“First Friday” artwork at gallery

First Friday at the Okanagan Art Gallery
by Michele Weisz, Osoyoos Times

The Okanagan Art Gallery is tucked away at the end of Main Street and one might walk right by without ever knowing that behind the non-descript storefront lies what gallery advertising director Diane Carter calls “a hidden gem” in Osoyoos.

However, the gallery’s First Friday receptions will give patrons a chance to see what the space is all about.

The gallery originated in Oliver with six painters and one photographer who wanted a permanent space to exhibit their work. It was moved to Osoyoos four years ago and now includes over 25 artists. The gallery has no owner and is run by an executive committee.

The turnover for new artists is slow because space is limited and the artists seldom leave. It’s a rare occurrence when a spot opens up for a new artist and in order to be featured at the gallery, an artist must be invited and voted in by the committee.

The space that houses the gallery used to be an office before it was renovated to showcase the art. Each artist’s work encompasses a wall within one of the many rooms. The rooms are small but bright and inviting and colourful artwork is all around. The mediums employed by the artists vary from photography to oil to acrylic and even fiber pieces. The style of the pieces are eclectic and range from impressionism to mid-century modern.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the gallery are the portraits of each artist. Unlike most galleries which have a small photographic head-shot located below their work, the artists at the Okanagan Art Gallery have each painted their own self-portraits on small canvases which hang beside their work. The artist’s style and personality are expressed in the way that they have chosen to portray themselves and the self-portraits are art themselves.

Gallery advertising director Diane Carter stands in front of one artist’s work at the Okanagan Art Gallery. The gallery is having its second First Friday Reception on Feb. 1. The reception is a chance for the community to meet the artists whose work is exhibited in the gallery, while the artists get the opportunity to answer questions and explain the concept behind their work. (Michele Weisz photo)

Carter said that a lot of people are unaware about the gallery’s existence while others are too intimidated to step inside. She said that throughout the years she has seen many people who look through the glass without entering and decline the invitation to come in, saying that they do not know anything about art.

Artist Wendy Wells Bailey blamed what she calls “snobby” gallery workers for creating “an air that is not encouraging” and perpetuating the myth that only experts can appreciate art.

Carter said the only thing one is required to know about art is whether they “feel an inner connection” with a piece and knowing what they like is “everything there is to know about art.”

In order to bring awareness to the community about the gallery and its artists, and to discredit myths around art, the First Friday receptions event was started. Carter said she and the artists were thrilled at the amazing turnout in November and they hope to replicate the success in February.

“We have some of the best artists in Canada,” she said, and she hopes that people will come meet the talented, professional artists and ask them about their work.

“People always want to know what’s behind the ideas of the artist,” Carter said, and this is their opportunity to find out.

It is also an opportunity for the artists to interact with the community. Bailey said that she loves talking to people about her work. She said that there is a story behind every painting she creates and “understanding the story has more meaning for the painting.”

The Okanagan Art Gallery show Wonderful Winter Paintings and Art begins Feb. 1 and the First Fridays reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Wine will be provided by Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery and its proprietor Maria Ferreira will be on hand to answer questions.

Although the gallery is a business like any other, Carter said she and the artists would be delighted for people to come, whether they intend to make a purchase or not.