NOTE: This story was updated Sept. 11 with new date information for the Live at the Gallery performance.
By the time Deer Lake Gallery opens its doors in September, it will have been nearly six months since it last welcomed visitors.
The Burnaby Arts Council gallery – like much of the rest of the arts world – has been on a pause since March, when its planned Luminescence V exhibition was brought to a halt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now it’s opening again to offer up a celebratory exhibition in honour of the Burnaby Arts Council’s 50th anniversary. Art Since 1970 opens on Saturday, Sept. 5 and continues until Thursday, Oct. 3.
Jasmine Wu, the arts council’s interim executive director, notes the down time has allowed the group to work on some behind-the-scenes projects – including its search for a permanent executive director – and to figure out how to re-organize its events to continue to offer safe, in-person alternatives for the arts-loving public.
It’s already hosted two Live at the Gallery music events, taking advantage of its back lawn overlooking Deer Lake Park to give people a chance to enjoy live performance again in a safe, socially distanced manner.
The Art Since 1970 exhibition will mark the first time it’s inviting members of the public indoors.
Wu points out that the gallery is well positioned to do so safely, since its physical building – a house – allows them to easily limit access. Visitors will be required to ring the doorbell to get in, and the number of visitors at a time will be limited to five (or more if they’re in a single social “bubble”).
The layout of the gallery – with a front door leading to a large, open exhibition space and a patio door leading out the back – also allows them to create safe, one-way traffic flow.
The gallery is recommending that anyone who wants to visit the exhibition book a time to do so, although it will accept drop-in visitors as space allows. All visitors will also be required to provide their contact information in the event that contact tracing is required.
“Luckily people are kind of getting used to this situation,” Wu said. “It’s probably nothing too unusual.”
Visitors to the exhibition will get a chance to experience a retrospective look at the history of the Burnaby Arts Council, as well as curated works by a dozen current artists with ties to Burnaby.
Back in March, the arts council put out a call to artist for works inspired by Burnaby, exploring their own takes on living in the city. The end result is an exhibition featuring works in various mediums and styles – mostly two-dimensional, visual work – featuring diverse perspectives on the city.
“The overall theme of the exhibition is looking at the city of Burnaby through other people’s eyes, but also through metaphor, the eyes of the past,” Wu said.
Pulling together the exhibition has given Wu herself new perspective on the arts council’s work in Burnaby.
“I’m learning so much about the history of the arts council. Despite being a small organization, the amount of activities that they’ve managed to put out is amazing,” she said.
For instance, she notes, the group was a key part in the development of the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, and it has been responsible for a huge number of community events from the 1970s and ’80s onwards.
Unlike previous exhibitions, this one won’t be able to kick off with an opening reception, and visitors won’t be able to mix and mingle with artists. But Wu is hoping that people will still be able to experience a deeper connection to the work by seeing it in person and realizing that all of the artists whose work is on display are from right here in their own community.
“That kind of connection has been much missed,” she said.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020 and 2021, Wu said the arts council will keep on with its efforts to connect people with the arts in Burnaby.
There’s another Live at the Gallery musical performance set for Saturday, Sept. 19, featuring musicians on a variety of Asian instruments. Weather permitting, that will happen outdoors; if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the musicians will play indoors and the event will be livestreamed on Facebook.
The arts council is also making plans for its annual Deer Lake Craft Festival, which takes place in the lead-up to Christmas at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. The show may need to change somewhat this year, Wu noted, possibly with fewer vendors or with outdoor space becoming part of the mix.
“Hopefully we can continue creating more opportunities for people to engage with the arts, whether that means going to the art gallery, or attending a craft market and seeing what people around the city have been able to create, to focus on ways of making art a part of people’s everyday lives,” she said.
You can also find out more about the arts council and the gallery online at www.burnabyartscouncil.org.