Three years ago, my good friend Victoria Armstrong tried to convince me to rent a studio at VASA (Visual Arts Studio Association); at that time, I wasn't ready. I had lost my husband two years previous and the thought of any kind of commitment, even just a 3 1/2 hours shift was daunting. But as the year worn on I started to see the benefits of getting back out there, into an organization and into another network of artists on a more regular basis. Luckily for me, once I decided I did want a studio one appeared quite quickly.
Two years ago, I rented my first 1/2 studio at VASA. Within a couple weeks a full studio opened up. I set up shop and tried to get to work, but try as I might, I liked the social aspect of the association much more than the work, and discovered that painting in my studio would be too much of a challenge. Another VASA studio opened up after that, one that was more visible, and I took it and set it up as a show studio instead of a working studio. Who was I kidding, I work out of my home studio/gallery and that wasn't going to change. What I really needed was another place to sell my art.
I was hardly settled in when our president called me and asked if I would consider taking on the volunteer position of Director of Exhibitions. She did a pretty good job of convincing me and I agreed to take on the position. What a fun job; I learned so much, met so many other artists and really felt like I was helping and making a difference. I got so wrapped up into it that I was having less and less time for my own art. So much so that I put my brushes away for the summer and worked just on VASA show stuff. That’s when it really hit me, although I really enjoyed this position and I was good at it, I knew my real calling was to paint and if I was going to do that full time, then I couldn’t do both. I gave a 3 month notice the end of August to be finished the Director position the end of November 2017. I also knew at that time, that my time at VASA wouldn’t go on for too much longer, but I wanted to wait until the spring to see how I would feel.
VASA has been good to me. I have gotten to know some friends better and met new people who have become friends. I have really enjoyed my Wednesday afternoons chatting away with fellow artist Carroll Charest, my shift partner who has also become a good friend. We both enjoyed the other artists, especially Miles Constable who .would pop down on a Wednesday afternoon to entertain us, and of course there were actually a few times we got a bit of work done (I did relent and take some work in from time to time). It has been fun getting to know the other artists and our executive director Danielle Gauthier; Danielle is funny and smart and loves to organize. It was such a joy to meet a fellow organizer and Staples (the store) fan! I've had some good conversations with our president Carol Watamaniuk and some pretty good laughs. Bruce Allen's dry wit sometimes perplexed me, but he was always fun to be around. Cheryl Moskaluk, one of the most interesting people I know, always had a great story or some great tidbit of info to share. I would see Connie Osgood occasionally on a Wednesday, and she was always cracking me up; it was a great day when I ran into her. Peg McPherson, what an impressive lady, taught the Authentic Art program and would come in Wednesday to prepare for her afternoon class and have a cup of tea and a chat with us. It was great to talk even for a few minutes with Sharon Abrams and Lorna Harvey, as we changed shifts. Rayma Peterson would come in on Wednesdays quite often to work on her botanical pieces; Rayma is such a gentle and kind person. Of course, there were a few times Vicki Armstrong dropped down for a visit, or I would pop in on Tuesday mornings to see her. Melanie Hsiao had the studio right next to me and was at VASA quite often working on her art degree. I remember her from my early art classes. Many of the artists didn’t come in on Wednesday, but I would see them at our monthly opening or some other activity or when I dropped by the gallery on different days. It didn’t really matter when I saw them, they were all great people and they all made a difference in my life. Being part of this group of people has helped me move through my grief and continue moving forward.
One of the things I have learned, is that the most constant thing in our life, is change, and I knew I would be making a decision by spring as to whether it was time to leave VASA or stay. I've thought long and hard about it, hymned and hawed a lot, went back and forth with the pros and cons, but at the end of the day I knew it was time to leave and concentrate on my art. I know everyone at VASA has different reasons for renting space, a few rent it for showing art, but most of it comes down to working in their studio, networking and socializing. I hope to remain doing the latter, I will visit from time to time, continue to take photographs when I’m at shows, but my work will be at home.
I am starting another new chapter in my life and I leave this one behind, with fond memories and warm thoughts and who knows what the future will bring. For now, I will concentrate on my art, in my studio, as I move forward.
Thank you VASA, for being there when I needed you, for embracing me, for helping me grow and for encouraging me as continue on my journey.