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Lenny Rubenovitch (left) uses wood as a medium in his artwork. Photo: Alexandra Machicado-McGee Toby Jaxon (right) stands in front of her artwork at the Squamish Public Library. Photo: Karen Yaremkewich

Paintings, paddles & pandemic: How Squamish artists are finding new audiences online

Local artists and the Squamish Arts Council are finding ways to revamp events virtually and build an audience amid coronavirus restrictions.

By Andrew Hughes , in Culture , on November 25, 2020 Tags: , , , ,

Squamish artists are hosting virtual events and using social media to find new audiences — and customers — to deal with public-health restrictions due to COVID-19.

The Squamish Arts Council, for example, moved studio tours entirely online and posted on Instagram, converted their yearly fall “movie in the park” to a drive-in, and live-streamed a music event at the Summit Lodge viewing deck atop the Sea to Sky Gondola as well as the Brackendale Art Gallery.

The organization has found that some of the above events, which coincided with the month-long Squamish Wind Festival, and the upcoming Anonymous Art Show have gained more attention than in years past. 

“As a result of having to put some of our [Squamish Wind] festival online this year, we unintentionally created an international festival,” said Amy Liebenberg, the executive director of the Squamish Arts Council. “This year, we had people from eight different countries.”

Amy Liebenberg, executive director of Squamish Arts Council. Photo: Haley Lorraine Photography

Toby Jaxon, a Squamish artist and curator who participated in the Squamish Wind Festival and contributed a couple of hand-painted pieces in the upcoming Anonymous Art Show, has seen boosts from her own online presence.

“I’ve had a couple of sales in this last month as a result of doing more social media,” Jaxon said. “I’ve actually had some real success with it.” 

While Jaxon had an Instagram account prior to the pandemic, she said that the restrictions made her start posting more of her paintings on the platform, which led to contact with customers.

Although the Squamish Arts Council has moved many events online, it is hosting programs to build community.

Jaxon is also currently doing research to find the best ways to conduct online instructional art videos in hopes of best replicating her in-person teaching. 

Before the pandemic, Jaxon taught in many settings including one-on-one lessons, small groups and even groups as large as 50 to 60 participants. Pinot & Paint was one of these large classes that she taught at various businesses around town.

Rubenovitch’s artwork hanging at a restaurant in Squamish. Photo: Alexandra Machicado-McGee

On the other hand, artist Lenny Rubenovitch found the pandemic to be an opportunity to unplug.

“There’s many benefits to disconnecting to reconnect to our true self,” Rubenovitch said. “The pandemic is an opportunity to do that. Obviously it has its many difficulties, but I think there are lots of benefits, too.” 

To disconnect, Rubenovitch co-hosted an in-person paddle-carving workshop in September.

He said creating a paddle from scratch helps the carver reprogram since it takes time and perseverance, so different from the quick clicks and instant gratification of social media.

As well, he said it helped build connection and camaraderie among workshop participants.

Still, Rubenovitch took to social media such as Instagram and Facebook to promote his work, using the latter to co-host an online auction associated with the paddle workshop.

Like Rubenovitch, Liebenberg also said coronavirus restrictions could help people reconnect with their artistic passion.

“I, myself, picked up my acrylic paint set for the first time in eight years,” she said.

Liebenberg noted that while artists are finding new modes of expression and outreach, they still face challenges.

“Although we will find creative ways to showcase … our artists are struggling,” she said. “So, I would highly recommend and encourage our community to support their local artists by buying their work.”

The Squamish Arts Council will host the Anonymous Art Show virtually Nov. 26. This is the second year it is hosting the show and it encourages artists of all levels in the Sea-to-Sky community to contribute an original piece that will be auctioned off. The auction serves as a fundraiser to support local artists, the arts council and its work in the community.

Those interested in participating can buy their tickets on the Squamish Arts Council website.