Digging deeper 

Britannia Mine Museum is holding its annual Copper and Fire art show on July 21

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - underground artists The Britannia Mine Museum will turn into an art gallery on July 21 to display work from around a dozen B.C. artists.
  • Photo submitted
  • underground artists The Britannia Mine Museum will turn into an art gallery on July 21 to display work from around a dozen B.C. artists.

Rarely in our busy lives do we stop to make a connection between the products we use and the places from which they come.

Whether it's meat, our clothes or the gas that fuels our vehicles, unless you're particularly politically engaged it's easy to block out debate.

That is the broad idea behind the Britannia Mine Museum's annual Copper and Fire event. The art show features a dozen artists who work with material that comes from the earth, offering a fun afternoon — filled with live art demonstrations — that helps give people a deeper understanding of mining.

"I think mining is a very complex subject and, for the average person, it's not necessarily fully understood," says Kirstin Clausen, executive director of the museum.

"As in any industry — fishing or logging — you form an opinion based on a lot of your values. I do think the subject of mining confuses people and there are contradictions in our lives. If you own a cell phone and love what it brings you by extension, you have to accept a global economy with mining because cell phones can't happen otherwise."

The same is true for many mediums of art. Some are obvious — metal artists, goldsmiths and jewelry makers, for example — while others like glass bead artists or potters might not seem as immediately connected to the industry. All are represented, along with stone artists and a concrete painter, at the event on July 21.

"We try to limit it toa artists who use mined products. That's why you won't see painters or wood carvers. From that (pool), we use artists that are really in tune to their medium. They're very much about the clay and types of clay and glazes. They actually have a different relationship with their art than other artists who might use all mediums."

This is the museum's 11th year holding the event. Not much has changed from last year, except for the addition of a few new artists from around B.C.

Among them are Donna Stewart, a contemporary abstract artists and concrete painter from Sechelt, Sharon Tirixow, a stone sculptor from Langley, and Rudolph Sokolovski, a Vancouver bronze and metal artist.

All will have their work on display and for sale, but they will also perform live art demonstrations throughout the afternoon. Clausen emphasizes that the event isn't a craft fair, but rather a supplement to their regular Sunday offerings. Attendees must pay admission to the museum to access it. That means you can pan for gold, go for an underground tour and learn more about the area and the industry.

"Gold panning is really popular," she adds. "People can spend hours gold panning. We sometimes scratch our heads, but they love it. It's the hunt and the lure of maybe they'll find a piece of gold."

It all adds up to giving people a look into an industry that affects their daily lives. Though her stance might sound pro-development, Clausen says she wants to give people a new perspective to think about.

Water pollution, for example, was a problem at the Britannia mine years ago, but technology and education helped them improve. "It's an interesting subject and the museum is trying to bring an awareness that minerals and mining matter to us in our world," she says. "We want to live in the world we live in — or maybe we don't. That's a societal decision to say we want less consumerism. I would like to see a world with less consumerism and better regulations... What we tried to do with Copper and Fire is say mining is more than digging a hole in the ground and taking minerals out. Mining impacts your life and the things you think are beautiful. Beautiful carvings, beautiful sculpture, beautiful jewelry that you wear."

Peruse some of those beautiful things and learn more on Sunday at the museum from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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