The Oak Bay Art Club literally comes with its own baggage: two small black suitcases containing such things as membership list, notes on yearly programs and activities, newspaper clipping on important Club events such as exhibits, minutes of the Club’s executive and the annual general meetings, some President’s reports, the Club’s constitution and a most interesting “Painter’s Creed” with “Thirteen Beliefs”. The second belief reads somewhat enigmatically:
“We believe that when painting a picture, you must make up your mind as to what you are going to say. Taking what you need from what you see you express what you want to say”.
And in a sincere effort to help aspiring artists reach their goal, the creed outlines such design principles as unity, conflict, dominance, repetition, alteration, balance, harmony and gradation and goes on to dwell on the importance of light and of colour in order to:
“Try to create new beauty, not merely copy existing beauty”
as suggested in the thirteenth “belief”.
Just who and what is the Oak Bay Art Club? At present, the Club has a membership of about fifty art-interested people from the Greater Victoria area. The members come from many backgrounds ranging from amateur to professional or quasi-professional. One encounters teachers, engineers, architects, professors, housewives, once in a while even a few students who manage to find the time and leisure to pursue the Club’s objectives. Once a week, on Mondays, this group meets at the Windsor Park Pavilion in order to paint or to listen to and/or watch a guest artist give a demonstration. Most participants work in watercolours, some in acrylics and a few in oils. The Club’s mission statement states that:
“The aims and objectives are for art study and practice in various media by the members and for an increase of public awareness by the members of the community of Victoria who attend our demonstrations and semi- annual public exhibitions”.
According to founding member Dale Sutherland, the Club’s origin dates back to the “final war years”. Unfortunately, detailed records were not kept in the Club’s early beginnings. The Club’s origin most likely dates back to 1944. The first meeting to form the art group is reported to have been held on October 27, 1944 in the house of Marjorie Nickerson, who subsequently became the Club’s first President. The first meetings of the art group were held in the Oak Bay Community Centre. In 1949, the Club’s first constitution was drawn up. Revised in 1967, and again in 1991, it formally outlines the Club’s executive structure, its aims and objectives, election procedures, appointment of officers, conduct of the Club’s affairs, the duties of the executive committee, membership expectations and duties, as well as procedure(s) for amendments to the constitution. Membership in the Club has varied from a handful to the present approximately fifty. Fees have risen from a modest $3.00 to the present $45.00 per year.
Generally the Club’s life has been one of quiet, proud existence. Only once, in 1977, was a member denied renewal of her membership when she had decided to hold concurrent membership in the newly formed Windsor Park Art Group. The reason given by the then President, a Colonel incidentally, was that the the person in question “would prevent someone else from joining and the list was already filled”.
The highlights of the Club have always been and still are the exhibits. They have been held in various shopping malls such as the Mayfair Mall (1964), the Hillside Mall (1979, 1980, 1981, 1995), the Baton’s Centre (1962), the Oak Bay Beach Hotel (1963), the McPherson Playhouse (1964, 1965), the Oak Bay Library and at Goward House. In the early 1960’s, the Oak Bay Art Club had reciprocal exchange visits with the Port Angeles Clallam Art League, which were duly reported in the local newspaper, the “Oak Bay Leader” and the “Port Angeles Evening News”. Also during the 1960’s the Oak Bay Art Club participated in annual art competitions held in the Saancha Hall in Sydney by the Saanich Peninsula’s Arts and Crafts Association. In 1963 and 1964, the Oak Bay Art Club won first prize. For a number of years, participants also met during the summers for “plein-air” painting; this feature is being renewed as of summer 2003.
Only once, in July 1989, was there a ripple in the quiet life of the Oak Bay Art Club when one artist’s rather political contributions to an exhibit in a local shopping mall raised the eyebrows of a few Club members who felt the pictures would upset the public. The pictures in question were designed to criticize the Chinese Governments’ s reactions to the protests at Tiananman Square. The “storm in the teacup” made the headlines of the “Victoria Times-Colonist”, the “Vancouver Sun” and even the “Globe and Mail”. Indeed, the exhibit went on to greater heights: the MacPherson Library of the University of Victoria and, in August 1989, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver at the occasion of the “Concert for Democracy in China”.
Leafing through the Club’s programs, one is surprised how many of Victoria’s well-known artists have shared their expertise with the Club over the years. One encounters names such as Stephen Lowe, Brian Johnson, Nel Bradshaw, Dorothy Oxborough, Fenwick Lansdowne, Brian Travers-Smith, the Heines – Harry, Caren and Mark, Robert Amos, Flemming Jorgensen, Ann Hunter, Philip Mix, Ardath Davis, Grant Fuller, Cathy Amisson, Bill Porteus, Brian Simons and many more. The Club acknowledges and thanks all who have contributed so generously so that its members might come a little closer to those lofty objectives set out in the “Thirteen Beliefs” of it “Painter’s Creed”.
Written by Walter Riedel for the OBAC 60th Anniversary in 2004.