Campbell River Art Gallery opens doors to homeless community, providing space to be creative – Campbell River Mirror

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Every Thursday from around 10:30 am, the Campbell River Art Gallery opens its doors to residents of the homeless community to provide a space to sit, relax and create stunning works of art.

“It’s a place to get creative,” said Sara Lopez Assu, the gallery’s executive director.

“It’s a spinoff of Walk With Me,” she said, referring to the successful program that helps people understand the impact of the drug crisis in Campbell River. “While participating in Walk With Me, we quickly realized the impact it had on people, not just the actual walks and the story telling part, but the fact that members of our homeless community had a place to go that was consistent and where they felt empowered and valued. We listened to some of the cultural leaders who were part of the march with me and they clearly asked us to continue something.

Now people can come in and work on creative artwork. On March 10, for example, attendees Nick Holland and Chuck Jules were the first through the door. They were both working on the linocut, Holland was busy carving a lion’s head that would eventually be made into a rubber stamp to create things like tote bags, t-shirts and greeting cards. Jules was preparing his linocut, a design of a whale, to feed into the printing press.

“For me, there is a great sense of community and belonging. It’s an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate their own creative abilities,” Holland said. “I really think it’s a good opportunity to…participate in something that my whole life has revolved around, which is art.”

Lopez Assu said that although they have limited funding, it was important for the gallery to open its doors and provide people with a grassroots opportunity. They were able to hire a colleague, Agnes Thomas, who helps reach community members who could benefit from the space.

“We don’t do it for fun anymore, we do it to survive. We do it to survive. When you take the time to individualize yourself, you find your individuality. It takes us away from the element of daily routine,” Thomas said as he wrapped yarn to make a dream catcher. “It gives a sense of individuality, and at the same time it helps me understand who my family is…when I do that, it really feels good.”

One of the objectives of the program is to obtain some of the artworks offered for sale on the Gallery’s website and in the gift shop. This way, proceeds from the artwork can be funneled back into the program to help buy more art supplies and help the artists themselves.

“We were able to get t-shirts and bags…and they will be screen printed,” Lopez Assu said. “They created designs to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women, to honor Every Child Matters. They will print them and sell them in our gift shop.

As the morning progressed, more and more people began to enter the gallery. Coffee was poured, snacks were handed out, but most people were drawn to the art supplies. People were smiling, chatting with friends, and creating truly wonderful works of art.

“I love it,” Thomas said. “I love it.”


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ArtsCampbell RiverHomelessnessHousing and Homelessness


Nick Holland exhibits his linocut at the Campbell River Art Gallery. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Work in progress by Nick Holland.  Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Work in progress by Nick Holland. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

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