New website for Gabriola artists provides connection to potential patrons during COVID-19 and beyond

·2 min read

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit B.C. hard in March, Carol Fergusson didn’t even ask if anyone thought it was a good idea before applying for a $40,000 Vancouver Foundation grant to build a website for Gabriola Island artists. The executive director of the Gabriola Arts Council (GAC) foresaw the pandemic impacting the annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour and its 58 artists who usually see hundreds of visitors over the long weekend.

Like so many other events, the studio tour didn’t happen this year, but Fergusson’s quick play has paid off with the launch of The Arts on Gabriola website, which has had more than 1,500 unique visitors and over 3,500 page views in its first week.

“The goal was a virtual option for the tour, but that was a naive thought on my part,” Fergusson reflected. Launched in December, the website features a page for each artist with a bio and contact info and room to showcase up to 10 pieces some of which can be purchased through the website.

“The Arts on Gabriola is just an introduction to the artists,” Fergusson explained, a jumping off point for visitors worldwide and artists to build relationships.

Virtual visitors can peek into each artist’s studio courtesy of a 360-degree photosphere manipulated by the viewer, a collaboration realized by R. Jeanette Martin of Shutterjet and Jules Molloy of Close to the Sun Productions. Initially, Fergusson wanted a video of each studio but the budget restricted that. In the end, she thinks the photospheres were a better choice because they’re a “little bit more timeless and interactive. It’s different than when you’re stepping into [the studio] in person. You don’t have unlimited time.”

In February, GAC will open up the website, theartsongabriola.ca, to all other artists on the island, including non-studio tour artists, musicians, actors, dancers and others.

“It’s something that we’re going to have for a long time,” Fergusson said.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder