Beloved painter and TV personality Bob Ross used to say there is no such thing as mistakes in art, only happy accidents. That’s a motto 30-year-old artist Ben Poechman took to heart last summer when he was painting a mural of an old-growth tree at the skate park for the inaugural edition of the Pemberton ArtHop.
“In the making of it, it started to rain, and it actually brought some new aesthetic to the piece that I couldn’t have planned on. It made the paint drip,” he says. “I thought it was going to ruin the piece, but it actually added to it. It was as if the tree was crying and there came the name, Cedar She Weeps.”
It’s the kind of welcome mishap that is more likely to come from working in the elements than the confines of a studio, and one that perfectly represents the accessibility of the Pemberton Arts Council’s community ArtHop, running at various locations across town until Sept. 12.
Now in its second year, the Pemberton ArtHop, like so many things these days, grew out of a desire to make the most of a bad situation; in this case, the pandemic, explains arts council board member Rachel Hesketh.
“We really had to get creative as a council and we had to think about how we could still uplift our community. How could we share art and beauty and joy with our friends, family and neighbours and do it in a safe way?” she says. “ArtHop was our reaction to that.”
Featuring close to 30 local artists—ranging from gallery-represented fine artists to emerging amateurs—whose work is displayed in local shops across the community, ArtHop is a way to both support local businesses and boost the profile of Pemberton’s small-but-mighty visual art scene, which is probably more diverse than you might expect for a town where farm life and outdoor recreation still reign supreme.
“I think it’s incredible to highlight this side of Pemberton,” relays Hesketh. “We do have this really thriving—small—but really passionate and really talented group of people here who are making beautiful, beautiful things. They often celebrate our landscape and our culture of loving the land in their work, which is beautiful to see.”
The work ranges from traditional paintings to dyed indigo pieces, hand-painted skate decks, and macramé made from driftwood plucked from the shores of Lillooet Lake.
What’s more is much of the art is for sale, with a wide range of price points that can suit the needs of any collector.
One evolution of the event this summer is the work is hung both in shop windows as well as inside local businesses, after the pandemic kept storefronts closed for much of ArtHop last year.
Poechman appreciates the inclusivity of the show, which allows the community to engage with local art in a more organic way, free from the stuffiness of the gallery world.
“I think just bringing fine art to everyday settings, like windows on the main stroll or your favourite restaurant, it brings about a certain relatability and access to this otherwise unseen artwork,” he says. “When it’s in a gallery, it’s a little more upscale, so it’s nice to bring it to everyone.”
Also on tap this summer is Pemberton Arts Council’s Postcard Show, which asked artists to mail in a postcard of their own design with the theme of “Stronger Together.” Running until Aug. 31, the exhibit is on display at the Pemberton & District Community Centre, and features artists from across the region, and even as far away as the U.S.
As they are wont to do, artists interpreted the theme in a multitude of unique ways.
“Some were so sweet and meaningful; some were hilarious and weird. It was great to see,” Hesketh notes. “There was a young lady who sent us in a postcard that had a picture of a two-headed calf. That was her visual interpretation of Stronger Together. Honestly, I’m someone who really uses humour to feel better during challenging times, and I thought that was perfect.”
For more information on the Pemberton ArtHop, visit pembertonartscouncil.com/ArtHOP.