main supporters. Without their commitment, which is of course the support of the people of our community through their taxes, the gallery would be in financial difficulty. We also receive funding from the BC Arts Council, Wetzin’kwa Community Forest, Rotary Project, BV Credit Union and BC Gaming.THER

“We have several companies supporting us including Nature’s Pantry, Calderwood Realty, All West Glass, Hy-Tech Drilling, Pretium Resources, Smithers Lumber, Babine Animal Hospital, Sheila Smith, Wetzin’kwa Family Medicine, BV Wholesale, LB Paving, BV Insurance. and Remax Realty.

“As you can see, we have tremendous community support. We also have our own initiatives including Wintergold and a happy return to our 6×6 community fundraiser. We operate our One of a Kind store in the gallery which is open all year round. On all sales, we receive a 25% commission.”

So what does visual art actually encompass? I asked Nicole.

“The scope is enormous, including of course paintings, artwork with poetry, clay exhibits, copper needle felting, wood carvings, quilts and l digital art. We’re showing a gut exhibit with a dry leaf component that people can touch.

During the summer, the gallery offers free artistic activities on Saturday mornings from 9am to 12pm.

“We also attend festivals and events all over the city. Summer camps run in July and August with scholarships available for everyone to attend. You make the Art and we show your creation. We have a perfect symbiotic relationship between artist and community. Please come in and see what we can do for you.

Free entry. Open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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The Art Gallery runs children’s programs at the gallery and at events around the Bulkley Valley. (photo sent)

Creation Station, offered by the city and managed by the gallery, is a space for artists' studios and studios.  (photo sent)

Creation Station, offered by the city and managed by the gallery, is a space for artists’ studios and studios. (photo sent)

Smithers Art Gallery's annual craft fair, Wintergold, takes place Friday through Saturday in the Central Park building.  SAG is also hosting its 10th one-of-a-kind artisan Christmas market starting November 26.  (Photo by Trevor Hewitt)

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