The biggest challenge in staging one of the most successful art shows in the Lower Mainland? Topping yourself every year.
Teena Martin, executive director of the Burnaby Arts Council, knows that challenge well. She’s currently pulling together the final bits and pieces for the opening night of Luminescence IV – the arts council’s annual show of works celebrating light, held at Deer Lake Gallery each year for the spring equinox.
“The first one was huge,” Martin says, recalling the lineup of gallery-goers that streamed down Deer Lake Avenue to squeeze in to the small gallery on opening night. That year’s crowd was attracted by the viral buzz around an infinity room created by Burnaby artist Ron Simmer. “Each one has been successful, but to try to reach that mountain?”
Fortunately, that “mountain” is reachable – and then some – with the kind of lineup Martin has set for this year.
Martin says artist interest in the show has increased exponentially since the first one.
“I get calls all year round, ‘When is the Luminescence call going out?’ It’s very much on people’s minds,” she says. “More artists are interested, and the quality is outstanding. … Each year the artwork gets better and better.”
This year’s headlining piece is once again created by Simmer: the Berzerkatroid Dragon, an interactive, fire-breathing work (yes, there will be real fire) that will be activated for the opening and closing festivities.
The 25 artists taking part in this year’s show include a half-dozen returning from previous years, with the rest being new to Luminescence. Pieces run the gamut from painting and photography to a variety of sculptural and three-dimensional works. All revolve around the theme of light – or, in the case of one particular piece this year, the utter lack thereof.
“It’s just really interesting this year,” Martin says.
She notes that the whole show is family-friendly, and she’s hoping to see people of all ages turn out for the opening night festivities. Some of the work in the show will appeal particularly to kids – not the least of which is the dragon they’ll get a chance to climb on and interact with.
For artist Grant Withers, who’s showing three-dimensional photographic work, the light-hearted, creative feel of the show is part of its attraction: “whimsy” and “playfulness” are the two words that come to mind when he describes Luminescence.
“Maybe that’s part of why it has reached so many people,” he says. “It’s not a typical art show; it’s a celebration.”
Luminescence opening night, he says, is a far cry from most of the art openings he’s been part of – which often involve people milling around, glass of wine in hand, talking about the art in a “sedate” fashion. That kind of experience can be rewarding, he says, but nothing like what folks can expect from Saturday.
“At Luminescence opening, it’s a party,” he says with a grin.
For Martin, Luminescence is just one aspect of the work the Burnaby Arts Council is doing to position itself as an ever-growing force on the Lower Mainland cultural scene.
She sees Luminescence as part of a package of events – including the Park’s Edge Paint-Off live art battles, Live at the Gallery music nights, an upcoming fashion show and art auction, and a series of First Nations cultural events that the gallery is integrating into its year-round programming – that are helping to make Deer Lake Gallery a force to be reckoned with.
Martin says support from the city, which provides the home the gallery is located in and an annual operating grant, is invaluable to the arts council’s efforts. And the arts council is working hard to broaden the organization’s base of support with corporate sponsorship: Norburn Lighting has come on board as the presenting sponsor for Luminescence IV, and Prime Image is also sponsoring.
“We couldn’t make this happen on the scale it is without these sponsors,” she said.
With Burnaby’s rapid growth and development, Martin says, it’s all the more important to help ensure the city has a vibrant cultural scene to help engage and connect the community.
“How do you define Burnaby? What are we defined by?” she says. “Let’s define us as a diverse city to go to live, create, play, work, not just exist and travel to Vancouver for arts and culture. …
“Why can’t Burnaby be a cultural hub, a cultural destination?”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
What: Luminescence IV, the Burnaby Arts Council’s fourth annual exhibition of two- and three-dimensional works exploring light, in celebration of the spring equinox.
When: Saturday, March 16 to Saturday, April 6. Opening event March 16 at 8 p.m. (VIP access at 7 p.m.), closing event April 6 at 7 p.m. Gallery open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.
Events: Opening night gala features music by DJ BJAMS, performances by AcroFire Entertainment, a chance to ride the fire-breathing Berzerkatroid Dragon and more.
Closing event April 6, 7 to 9 p.m., features live performances by musicians Eddie Lam and Leonard Pallerstein.
Where: Deer Lake Gallery, 6584 Deer Lake Ave.
Admission: Free. Opening night VIP passes available for $25, offering early front-of-the-line access at 7 p.m., plus artist meet-and-greet and drink ticket. Buy through www.eventbrite.ca. Closing night access is pay what you can at the door; reserve at www.eventbrite.ca.