Born out of the annual Artfest weekend, the Artloft Gallery is a permanent space for local artists to showcase their work.
“People don’t even know we’re here,” said Alert Bay Artists Society (ABAS) President Beth Dunlop.
Although many people are familiar with the annual Artfest event, ABAS also operates a non-profit gallery and gift shop that is open year round.
“People from here kept leaving to have art shows,” said Dunlop.
She added “I had an art show in Victoria and I was leaving to go and that’s when Wendy White and Linda Gilarski thought ‘let’s put something on here’.”
Nine local artists then came together to organize the first annual Artfest to coincide with Seafest in 2008.
“We piggy backed – we thought let’s call it Artfest – they already have people coming for Seafest,” laughed Dunlop.
In 2010, after three consecutive successful Artfest weekends, they felt a desire to have a permanent space for artists in Alert Bay.
“We thought this is really great, but it’s too bad we can only show art once a year,” said Dunlop.
The artists then decided to incorporate as a society and opened the Artloft Gallery located in the former Lion’s Den above the library.
“We really wanted to focus on giving people in Alert Bay opportunity,” Dunlop said, adding the Artloft Gallery has since grown to become a space for artists from all over the North Island, and it has also moved to the Seine Boat Inn building in Downton Alert Bay.
“The North Island has limited venues for people to sell their crafts – we want people to know they can participate too.”
For $10 a year, any artist can become a member of ABAS and showcase their work in the Artloft Gallery.
“We see people from here walk by and think that this must be something for someone else,” said ABAS treasurer CW Peterson.
“We are so open and we want people to use us as a venue for their own crafts,” added Dunlop.
The Artloft Gallery features a new show every six weeks with a rotating theme.
ABAS puts out a call to their artists for work according to each theme. The most recent show was called “Our Town” and included a project called “One Day in the Bay” where photographers captured a snapshot of life on June 11, 2017.
“What we are also trying out this year is to allow guest artists to rent a space who want to have a solo show,” said Dunlop, who added each show has an opening reception with refreshments.
Dunlop said she has seen artists grow over the years, especially two young artists in their 20s who first started participating when they were young.
“Now they are amazing and their stuff always sells. People will even show up early on Arftest opening night to scoop it because they’ve seen their progression.”
The Gallery also offers occasional workshops to teach people a new skill like acrylic painting or soap making. Since the Artloft Gallery is operated by a non-profit society, they only take a small percentage of sales to cover operating costs.
“The first year we were here we wouldn’t have survived without fundraisers and community support,” said Peterson adding, “we get a lot of support because the people in town really like that we are here.”
Dunlop said most of all she wants “people to get involved, come over, sell their things, and offer workshops.”
The Artloft Gallery is open six days a week during the summer season. Those interested in becoming a member of the Alert Bay Artist Society can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.