Collaborating with various community groups is something Victoria Strange, the new executive director of the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre is looking forward to. So it comes as no surprise that a collaborative project is in the works between the Revelstoke Visual Art Centre and the Revelstoke Arts Council, which is also undergoing some changes as theatre manager Miriam Manley prepares to take over from executive director Gary Pendergast, who retires in March.
The collaboration will see the two organizations working together to put on an arts festival in the fall. Titled Luna: Art Discovered, the festival will commission 25 artists (20 local and 5 non-local) to create site-specific, innovative, engaging work that will premiere during the last week of September and run for a total of three weeks.
We talked to the new leaders of the Revelstoke arts scene to find out what they have planned.
Miriam Manley takes over arts council
While Manley isn’t a new face in Revelstoke (she has been the manager of the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre for the past five years), she said there will be some changes to the Arts Council when she becomes executive director.
“With Gary retiring at end of March, we as an organization had an opportunity to rethink the structure of the arts council a little bit,” said Manley. “We decided instead of the current model of an executive director and a theatre manager […] we could restructure and transition to a new model.”
The new model will put Manley in charge of the RAC. Her role will be overseeing the operation of the theatre as well as other programs organized by the arts council like the Summer Street Festival.
To help out, Sarah Dart was hired as a program assistant to focus on daily operations and provide administrative assistance on various programs.
While there are planned changes, Manley said under Pendergast’s leadership the arts council has been incredibly successful, including seeing the concert series go from six shows into a performance series with double the amount of shows.
“I really want to honour his leadership and also just say the arts council board has been really supportive throughout this whole period of transition,” said Manley.
Victoria Strange runs the art gallery
Strange said she had never even heard of Revelstoke when her partner suggested they move here.
Originally from Ontario, Strange had been living in Halifax for the past 20 years. In Halifax she worked for a number of galleries before opening up her own commercial gallery with a business partner 10 years ago.
“My husband works in television and film,” she said. “At the time in Nova Scotia there was a film tax credit that was being taken away, so the film industry was really dying in Halifax. I had sold my shares in the business, so we were kind of in this limbo. We thought what can we do, maybe this is the time to move out of Nova Scotia.”
Strange’s husband always wanted to live in a mountain town, and it was after a visit to Revelstoke that he returned to Nova Scotia and said he had been to “the most amazing place. It’s called Revelstoke!”
“He convinced me to come out for five days and I loved it,” she said. “I thought I could move here. We bought a house. Neither of us had employment. It was a huge leap in the dark, because we have two kids as well.
“But, I always think if you follow your passion you always land on your feet. So far it’s worked out.”
Strange found the perfect fit for her artistic background taking over for Jackie Pendergast as executive director of the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre.
“When I came here it was this perfect fit that Jackie was retiring and I had this huge background in art,” said Strange, who also has an art education degree. “The fit here was almost perfect to be honest, because the arts centre has this whole education component to it where we offer classes and workshops. And then it has the whole gallery side. So having a background in both those things was kind of nice.”
Even before being hired Strange began volunteering at the gallery. She said she was amazed at the reception she got from Pendergast.
“I remember thinking just what a cool place this is, what incredible potential. To have a facility like this in such a small town is really remarkable. Even in larger centres you wouldn’t get a public gallery, plus studios, plus a wood shop, plus a whole potters’ guild, plus education classes. To have that in a one stop shop is phenomenal,” said Strange.
Moving forward, Strange says she knows she has big shoes to fill to replace Pendergast.
“I know Jackie in the last 10 years really brought this place to a great spot in its life,” said Strange. “She got the studio’s going and the education programs going. She has worked really hard to make this a great meeting place. I think from my standpoint there’s always different things you can do to get other people in the community engaged in the arts.”