Andrea Fergusson, Brendan Tom and Deanna Lankin hang out in the new Experiential space-in-progress coming to Tofino’s Industrial Way in June. (Erin Linn McMullan Photo)

Conceiving new Experiential artists’ hub for Tofino

“Art is not an object but a doorway.”

ERIN LINN MCMULLAN

Special to the Westerly

An artist births something unexpected into the world to shift your experience of it. Or, as Andrea Fergusson suggests, “Art is not an object but a doorway.”

Radiant with expectation, Ferguson is planning the opening of Experiential gallery in June and a new baby in July. Both Fergusson’s partner Brendan Tom and collaborator Deanna Lankin were on-hand for a sneak preview of this new home for artists the day before Mother’s Day.

With a focus on fine art that pushes boundaries, Fergusson hopes to attract “emerging, First Nations and feminist artists interested in artistic development and self-sustainability.” Experiential will host weekly shows and provide a creative space for workshops and art-making.

Taking over Jim Schwartz’s old workspace, she hopes it will become a destination amidst the trendy Industrial hub of Tofino, already home to a microbrewery, bakery and fine delicatessen.

“This allows a platform for valuable voices in our community to be expressed,” says Lankin, who’s been dreaming of a space like this for years. She emphasizes how important it is to “hold space” for artists and provide role models for young artists coming up in the community.

Fergusson’s hands never stop moving as they sweep animatedly over the space describing temporary walls and lighting to be installed for art display and launching a crowdfunding campaign to help bring this vision to life. With both Schwartz and Lankin onboard, Fergusson is seeking a fourth collaborator, preferably a Tla-o-qui-aht female artist, but she’s open to who that ideal fit might be.

“The gallery space Andrea is intent upon creating is the result of (her) successful creation of our life drawing class − now in its second year,” contributes Schwartz by email. “Other artists will be able to work there and sell their paintings through the gallery providing they pass the jury process.”

Since arriving in Tofino six years ago, the island-born self-taught artist Fergusson has gained valuable insight to bring to this Community Futures start-up from working at Mark Hobson Gallery to serving on Tofino Arts Council’s board and managing the gallery component at Carving on the Edge Festival in 2016.

Carving on the Edge captures that ‘spirit’ of art and art-making I want to do with this new gallery space Experiential,” says Fergusson. “It was a great opportunity to meet local artists and learn another way of running a gallery, and the Festival is just a beautiful, magical project to be part of. I was inspired by the authentic artists-on-site experience and the quality of the artwork and artists represented.”

“She’s brought so much to community art from life drawing to her work at Carving on the Edge,” says local carver-painter Jane Woodbury. She explains that fine art is “outside art” as defined by critic Camille Paglia, versus “inside” commercial art. “Not a product so much as an experience or shift of consciousness.”

“To be able to see that there are other forms of art that are viable, that’s very exciting.”

Experiential launches June 22 at Unit E 681 Industrial Way. Find out more about the project here.

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