For Pat Gauthier, a local artist and member of the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James, the Pope Mountain Arts centre is more than just a place for local artists to showcase their work. It’s an opportunity for Fort St. James to be recognized as a blossoming arts community.
“I’m trying to bring people to our centre and show them that this is an important little place, too,” says Gauthier. “You can’t forget about Fort St. James.”
Gauthier, who has painted on and off for her entire life, says that before the Pope Mountain Arts centre emerged just a few short years ago, the arts community was forced to bounce around everywhere from high schools to community centres just so that they would have the opportunity to display their handwork to the public.
Now, they’ve found a home in a historic building, right in the heart of Fort St. James.
“We have a fledgling centre,” says Gauthier. “We’re renovating, but we’re still trying to do as many activities and events as we go. It’s actually a historic building. It was originally a Hudson’s Bay store, then it became a Mormon church. Later, it was our courthouse and there even was a jail in there. It was laying empty for a while, but then the Community Arts Council acquired it from the village.”
Acting as a hub for all creative endeavours, Gauthier says the centre has created numerous opportunities for the public, regardless if they are artists, to get involved through countless artistic mediums.
“We have all kinds of different things going on, from art workshops to craft workshops,” says Gauthier. “We recently had a basket weaving workshop which was so great. We have a drum making workshop coming up as well. We have performances, live entertainment. There are so many things we are trying to promote.”
One of the exciting possibilities that was made available through the centre is the upcoming ‘Reflections’ art show. Gauthier says that this show in particular is, in its own way, historic as well.
“This is the first show at this new building that is going to be regional,” says Gauthier. “We put the call out to the whole region, so we have some artists that are bringing their work in from Prince George, some from Vanderhoof and of course, Fort St. James.”
Gauthier says that the group art show, which runs over the course of June, will showcase the work of approximately 15 to 20 regional artists, all coming together under the overarching theme of reflection.
“The theme of reflection is very wide open. It could mean a literal reflection of landscapes or reflections of yourself in the mirror,” says Gauthier. “It could even be a piece that deals with reflecting on thought or reflecting on a memory. The theme really encapsulates a lot of different entries and a lot of different people, which is really nice for a group art show.”
Gauthier also believes that art shows like ‘Reflections’, as well as the centre as a whole, have allowed emerging artists, as well as a younger audience, to partake in the local arts community.
“A lot of beginners to the whole art show landscape are coming out too, which is really great because a lot of the time you might get some people that are quite shy about showing their work,” says Gauthier.
“What we’re also noticing, which is particularly exciting, is that teachers and students are coming over from the elementary school, says Gauthier. “They sometimes come over as part of their end-of-the-year curriculum and they might even integrate some art work into their classrooms as part of going over to see an art show.”
For Gauthier, this community excitement stems from the belief that art truly encompasses everyone’s daily lives.
“Art really makes an impact on everyone and their lives even if they don’t realize that it is,” says Gauthier. “I think from time to time, people can really underestimate how important art is in our lives. Art is wide open. It’s culture, it’s the paintings on your wall, it’s photos, it’s going to the beach and taking a picture of the sunset on your cellphone and sharing it with others.”
“It’s all art and it’s good for your soul,” says Gauthier.
Ultimately, as Gauthier continues to promote art in the community, her goal is for people to recognize that Fort St. James can be a flourishing arts environment.
“I think my end goal is to encourage region wide that Fort St. James is as important for artists as anywhere else and to show off that we are capable of bringing in artists from all over to our centre,” says Gauthier.