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Kelowna art scene can be a competitive place

Jane Everett's studio is jam-packed with artist tools.

KELOWNA - Flecks of paint stain the slanted wall in Jane Everett's studio. Charcoal and brushes are stuffed in jars and spread out on a table. Sunlight streams in from the four overhead windows, bathing the room in an afternoon glow. Everett sits in studio surrounded by finished and ongoing work; of course, the line between "finished" and "ongoing" is a thin one for artists.

"The hardest part is knowing when you're finished," she said.

Everett is a prolific artist, dabbling in various styles in exhibits across Canada. Earlier this month she returned to the Kelowna Art Gallery with a new exhibit entitled Understory, which showcases various trees drawn with charcoal on massive sheets of paper.

"The biggest ones are nine feet," she said.

Everett's exhibit grew from sketches of trees into a full-blown collection. It took just over nine months to put it all together, a short time frame for an exhibit. She's pleased to bring her work back to the art gallery. She had her first exhibit there 30 years ago. Everett has managed to secure a coveted spot for Kelowna artists: gallery space. In a crowded market, it's quite valuable.

Jane Everett sits beside one of her newer pieces.
Jane Everett sits beside one of her newer pieces.

For up-and-coming artists, exposure to the public is the best way to grow in their career. Social media can provide a wide platform, but it can be hard to make money online; besides, there's a certain prestige with a gallery show.

In downtown, the Kelowna Art Gallery and the Alternator are the two public art spaces that pay Canadian Artists Representation fees. These fees act like wages for artists, allowing them to negotiate payment for putting their work in public galleries.

According to Melany Nugent, assistant director at the Alternator, artists need these fees for financial support and for building their reputations. Artists often need grant money for their work and according to Nugent, people with a portfolio of paid galleries have a stronger chance of successful grant applications.

"A lot of artist funding relies on [these] fees," she said.

Up-and-coming artists in Kelowna need public gallery space to boost their profile, but they face stiff competition from their local and national peers. Nugent said the Alternator receives 75 to 100 applications from across Canada every year for its five main gallery spaces. The Alternator does offer additional space for community artists in its members' gallery, but it is an un-juried space that doesn't provide Artists Representation fees.

"There is a need for more paid-artist spaces," Nugent said.

The Kelowna Art Gallery is a prestigous spot, one that features renowned and international artists. According to executive director Nataley Nagy, the Gallery focuses on showcasing art people haven't seen before, not necessarily Kelowna art.

"We're not a dedicated space for Kelowna artists," she said. "It's not our mandate."

Nagy said they have featured established Kelowna artists like Everett, but they rarely fill the space with new artists looking to kickstart their portfolio. The Gallery tries to bring big name and extraordinary pieces to Kelowna.

Of course, there are other options for artists. Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante runs the ARTE funktional in Kelowna, a commercial space where visitors can buy the pieces they see. It's a more direct way for artists to receive payment for their work. There are several commercial spaces in Kelowna where artists can directly sell their work.

Artists can also step outside of Kelowna to get their work out there. Lake Country, Vernon and Penticton all have public art galleries.

Everett, whose newest exhibit went up on March 9, knows the Kelowna art scene can be competitive. She advises up-and-comers to focus on their craft and hone their skills.

"Build up a body of work," she said, surrounded by years of talent, dedication, and art.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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