Jillian Mayne, Laurie Blakely and Colleen Clancy renovate Luma, the electric mermaid, at Char’s Landing. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

Jillian Mayne, Laurie Blakely and Colleen Clancy renovate Luma, the electric mermaid, at Char’s Landing. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

Alberni Valley artwork gets a facelift

Luma is the mascot and inspiration behind Electric Mermaid: Live Reads at Char’s Landing



A familiar piece of the Alberni Valley’s art landscape has gotten a well-deserved facelift with a kind of artistic plastic surgery.

Luma, the oversized luminary that hangs from the ceiling of Char’s Landing, has been stripped to the ribs and refurnished with new lights and a new body. The renovation was completed in November 2020, shortly before stricter new COVID-19 measures told people to stick to immediate household groupings only.

“We kept our numbers down … masking up and keeping social distancing in mind,” said Colleen Clancy, a member of Art Rave who was involved in both the original construction and the revamp for the giant lantern, pieced together with bamboo and a special lantern tissue paper from Norway.

The leader on the original project was Erin Ryding, who was involved in lantern-making projects with the city.

“We called on her in 2015 when we as a society wanted to create a large luminary to have our members and people from the community to collaborate on,” said Clancy.

In the original project, a cast of about 25 people came and went from Char’s Landing, working on Luma over several months, putting in hundreds of artist hours to build her with bamboo and paper and individually-adorned nylon scales, each one a tiny piece of artwork in itself.

“It became this other layer of engagement that Art Rave opened up,” Clancy said. “People were thrilled to come into the space and see their own creations.”

Luma’s gleaming 12-foot frame was a show piece in 2015, when she was displayed in Spirit Square. She has been luxuriating in the overhead space and shelter of Char’s Landing ever since.

A companion for Luma, a giant fish lantern, which hangs beside Luma at Char’s Landing, was completed in 2017 and made the trek to the West Coast for Tofino’s Lantern Festival.

A small arts group that has made significant connections with the community, Art Rave has done an all-ages art collaboration in the community since 2012 as part of the fishing derby, and then had its own festival until 2016, and had activities in conjunction with Canada Day at Harbour Quay since 2017, but this year’s plans were disrupted by the pandemic.

When Art Rave heard from Electric Mermaid team photographer Micah Gardener that Luma was getting a new life as a mascot of an online reading venue that hopes to eventually be a brick-and-mortar event once conditions allow, they masked up to help her shine again.

“Erin came out and was thrilled to come and be part of working on her, and was thrilled with this notion of a resurgence and rebirth of Luma,” Clancy said.

“We were thrilled to be able to give some new life and the idea that it would lend itself to ongoing artistic work in the community.”

In a time where concerns over health, restrictions and social distancing place stress on members of a community, art can make a difference, Clancy said.

“Art can have a big part of people’s sense of belonging, their mental health and well-being,” she said, adding that the society’s collaborative art mandate, bringing people together with projects over the years, is ongoing.

With Luma as both mascot and inspiration, a new online monthly venue for live readings debuted Nov. 20 in Port Alberni. Set for the third Friday of each month at 5:45 pm, Electric Mermaid: Live Reads at Char’s Landing will welcome national features, as well as regional readers. The event, which debuted Nov. 20, is hosted by Derek Hanebury and moderated by Karl Korven from its online home base at Port Alberni’s historic hostel and former Presbyterian church, Char’s Landing.

The Electric Mermaid venue welcomes writers from all over to read at the sign-up mic. Anyone who would like to read their own work can sign up at ElectricMermaidReads@gmail.com for a five-minute spot. Longer spots can sometimes be arranged in advance.

Listeners are welcome. Attendees can go to charslanding.com and click on the link to Electric Mermaid to go to the Zoom event.

EDITED: Char’s Landing is located in a former Presbyterian church; it was never a United Methodist church as first stated.

Port Alberni

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Luma, the electric mermaid at Char’s Landing, has a new look thanks to some dedicated volunteers. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

Luma, the electric mermaid at Char’s Landing, has a new look thanks to some dedicated volunteers. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

Erin Ryding, Jillian Mayne, Laurie Blakely and Colleen Clancy renovate Luna, the electric mermaid, at Char’s Landing. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

Erin Ryding, Jillian Mayne, Laurie Blakely and Colleen Clancy renovate Luna, the electric mermaid, at Char’s Landing. (PHOTO COURTESY MICHAH GARDENER)

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