Osoyoos Art Gallery
Volunteers make Osoyoos arts scene go round
Just west of the town hall in Osoyoos, behind a sculpture of a family of quails, is an older building that houses The Art Gallery Osoyoos (TAGO).
The frame building, at the corner of Main Street and 89th Street, is easily identified by the blue awning over its walkway.
It’s summer and the gallery is holding its Summer Artisan Market, one of the annual art shows in its year-round programming.
The show runs from June until Labour Day, and it features the work of two dozen local artists including painters, potters, quilters, photographers, glass artists and more.
Many of the visitors are tourists or seasonal residents. The art tends to be small and affordable, made with travelling visitors in mind. Cards made by artists are popular.
“I think it shows the tourists the artistic community that we are,” said Darlene Fillion, a potter, and co-chair with Marge Trosky of the volunteer gallery committee. “There are so many different artists showing right now and the variety of art we have is phenomenal.”
Another artisan market is held from November in the lead-up to Christmas, catering more to local Christmas shoppers.
Holding up a bookmark listing the current year’s exhibitions, Trosky, the other co-chair, enumerates the diverse shows that have ranged from fabric art to Indigenous art.
Some exhibitions feature the work of local artist groups including the painters of the Artists on Main and the local chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists, or other groups such as the Osoyoos Quilters, the Osoyoos Potters and the Osoyoos Photography Club.
There are also a few solo shows by regional artists or shows with two or three artists collaborating.
For example, in April, Osoyoos fabric artist R. Leslie Forbes, did a solo show of her “paintings in fabric.”
The following month, emerging artist Taylor Baptiste, of the Okanagan Indian Band, presented a mixed-media exhibition inspired by the land and based on Syilx Okanagan Nation culture and traditions.
Most shows run for about four weeks, except for the longer artisan markets.
Early in the year there is a community exhibition on a particular theme that’s open to novice artists. In January 2022, it was a poster contest.
The winner, high school student Prabhnoor Samra, did a pastel image inspired by “The Chief,” a metal sculpture by Virgil “Smoker” Marchand that stands outside the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
The gallery has evolved over the past three decades, but the building itself is more than just the gallery – it’s known as the Osoyoos Arts Centre because of its other facilities that are separate from the gallery.
The historic building was once the old RCMP station and there are even jail cells in the basement. Today, besides the gallery, it also is home to a pottery studio with wheels and kilns, as well as a painting studio used by Artists on Main. And there’s an upstairs boardroom.
After the police moved out, the Town of Osoyoos acquired the building for $1 and made it available in 1990 to the Osoyoos Painters and Potters Club, said painter Sandra Albo, who has long been active in the Osoyoos arts community.
“We formerly met in the old curling club building with the museum operating downstairs in the original Quonset hut,” said Albo. “The upstairs was called the Coop with potters and painters using it.”
Albo said the painters and potters originally started in private homes around 1950.
The artists started the gallery, she said, adding that it was then taken over by the Osoyoos and District Arts Council (ODAC). Today, the gallery is run by a volunteer committee that operates as a standing committee of ODAC.
ODAC serves as an umbrella group supporting the arts in Osoyoos and coordinating grant funding for different events.
Besides the art gallery, the other standing committee of ODAC is Osoyoos Performing Arts, which arranges musical performances in and around Osoyoos. These include the popular Main Concert Series.
A number of other arts groups are ODAC members but operate independently. These include Artists on Main, Janet Marcotte Music, Music in the Park, the Osoyoos Photography Club, Osoyoos Potters, Osoyoos Quilters Guild, and Osoyoos Wood Carvers.
The Osoyoos Blues Society and South Okanagan Concert Society are also associated with ODAC but have separate organizations.
Dianne Hughes, a potter who served as director for the gallery from 2013-18, now acts as a liaison between ODAC and the gallery committee. She mainly makes sure the left hand knows what the right is doing, but she has played a mediator role between the two organizations when they experienced growing pains a few years ago.
She was busy at a newly leased storefront office across Main Street from the Osoyoos Arts Centre, which has informally been dubbed “The Hub.”
“I look at it as an extension of the Arts Centre,” Hughes said, adding that it could be used to hold small meetings, workshops and even small informal musical evenings and jam sessions.
Unlike the second floor of the Arts Centre, at the top of a precipitous stairway, The Hub is at street level and is wheelchair accessible. (TAGO, on the main floor, is accessible by a ramp).
Back at the gallery, Trosky is doing a shift as a volunteer receptionist. A roster of mainly senior women takes turns greeting visitors, informing them about the local arts, selling art, and sometimes giving general tourism advice.
“We always have questions from people about where is a good place to shop, where is a good place to eat, what can I see, what can I do,” Trosky said. “We do carry maps and brochures supplied by the town, so we sort of act as a town tourist office at times.”
Very often they recommend visitors also stop at the Okanagan Art Gallery, at the opposite end of Main Street, which is an independent artist cooperative. Some of the artists are active at both galleries.
Admission to TAGO is free, but Trosky notes that donations are welcome. She also keeps an eye open for possible volunteers.
“We’re always looking for more community involvement,” said Trosky. “We run strictly on volunteers… Volunteers make our town go around.”
The Art Gallery Osoyoos
8713 Main Street
Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V0
Osoyoos and District Arts Council