The Summerland Art Club has a long history in Summerland and have recently been remaking the nativity scene that will once again be displayed above Main Street this holiday season.
The club was first formed in 1952. At that time they met in private homes, then in the Anglican Church and later in the lower room of the library building, which is now the Arts Centre. The club is the city’s oldest tenant to use this room and they are still meeting there each Wednesday.
Mary Fisher has been with the club the longest and has seen the membership go up and down over the years and at times there has even been a waiting list to join. Today there are approximately 30 members.
“I joined the club in 1986,” said Fisher. “It’s a place for encouragement for anyone who wants to be an artist. Everyone tries to help everyone else. That’s the objective of it.”
Another objective of the club is to increase the knowledge of its members. They have their own library which contains over 600 books, many of which have been donated. Sue Gibb, who is not an artist, but describes herself as an organizer, is the volunteer librarian.
“I went through every book and broke it all down,” she said. “I have a fair knowledge of what is here.”
Gibb is able to provide the artists with information on whatever it is they may want to paint or draw.
“If you want a cow, I can give you a cow,” explained Gibb.
The club also invites “top artists” to come and hold two-day workshops for the members.
Shirlie Wilkinson has been arranging these workshops for the last 10 years, holding three or four per year.
While it is usual for the art club to put on a show each year, this will be the first time they will be having a show as part of Light Up.
Fisher explained the importance of hanging the show in a way that complements each painting and said that they have a committee of four who are experienced at it.
“A lot of these people are recognized artists,” said Lois Yeast. “When they put their work in a show, people come to see it.”
Yeast, who is new to Summerland, has found the club to be welcoming, warm and full of enthusiasm.
“From the first time I came I felt like I had found a home,” she said.
Marianne MacDonald is not only new to Summerland, but she is also a new artist. In the club she is able to go around to others and see what they are doing and to ask them questions.
“It’s very welcoming to new members,” said Wendy Janz. “It’s a support system and it’s encouraging when you are just learning. People here help you.”
“I’ve been a member since 2004,” said Evelyn Briscall. “The group has always been encouraging. They encourage new artists and we teach one another.”
Others in the club are not so new.
“There are members here who are in their eighties and their knowledge has been so helpful for the group,” explained Briscall.
One such artist, Linda Baker, has been painting for over 40 years.
“I’m 75 and I should be slowing down but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “I just can’t leave the club. The people have become like family to me.”
Carol Avedon-Savage said she has grown as an artist since joining the club.
“This club has become a safe learning place with workshops, help and friendship. It’s just wonderful.”
Also wonderful is the fact that this group of artists agreed to help remake the pieces of the nativity scene when asked.
Maureen King, who was born and raised in Summerland, remembers the life sized nativity display from her childhood.
“I learned that the originals were designed, painted and created by the Summerland Art Club when they started in 1952,” she said.
“We’re really thrilled to be part of the Nativity Project,” said King.
“Everyone in the club has had a hand in doing something. I think it is so cool, kind of like the legacy for our club.”