There’s a quaint little shed in Sointula that overlooks the ocean and attracts visitors from around the world.
The shed is actually a studio space and its visitors are Artists-in-Residence who come to stay in the nearby cottage, experience Malcolm Island, and focus on their work.
“It’s part of stepping out of your own life,” said Kerri Reid, who founded the artist residency known as the Sointula Art Shed with her husband Tyler Brett in 2013.
“It’s a way to focus on your art uninterrupted without your usual daily life worries.”
Reid and Brett are originally from Vancouver, and before coming to Sointula had been operating another artist residency program in the small town of Bruno, Saskatchewan.
“We wanted to move back west but wanted to transplant what we were doing,” said Reid, noting that once they heard about Sointula they thought, “All the things that intrigued us about Sointula we felt would intrigue other artists.”
Reid said they were attracted to the rural setting, abundant wildlife in and around Malcolm Island, and the unique history of Sointula’s founding by Finnish utopian Socialist settlers in 1901.
“A lot of people draw inspiration in nature, and a lot of people are interested in rural living and this community,” said Reid, adding she loves that people actively remember Sointula’s past, and artists have the opportunity to engage with the community’s Finnish history.
The Art Shed had been attracting artists since before Reid and Brett had even fully settled in Sointula. “Our first artist in residence was in September 2013 and we moved here in June 2013,” said Reid, adding “Part of why we started so quickly here was that people were already interested in coming.”
Over the years they’ve had artists come from New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Germany, as well as Canadians from across the country.
The Art Shed’s current artist in residence is Emma Rush, a classical guitarist from Hamilton Ontario.
“I’ve been totally enjoying my time here, not just the space to do a lot of practising and get a lot of musical work done, but just to go out and walk on the beach and walk through the forest,” said Rush, adding “It’s been totally phenomenal.”
Rush performed her first concert on the island at the Athletic Hall in Sointula on Feb. 9, which also featured local teenage guitarist Niall Weyer who opened for Rush and the two even closed the together show with a special duet.
“I asked her if she would be interested in a local teenager playing for her and she was really excited for it,” said Reid, adding “Not everyone would be open to that, but she was.”
Reid noted they help artists connect with the community, facilitate workshops, concerts, and other events depending on the artist’s interests.
Rush said she loves “to go beyond the walls of a concert hall” to do community outreach.
She performed at the Senior’s Valentines Potluck in Sointula and she gave a speech about her work at both North Island Secondary School in Port McNeill on Feb. 15 and A.J. Elliot Elementary School in Sointula on Feb. 16.
“I looked at the pictures of Sointula, the Art Shed, and the cottage and I just thought it would be a wonderful place to spend some time,” said Rush.
Another initiative Reid and Brett undertake is Songs in the Shed, where they record local and touring musicians performing a song in or around the shed for their YouTube channel.
The Art Shed also has a special Window Gallery which can be viewed from the street, that features work by local artists, followed by work from the Artists-in-Residence.
“We wanted to create more of a dialogue between the people who come here and the people who are already doing things here,” explained Reid.
The Sointula Art Shed is completely booked up for 2018 and is already accepting applications for 2019.
“We are busy, but it’s very rewarding,” said Reid.