2021 – Starting Off Right!

Well Happy New Year everyone – we wish you all the best of health, happiness, and creativity for this new year and may it be much better than the last! If you’ve been tuning into Netflix over the holidays you may want to check out the docu-spoof called Death to 2020 – it firmly roasts the year, in a good way.

But 2020 wasn’t all bad. In fact for us at Xchanges, there have been many silver linings in spite of the challenges – most importantly we learned how to pull up our bootstraps and get online when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down our gallery exhibitions and all other programming. Our board and volunteers pulled together in typical Xchanges fashion – together with a passion for art and artists and a spirit of resilience! And our models – they really helped us get online by stepping forward to try this new way of doing things. Without them we could not have done it so thank you: Miss Natasha Enquist, Arunima and Stu – you helped us break new ground and there is no going back now!

In 2021 we are looking forward to (and hoping for) vaccines, relaxing restrictions on public gatherings so we can get back to some version of ‘normal’, three artists in the gallery, and our AGM in April (wow that came up fast!).

On January 11th we are looking forward to offering life drawing online and in-person simultaneously again. Artists can sign up now on the online store where we have just published 4 amazing products with great discounts to encourage people to book in advance and keep practicing!! We are trying to make it easier to order and more affordable- let us know how we are doing! Thank you so much to the artists who joined us, especially at the beginning in May when we had no idea what was going to happen or what we were doing!

Here are just a few of the highlights from our adventure this past year:

We launched an Instagram and now have 474 followers already and a YouTube Channel with videos created by Nick Salvador – spotlighting artists whose shows were deferred because of Covid. Nick’s talents could not have come at a better time – thank you Nick!! There is still so much to do on this front, but we are slowly getting there.

We welcomed so many new members this year- we have grown to 125 members and continue to attract more talent from inside and outside Victoria, other parts of BC, Canada, and the USA. Check out the growing list on the Artists page. Please let your artist friends and colleagues know about Xchanges and the many benefits to joining. Right now until the end of February they can sign up for 80% off using the promo code MBSP2020. The new memberships will be available for April 1st, but why wait? join now!

In December we launched our very first TWO online exhibitions and were thrilled that 75 people registered to attend the virtual opening which streamed the Zoom session on Facebook Live! To the 62+ people who attended, we feel much gratitude for your support and encouragement – one even Zoomed in from Mexico! This was truly a pan-North America event. Who knew we could pull that off, but we did. Check out A Moment in Time, our annual members exhibition page which will take you to the online portal, and Covid LIFE: Virtual Drawing in the Time of Covid – let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment on the page.

We also launched 50 works of art for sale from the members’ show on our online storecheck it out here! If you want to sell your work on this portal just let us know. Congratulations to Cindy Wright who is the first artist to make a sale on the store!

December keeps being awesome! Opus Art Supplies chose Xchanges and Victoria Arts Council (VAC) to be the two arts organizations to benefit from their fabulous community support initiative over the holidays. The Together program sees 5% of sales of Opus brand products going to help support the arts community – us and VAC! We deeply appreciate the support of Opus and want to thank long-time member and studio artist Bill Bartlett for initiating and nurturing this relationship. Bill started giving Opus gift cards to attendees at Monday night life drawing (as well as other goodies from his extensive library), and eventually Opus started donating the cards to Xchanges. Please mention to Opus staff when you go shopping there that you are a member of Xchanges or if you attend life drawing, let them know you appreciate their support.

Our sponsorship with Business/Arts gave more good news – in light of the pandemic and impacts to businesses who can’t afford to sponsor or meet sponsorship obligations, they announce that their ArtsVest program will continue to support arts organizations with matching funds previously committed. Xchanges gratefully receives $4,000 in sponsorship funds from this program. We learned so much from ArtsVest and our sponsors like Focus Magazine and Opus Art Supplies that encourage us to keep building relationships and sponsorships.

In November six studio artists participated in the Bridge Crawl hosted by Arc.Hive and the Dream City collaboration featuring F. Long, M. Babineau, and C. Thomas transformed the gallery into a wild and interesting multimedia installation. If you haven’t met any of our studio artists is a great introduction – there are images and text and 5 minute videos of each artist talking about their work or demonstrating their techniques. The artists are: Gillian Redwood, Bill Bartlett, Chantal New, Cindy Wright, Richard Motchman and Dream City. While there check out the other local arts groups: Cecelia Press, Rock Bay Square, Ministry of Casual Living, Errant ArtSpace, Archive Artist Run Centre, Victoria Arts Council, and Ground Zero Printmakers.

In October we nailed the national Culture Days event and were spotlighted as an event “Hub” because we alone offered FIVE free events that were in-person, online or streaming! What an awesome event and we can’t wait to do it again next year. Margaret Hantiuk’s self-guided tour of her exhibition Snow Birds: Strangers in Paradise kicked things off and very appropriately given the theme of Culture Days. Thirty eight people registered for Peter Lobel’s Guided Portrait Drawing who shared 3 cameras so participants could draw along with him (looking over his shoulder), see Natasha our model, and see Peter speaking – it was amazing! Andy Shutse Lou’s Contemporary Chinese Brush Painting session was also well attended with 18 participants and it was fabulous to see his well executed demo online that used some pre-recorded videos that Andy narrated and explained as he showed them, plus he demonstrated his techniques live. This session used his laptop camera and a phone camera as well. Liam O’Sullivan’s exhibition Nature Preserve: A dog park for empathy and artist talk was attended by 38 people online – so interesting to hear about his creative process. Thank you to Kat Thompson for leading this initiative!

In September we kicked off simultaneous in-person and online life drawing. The Gallery capacity was greatly reduced to 5 in-person participants until we were shut down again recently. Thank you to the facilitators and especially Sandra Levy for her commitment to the long pose sessions on Wednesday and Thursday mornings – with Covid, the struggle is real! Online and In-Person Facilitators include: Richard Motchman, Chantal New, Andrea Eggenberger, Mark Schmiedl, Gillian Redwood, Heidi Bergstrom, Cindy Wright,

Randall McGinnis’s show preview Phototextrinum can be seen on our YouTube Channel and you can check out the artist page here. These beautiful and mezmerizing works were a pleasure to see once we could again in the Gallery in September.

From May to August we kicked off life drawing online and even expanded a bit, offering Portrait drawing and additional sessions online. We welcomed artists online from many parts of the USA and other parts of Canada without whose participation we would not have been able to offer these programs. Bonus – we got to meet some fabulous new artists from all over and keep up to date with Coronavirus and wildfire news from our neighbours in California and Washington. We received amazing encouragement and private financial support from an amazing donor – Beverly Patterson who attends life drawing and we thank whole-heartedly for her incredible donation!!!

Here is some interesting data about life drawing since we got back to it in May:

Total Registrations May 20 – Aug 29 (15 weeks)370
# of artists total149
Canadian artists63
American artists86

In August we also announced a new collaborative relationship with Rungh Magazine a Canadian multidisciplinary space and online publication for creative explorations, featuring work by Indigenous, Black and People of Colour artists (BIPOC). Xchanges members are invited to join their mail list and get involved. Learn more on the blogpost here.

We also got to know 4 more artists who took over the Gallery space and used it for project work – a video installation, painting, drawing and even writing got done! This was a wonderful comeback because we couldn’t host our exhibiting artists as planned. Lemonade and lots of art was made. Check out the blog post about these artists here if you haven’t heard about it before! Gina Luke also posted a blog about her experience creating her video installation here: Synthetic Practice – read it now!

In April we were kicking off the new fiscal year with the pandemic and trying to keep our heads above water. Who knew the year was going to start like this???

I want to thank so many people, but especially our Board of Directors for hanging in and helping get Xchanges over this major hurdle. We said goodbye to some dear friends and volunteers like Claire Burgoyne who was our Gallery Coordinator and a studio member, but we gratefully welcomed back Cindy Wright into this position. People step up and we appreciate all the effort. It’s not everyday you have to support an organization that has been around for 53 years to keep going! we kept the lights on, the rent paid, and opened opportunities for artists – all during a major pandemic. Here’s to an even more interesting 2021!!

I know I have missed people in this tribute to 2020. For that I apologize! Xchanges operates and succeeds only with the efforts of many people in many capacities. We can always use more help but I would like to acknowledge our board and key volunteers:

  • Jillan Valpy – Board Treasurer, Financial lead, bank, lease, bills and accounting, financial reporting
  • Gillian Redwood, Board Secretary, Studio management and liaison, Sponsorship Committee Lead
  • Cindy Wright, Gallery Coordinator and Artist-in-Residence program
  • Kathi Thompson – Board Director, Volunteer and Membership Coordinator, Community Outreach, Planning
  • Danielle Desjardins – Board Director, Lease and Building Committee, Strategic Move
  • Mark Schmiedl – Board Director, Promotions and public information; Program Facilitation Online
  • Richard Motchman – Program Facilitation Online
  • Bill Bartlett – Program Facilitation, In-Person
  • Sandra Levy – Program Facilitation, In-Person
  • Chantal New – Board Director, Program Facilitation Online
  • Brian Chandler – Program Coordinator and Model Schedules
  • Rachel Hellner – Gallery News
  • Susan Nonen – Studios and Building liaison (physical premises)
  • Andrea Ateggenberger- Program Facilitation Online

Please let us know any errors or omissions so we can update this post. You can also comment below in the Leave a Reply box and add to our 2020 review!

Thank you all for your continued support of Xchanges. It is through your effort and engagement, or quiet cheering that change happens.

Here’s to a wonderful 2021 for all of you – keep creating and making the world a better, more creative and inspiring place for everyone.

all the best,
Heidi Bergstrom

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