[Please note that as of 2018 the SWAC gallery is now closed, though the organization continues.]
Many people in the community who are involved in the arts may already be familiar with the Suk’ʷtəmsqilxʷ West Kelowna Arts Council, often referred to as SWAC. The organisation of local artists has started a gallery and studio space in the Westbank Shopping Centre, giving a space for members to work and sell their pieces. We stopped in to see some of their lovely new art.
We pulled up to the gallery, near the Blenz Coffee and Encore movie theatre, and walked in under the fresh business sign. The interior was nicely laid out with a variety of sculptures and hanging art pieces large and small, and we were struck by the large variety of styles. SWAC has over 40 members, so this was no great surprise. What was surprising to me, despite knowing the high calibre talent in the Okanagan, was the exceptional quality of all the pieces. Many of the artists represented in the gallery have honed their skills and their identities over years of practice.
Julia Trops and Pat Raphael (Derickson) greeted us as we walked in the door. Julia is the Chair and Pat is the Second Vice Chair of the organization. We wandered around the displays for a short while, taking in paintings, sculptures, hand made natural beauty products, and wine glasses. Many of them would make ideal gifts. Artwork at the gallery is sold on a 10 percent commission so the artists see the greatest possible return on their time and effort. Pat showed me the studio spaces in the back. Each brightly lit room has a large window into the hall and two work stations available for rent by artists. The spots were already all full and partially completed works could be seen next to tables of tools and lamps. Pat does a wide range of art in various media. Moving from one project and medium to another keeps her interested she told me, smiling.
As we left the SWAC gallery, I thought about what this means for the community. The benefit for SWAC members is obvious, but this facility helps create a more vibrant community as a whole. High quality and affordable local art has a new home in a central location, and that always bodes well for a city and residents who appreciate original art and supporting other locals.
For more information about the SWAC gallery see their website at http://www.swac-arts.com/
- Words and photos by Christopher Munger