A newcomer to the facility but an old pro at art, Ron Parker now spends five to six days a week at the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, painting landscapes.
“As soon as I saw (the centre), I thought ‘This is amazing,’” Parker said.
Parker, who worked with acrylic paints and watercolours for a career spanning 35 years, made his first foray into oil last January.
The centre’s ventilation and cleaning facilities, which focus on environmentally friendly ways to dispose of painting products, were major boons making the switch.
“I have allergies … I come in here: no allergies. Because of the filtered air,” Parker said.
The art facility is celebrating two years in its current location, an expansion to the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, which saw a 35-year-old pottery program turned into a full-fledged artist oasis.
“In the first year we were still growing and getting the programs started and fine tuning some of the equipment and spaces,” said Brenda Weatherston, community arts specialist for the District of Saanich. “We’re really pleased this fall to say we’re really up and functioning very efficiently.”
To mark the anniversary, the centre is hosting the Fire & Light exhibition until Dec. 17, a showcase of artists who, like Parker, call the centre their home away from home.
About 20 regular artists at the centre have contributed pieces, ranging from wheel-based and handcrafted ceramics to oil and acrylic paintings to mixed media pieces and drawings.
Libby Wray has been pursuing her interest in ceramics at the centre since the facility opened, and earlier, at the old studio.
As she puts it, she “touched clay” for the first time seven years ago, at a lesson she was talked into attending to help fill a class.
“I said ‘I don’t think I’m interested,’” Wray said. “And here I am. I’m hooked on pottery. It’s a wonderful hobby.”
She loves the immediacy of the medium, how a lump of clay can quickly be turned into the basic shape of the final work. The hands-on approach, including the feel of the clay, also appealed to Wray.
In the show she is displaying ornate vases and vessels, along with a handmade miniature ceramic house.
Without the Arts Centre, Wray said she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pursue pottery like she has. From the equipment to the inspiration found in socializing with other artists, the centre is conducive to the creative process.
“There’s a creative interchange which I think really helps,” Wray said. “I think if we always work in isolation it can be more difficult.”
Program director Tom Severson said he sees nothing but room for expansion. The number of visual arts programs offered at the recreation centre has quadrupled since the art centre opened and he intends to continue the trend.
He sees artists moving outside and even doing outdoor ceramic firing and carving.
“There’s nothing like this here anywhere else on the south Island, so there will be a great draw,” Severson said. “We had a very limited capacity. Now we have a greater opportunity to do things that we just couldn’t before.”
See cedarhillarts.ca or call 250-475-7121 for more information.