Penticton artists are showcasing works as an expression of hope in response to the pandemic

Painting a message of hope

Casey Richardson

Penticton artists are sending out a message with their creations as expressions of hope in the midst of the pandemic.

The Fresh A.i.R. exhibit with the Penticton & District Community Arts Council is running in the Leir House Cultural Centre, welcoming visitors to experience the artists emotions. 

“I'm trying to lighten up the situation in art that if you’re having a piece that you look at and can feel happy,” Diana Skelhorne, one of the artists in residency said. “Everyones struggling with trying to stay positive and I think there’s a lot of artists and art out there that makes you try to feel better about all of this.” 

Skelhorne added that her artwork changed during the pandemic, shifting from bold, flowing pieces into brighter abstract works to look at. 

“I think it’s happy to look at, all of the series reminds me of a country fair,” she said, channeling the emotion she wants to bring to people into her art. 

Another artist in the show created a specific collection of pieces in response to the pandemic.

“For me, I have something to say with my art,” Debbie Tougas, one of the artists in residency said. “So I just took it to putting my feelings on canvas and showing everybody I know we’re all feeling overwhelmed and this is how I feel about it. But I also have a spin on it of hope. 

“It’s difficult for all of us, all the artists.”

So far, the exhibition hasn't had many visitors and both Tougas and Skelhorne have felt the financial impact throughout this year. 

“The new order came out and it just pretty well died off again. People are leary of going out in public I suppose and we just really want them to know we’re following all the rules...We hope that it picks up a little bit more and people think of us for Christmas,” Tougas said. 

COVID-19 precautions are in place, with limited numbers of people allowed in the gallery spaces, contact tracing and mandatory masks. Those who come without a mask can purchase one for a $2 donation at the door.

The exhibition also gives viewers a chance to speak with the creators about their expressions.

“With only six people at a time you have one on ones with all of the artists here so you get to know each and every one of us. You get to know what’s behind the painting,” Skelhorne added. 

“Art is more important than ever. It's important for us as artists to be able to work out our feelings. It’s important for the community to view our art, talk to us about it. But also if they want to buy a piece that makes them feel good every day.” 

The exhibition run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Leir House at 220 Manor Park Avenue. The online exhibit can be viewed here. 

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