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Chilliwack’s Central Community Park is an open green space with a large depressed stone plaza at its centre. Paths branch out under archways and weave alongside trees and gardens. It was the perfect setting for this year’s Art Under the Umbrella, an annual event organized by the Chilliwack Community Arts Council.
Circumventing the plaza and the surrounding green space was a row of tents under which a variety of artists and arts vendors showcased their talents and wares. Acoustic guitar floated through the air, carried along by an unexpectedly strong wind. Soon a violinist occupied the opposite corner. Patrons wandered from booth to booth, admiring an eclectic array of art, from paintings, pottery, woodworking, wire art, glass blowing, and dance to farm goods, jewellery, soaps, and honey.
Several organizations had booths, such as the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, showcasing their upcoming children’s programs; as well, the Fraser Valley Arts Guild was present, showcasing the array of talent under their wing. For some artists, it was their first time presenting their work publicly.
“Our mission is to promote arts in the community; not just provide an opportunity for our artists to sell their artwork but to help patrons appreciate the work and the creativity that goes into the art,” said Patti Lawn, the executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council.
Every artist and vendor was approachable, forthcoming, and friendly. There was a great deal to talk about with each artist, and they were more than willing to share their stories.
Chilliwack’s Education Centre — under the Chilliwack School board — had a booth setup displaying the art of up and coming high-school artists. Curated by Bonny Burgess, several of the young artists waited eagerly by the tent, ready to discuss their art. Their keenness and sincerity in their work was inspiring. They had works in a variety of mediums, coming from their school’s multi-media program, including paint, pencil, pastel, and photography.
“We were very happy with the event and the turnout in spite of the windy day!” Lawn said. “We guess-timated over 100 [visitors] during the course of the day.”
Although Art Under the Umbrella was designed to take on the Fraser Valley’s stereotypical rainy setting, it was not wholly prepared for the storm brewing over the northern mountains. Even from the early hours, tents lashed down with stone and water pails were beginning to move and tip, caught like kites in an unexpected gale.
The wind was unforgiving, in some cases blowing away works of art, knocking over tables, or even lifting away entire tents, lodging them in nearby trees.
However, this did not deter most artists. Many of them, with the help of some kind patrons, would go around assisting other fallen tents. Though by early afternoon, a few had no choice but to pack up.
Despite harrowingly windy conditions, Art Under the Umbrella was a joy, filled with the energy of young artists excitedly showcasing their work to the Fraser Valley. Storm or no, their art will persevere, and so will their energy.
“We will be back next year on June 10,” said Lawn. “We are adding an event the night before. Hopefully the word will spread and Art Under The Umbrella will be even bigger. Let’s hope there won’t be any wind, just sunny skies.”
If you don’t like the rain, you may have missed out on one of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council’s first events of the summer: the second annual Raku in the Valley at Thompson Regional Park.
Yet the setting was perfect to practice an old Japanese technique of glazing pottery. Nestled into the cloud-filled valley a short drive up Chilliwack Lake Road, the wet weather lent a sense of mysticism. And luckily, it didn’t keep too many people away.
“We still had lots of people here,” said Patti Lawn, executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council (CCAC). “We have a whole bunch of people coming to watch, because it’s a fascinating thing if you don’t know about that pottery form.”
Raku produces beautiful ornamental cracked- or metallic-finish pots. One begins by choosing the type of glaze: either clear, which results in blackened spider-web cracks, or an eye-catching, rainbow-coloured metal glaze.
At its maximum temperature, the pot is taken out of the kiln, transferred to the ground, and covered in shredded paper, which ignites. Then, metal tins are placed overtop to hold in the heat and smoke. This part of the process cracks the clear-glazed pots, allowing black smoke to set into the cracks. With the metallic glaze, the sheen is brought out by the heat without cracking it.
The entire process takes roughly an hour and a half, from glazing to firing to cooling. Once cool, the pots are wiped clean of excess smoke and residue.
All 65 pots made for the glazing process sold out well in advance of the event. While pots can be any size, depending on the tins that cover them, the pots used at the event were smaller for portability and ease.
“Last year, because it was the first time, we had pots we could sell here,” Lawn said. “This time we don’t.”
The event is made possible by a partnership between the arts council and Devon Road Pottery and Rainforest Pottery. Potters from the local studios perform the raku portion, and the arts council puts on the event, which also includes vendors and food, as well as providing volunteers to clean the finished pots before handing them over.
To the right of the raku pit where two portable kilns were located, were pottery vendors, artisan soap-makers, and hand-crafted jewellers. The Chilliwack River Valley Fire Department was also on scene to manage any possible issues from the heat and flames that go with the raku process, and to host a barbeque by donation.
With the success of this year’s Raku in the Valley, the CCAC plans to expand next year.
“We’re going to try to double the number of pots,” said Lawn.