Stevenson now president of Blyth Festival Art Gallery - Feb. 21, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Carl Stevenson of Blyth is now the president of the Blyth Festival Art Gallery and is looking forward to a strong and diverse first season this summer.
While Stevenson had been a patron and supporter of the gallery for years, he first became a member about four years ago when his daughter, Kelly, was featured at the gallery for her first-ever individual show.
He soon took the next step and became a member of the gallery’s executive, walking right into the vice-president role. Stevenson said he wanted to be involved because of his daughter’s involvement and due to his love of art, though he never considered himself much of an artist, aside from his work in photography, which he had submitted to the gallery as part of its annual community show.
As the vice-president, he filled in for the president at functions, exhibit openings and speaking engagements if the president wasn’t able to attend. However, what really interested Stevenson during that time was being a member of the selection committee.
Being able to go behind the scenes of the selection process and visit with artists in their studios was very inspirational, he said. Because often the artist would pitch a concept for a new exhibit, the art that would be featured at the gallery for the coming season would not yet have been created, so listening to an artist speak about their vision and inspiration was a very interesting part of the process.
“It’s really interesting to see how [the artists] put themselves into their work. In a lot of cases you can see them develop over the years,” Stevenson said.
In the years since Stevenson has been involved, he says he’s proud to see the diverse artistic offerings season after season. Being open to and accepting of all types of art is crucial to what the gallery does, he says.
So, when it was time for a new president, Stevenson was willing to take over the position, saying he had learned plenty over the years as the vice-president and thought it was time.
The transition began in late November, so Stevenson hasn’t had much time in the position, but he says that an exciting and diverse season has been chosen for this year and he’s looking forward to being able to share more details in the coming weeks.
As far as what the gallery accomplishes season after season, Stevenson says that it’s a crucial part of the Huron County art picture, encouraging artists from the community and serving as a stage for artists who may not find one elsewhere.
He has seen firsthand the effect that a Blyth Festival Art Gallery show can have on a young Huron County artist.
When Stevenson’s daughter Kelly’s work was featured at the gallery, he said he saw a definite uptick in her confidence from the sheer exposure of the show.
Having a show at the gallery, he said, puts an artist’s work in front of thousands of people over a three- or four-week period, often reaching people that would have never otherwise have connected with the work of a particular artist.
Since he first became involved with the gallery, however, Stevenson says that his favourite function the gallery serves year after year is hosting the annual student show. Welcoming artwork made by students from the community is an amazing experience and Stevenson says he’s consistently impressed and astonished at the high level of art that comes into the show every season.
In addition, like some of the artists who apply for regular season professional shows, Stevenson has seen student artists grow from season to season as they submit their work to the student show. They also have a different outlook on art and the world, Stevenson says, so to see what they come up with every year can be an eye-opening experience.
For the coming season, Stevenson will be the president of the gallery, while the vice-president spot remains vacant. Colleen Schenk is the secretary, while Cora de Vries is the treasurer, Rob Tetu is the communications and education co-ordinator and Bruce Stainton is the exhibition committee chair.
For more information, visit the Blyth Festival Art Gallery on Facebook or at blythfestival.com.