Cannabis breeding and genetics centre creates three new strains for Aurora Cannabis

Cannabis breeding and genetics centre creates three new strains for Aurora Cannabis

Photo Caption

Cannabis breeding and genetics centre creates three new strains for Aurora Cannabis

By George Le Masurier

When Decafnation last reported on the Cannabis Innovation Centre in the spring of 2019, construction of the 32,200 square foot facility had just gotten underway and its ownership was in transition from Jon Page’s original Anandia Labs to the publicly-traded company Aurora Cannabis.

Since then, the pioneering breeding and genetics program at the centre, led by Greg Baute, PhD, got underway in February 2020 with a team of seven scientists and a dozen cultivation and operational personnel. Their early work has already culminated in the creation of three new cannabis cultivars that Aurora will release to consumers this month.

Aurora held a virtual media event this week to introduce the trio of unique cultivars — Stonefruit Sunset, Lemon Rocket and Driftwood Diesel — which have attracted widespread interest within the cannabis community. They are being marketed under the brand name, San Rafael.

They are the first of many new cultivars that Baute expects to breed on a regular basis.

The term ‘cultivar’ is short for cultivated variety and refers to a plant propagated for its desirable characteristics, such as THC or CBD content or aroma. They are commonly referred to as strains.

READ MORE: Vanier grad builds cannabis science hub in Comox

READ MORE: CIC Director Greg Baute hopes to redefine cannabis breeding

But the event also offered a first look inside the finished centre, now renamed Aurora Coast. A short video played at the media event showed Aurora Coast’s large expanse of cannabis plants stretched out across the 21,700 square foot greenhouse and illuminated by endless banks of LED lights and complex irrigation systems.

Aurora Coast exists in the Comox Valley because the breeding and genetics centre is the brainchild of G.P. Vanier grad Jon Page, PhD, who in 2009 became the first scientist in the world to sequence the 30,000 genes in the cannabis genome.

Jon and his twin brother Nick, who is now the general manager of the Aurora Coast facility, grew up on Headquarters Road and attended Tsolum Elementary and Vanier High School. Jon earned his PhD in Botany at UBC and in 2013 co-founded Anandia Labs in Vancouver as a cannabis testing and research laboratory.

But Page envisioned a larger facility for the pure science of discovering how the cannabis plant works, its breeding and genetics, and how to improve it as a commercial product. He had acquired the land near the Comox Airport and began building what he originally called the Anandia Cannabis Innovation Centre.

Then, in early 2019, Aurora Cannabis acquired Anandia for about $115 million in stock. Jon Page was initially Aurora’s chief scientist and now is a senior science advisor for the company founded in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Cannabis Innovation Centre construction underway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS A CULTIVAR?

The word cultivar means a cultivated variety; thus, a cultivar is selected and cultivated by humans. Although some cultivars can occur in nature as plant mutations, most cultivars are developed by plant breeders and are called hybrids.

A first-generation hybrid occurs when a breeder selects two pure lines (plants that would produce identical offspring when self-pollinated) and cross-pollinates them to produce a new plant that combines desirable characteristics from both parents. One major thing to remember is if new plants are grown from the seeds of a cultivar, rarely, if ever, do the new plants develop true-to-seed. True-to-seed simply means the offspring is genetically the same as the parent. To cultivate a true-to-seed type offspring (a clone) from cultivars, one would have to be vegetatively grown, such as from cuttings, grafting, or tissue cultures.

— Yard and Garden

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Culture | Top Feature
Dancing in Gumboots: Comox Valley stories of cultural shift

Dancing in Gumboots: Comox Valley stories of cultural shift

Anthologist Jane Wilde at the Blue Heron Bookstore in Comox  |  George Le Masurier photo

Dancing in Gumboots: Comox Valley stories of cultural shift

By George Le Masurier

You can see everything I love about the new book Dancing in Gumboots on its cover. Two young women sit on a log at a Crown Zellerbach logging site high above Comox Lake in the 1970s, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer from what we used to call stubbies and sharing a private joke.

We don’t get the exact punch line that brought smiles to Jeanine Maars and Gloria Simpson in that cover photograph by Jane Gilchrist. But the book’s 32 first-person stories of women who moved to the Comox Valley between 1970 and 1979 reveal the underlying reason for their happiness.

These were women feeling free and enjoying their lives in ways that previous generations could not.

Dancing in Gumboots is an anthology by Lou Allison and Jane Wilde. It follows the success of their first book, Gumboot Girls, featuring similar adventurous women who migrated from cities, the United States and Europe to settle on Haida Gwaii or the Prince Rupert area.

“The goal of the books was, first of all, to save our stories,” Wilde told Decafnation. “But they also document a generation that represents a big shift in culture.”

Written in the first-person and without much editing, these stories reflect on how a wave of women who settled in the Comox Valley broke down gender barriers as tree planters and fishers, embraced feminism and built lives based on self-confidence and self-reliance.

Many of the women speak with surprising candor about the most intimate parts of their lives, including divorce and sexual orientation, and the challenges of building their own homes. But there is a vivid sense of joy and fun that runs through each of the stories.

The Comox Valley was a small community back then. People knew almost everyone else. There was only one stoplight at Fifth and Cliffe. In 1971, just 13,000 people lived in Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland.

So when long-haired young women — and men — started arriving to scratch some internal itch to live on an island, work as a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat or to merely search for a taste of the pioneering lifestyle, it was noticeable.

And was hard to not notice them.

In their stories, these women speak about the early days of the Arts Alliance and the Renaissance Faire, about illegal midwifery, starting the Women’s Self-Help Network, the Youth Chance Society and the Comox Valley Transition Society. That was wildly progressive stuff for a little community still defined at the time by logging and fishing.

For those of us who arrived at the same time and know these women, reading their mini-memoirs will recall fond memories of our own. It takes us on a trip back through our own journeys.

But for those who have discovered the Comox Valley more recently as the surging knowledge-based urban center it is today, these stories provide not just historical references but a deeper sense of place. Knowing who it was that came before you and how they shaped your town’s culture, helps a person understand their own place in the continuum of community evolution.

Plus, Dancing with Gumboots is just fun to read. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure.

 

Gumboot anthologist

“These are flash memoirs,” Wilde said. “We told the writers not to agonize over their essays, just keep them fresh.”

Wilde and Allison created the whole book with only few in-person meetings. They sent five questions to potential contributors via email and asked them to respond in 1,000 to 1,500 words and to do it within two months. It was the same formula they used for their North Coast book.

“The first book was done almost as a lark,” Wilde said. “But then we sold 1,000 copies in the first month and our publisher said, hey, you’ve got something here.”

Wilde and Allison are part of the generation of women featured in their books. They both migrated to Haida Gwaii in the early 1970s and both wrote their own stories in Gumboot Girls, which has sold 8,000 copies to date.

Wilde arrive on the North Coast in 1976 and stayed until 1979. They she left for nursing school, but returned to Prince Rupert in 1981 to practice her new profession. For health reasons, she and her long-time partner, Richard, moved to the Comox Valley in 2016. He died in December.

“As I started to meet women in the Comox Valley, my eyes were opened to a completely different, yet similar migration of women from those I had known on the North Coast,” she said.

Wilde says no writers make any money from either of the books. All of the profits from the latest book go to the Comox Valley Transition Society, and to a similar nonprofit in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii from the first.

Wilde remains noncommittal about producing future anthologies, maybe because she’s accomplished what she set out to do in her first two books.

“It’s kind of the chicken soup of aging baby boomers. It’s stories about our generation,” she said. “They needed to be written down.”

 

 

 

NEXT READING: 2:15
JAN. 17 COURTENAY LIBRARY

 

 

AVAILABLE IN COMOX VALLEY
BOOKSTORES

 

Blue Heron Books
1775 Comox Ave., Comox
339-6111

Laughing Oyster Books
286 Fifth St., Courtenay
334-2511

Abraxas Books
1071 Northwest Road
Denman Island

 

 

LIST OF AUTHORS
IN DANCING IN GUMBOOTS

Roberta DeDoming, Patti Willis, Peggy Kabush, Sandy Kennedy, Susan Holvenstot, Gerri Minaker. Sally Gellard ,Cara Tilston Lee Bjarnason, Devaki Johnson, Rosemary Vernon, Jackie Sandiford, Monika Terfloth, Susan Sandland, Sure Wheeler, Anne Davis, Nonie Caflisch, Denise Nadeau, Olive Scott, Phyllis Victory, Linda Rajotte, Brenda Dempsey, Gloria Simpson, Jeanine Maars, Marguerite Masson, Judy Norbury, Linda Safford, Ardith Chambers, Linda Deneer, Josephine Peyton, Gwyn Sproule and Lynda Glover

 

Both Dancing in Gumboots and Gumboot Girls were published by Caitlin Press, Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Culture
The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018

By George Le Masurier

Each year on Jan. 1, Decafnation presents its annual collective book report. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share micro-reviews of books they enjoyed in last year. You can read previous year’s recommendations here.

Kathy Gilland DuperronWomen Who Dig: Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World by Trina Moiyles of Alberta. — Ms Moyles travelled to six different countries and interviewed women who dig (garden, farm) in order to feed their families. We meet brave, hard-working women around the world. Canada, the US, Uganda, Cuba and more. Women outside North America get the most they can in order to feed their families and if they sell some products their children may be able to go to school. This is a book filled with hope, the opposite of what we are generally hearing and reading in the news.

Anne BakerThe Boat People by Sharon Bala — “When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and 500 fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security” — review excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Brad MorganThe Library Book by Susan Orlean — This is every bookworm’s dream read, said a reviewer and it’s true. If you love books, you’ll love this book. It’s actually a tribute to libraries via an arson investigation and filled with real-life characters and stories so unexpected, they feel like they’ve been misshelved from the fantasy section. It’s starts out about the 1986 fire that destroyed 400,000 books at the Los Angeles Central Library, and that becomes Orlean’s excuse to introduce the eccentric who’d been the city’s first librarian, a successor who walked from Ohio to L.A. to claim the post.

Robert MooreLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders — An initially baffling, wild, creative and surprising book. Second choice, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Hamid — Evocative and interesting voice.

Charles ShelanPachinko by Min Jin Lee, and the Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.

Sarah SeitzA Little Life by Hanya Yanaguhara — I loved this tale of four young men navigating friendship and trauma. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also enjoyed Educated by Tara Westover — a memoir about her life growing up with survivalists in rural Idaho.

Meredith Wright HutchinsCircling the Sun by Paula McLain — This book is One of my favorites. It’s an biographical fiction and I was into the book before I realized Beryl Markham was an actual person. I was equally surprised to learn that one of her friends, Karen Blixen, was the character played by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. The book is set in British East Africa in the early 1900’s. Beryl was, among other things, a race horse trainer and pilot at a time when those were not vocations for women.

Helena SpearsThe Winters: a reboot of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca — It has great characters, and plot twists. If you enjoyed the original, you will enjoy this one too. A quick, fun read.

Jim LewisWashington Black by Esi Edugyan — This third novel by a Vancouver Island writer offers a unique spin on the traditional slave narrative. Its protagonist, known as Wash, is an 18-year-old freeman looking back on a childhood spent in bondage and on the unlikely events that allowed him to escape a Barbados sugar plantation in a hot-air balloon and travel from Virginia to the Arctic to Europe while blossoming into an accomplished artist and scientist.

Ramon MartinezRiding the Continent by Hamilton Mack Laing, with an introduction by Richard Mackie, edited by Trevor Marc Hughes — Hamilton Mack Laing was an illustrious early British Columbia writer and naturalist. But few know him as how he described himself in his mid-thirties: a motorcycle-naturalist. For several years beginning in 1914, Laing used the motorcycle to access the natural world, believing it gave him a distinct advantage over other forms of transportation. During this period in his life he would take on a transcontinental journey, riding across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1915. His previously unpublished manuscript of this journey has been hidden away for nearly a century.

Peter JacobsonThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood — A World War II–era family drama turns into a story within a story, within a story — as well as a mystery, a thriller, and a tract on the politics of love, passion, and betrayal. It’s brilliantly written, sharp as a blade, and completely engrossing.

Ken AdneyThe Johnstown Flood by David McCullough — I love everything else I’ve read by him. Also, McLuhan for Beginners (one of the For Beginners series).
Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw (just because people keep talking about him). Jacobs’ Dimensions of Moral Theory (more meta arguments than how to). Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (loved her essays). William Gass The World Within The Word (few writers write so well about writing)

Dan Vie — I generally read no fiction except for an occasional folktale. However, I re-read the Lord of the Rings after several decades, just because the narrative feels topical in this political climate. It is a gorgeous and engrossing read. Tolkien was masterful at crafting a sense of physical environment – the journey takes them through so many uniquely illustrated spaces, and it’s vivid.

Gloria J. BalazsBecoming by Michelle Obama — A great book. Predictable, but warmly entertaining. Loved it!

Robert MarshallAsymmetry by Lisa Halliday — Shortly after 9/11, a young woman working in New York City publishing enters into a romantic relationship with a famous older Jewish novelist. But the book’s second half changes everything, which I won’t reveal and spoil it for you.

Jessie Kerr — Sapiens (a brief history of humankind) by Yuval Harari –This book was difficult to put down. It caused me to reconsider my beliefs, attitudes and bias. I think it is a must read for thinkers. Also I’m Right and You’re an Idiot by James Hoggan. I heard him at the Denman Island book fest. A thoughtful discourse on the toxic state of public discourse. Another must read.

Richard ClarkeHow China’s Leaders Think by RL Kuhn — an informative insight into the machinations of the CCP leadership and China’s dramatic change over past 40 years.

Mary LangWomen Talking by Miram Toews — A small masterpiece. Launching off of a (tragically) true story, Toews explores the many powerful shades of resistance and witness in the wake of oppression and violation.

 

 

 

 

COMOX VALLEY BOOKSTORES

 

Blue Heron Books
1775 Comox Ave., Comox
339-6111

 

Laughing Oyster Books
286 Fifth St., Courtenay
334-2511

 

Nearly New Books
1761 Comox Ave., Comox
339-1278

 

Second Page Used Books
546 Duncan Ave., Courtenay
338-1144

 

Coles
Driftwood Mall, Courtenay
897-3622

 

North Island College Bookstore
2300 Ryan Road, Courtenay
334-5013

 

More Culture

Art Alchemy shows 250 square feet of art

Art Alchemy, the Comox Valley art collective born out of a desire for more places to see local art, will hang its eighth annual Square Foot Art show this weekend

Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art

Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage

Bob Cain: Hornby Island’s photographer laureate

Photographer Bob Cain has documented life on Hornby Island for nearly 50 years, capturing the people, events and rituals of island living in black and white, and going mostly unnoticed. Now he’s sharing his voluminous archive with the world.

Fraser Cain: from Hornby Island to outer space

Fraser Cain was raised on Hornby Island, but his mind was always on another planet. Most of the time, Cain led the life of a normal teenager. He played video games and fooled around on the two-ferry, two-hour bus ride to school in Courtenay. But whenever he could, Cain dreamed about the stars, the planets, the universe.

Down East fiddler Ashley MacIssac performs at The Filberg

Ashley MacIssac, the Juno award-winning fiddler from Cape Breton Island, performed for a sold-out audience at Live! At Filberg Park Aug. 24. Known for some outlandish behavior in the past, there was nothing controversial about his Filberg performance, except that he...

The meaning of Guernica explained in a subway

The meaning of Guernica explained in a subway

The meaning of Guernica explained in a subway

By George Le Masurier

What do a gored bull, a horse and flames have in common? No, this is not a three-people-walk-into-a-bar kind of joke. The answer, of course, is they are all prominent images in Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting (Decafnation’s opinion).

But what does it mean? Have you ever wondered about the symbolism in the painting? Is it really an anti-war message?

A New Yorker magazine art critic took a copy down into the Big Apple’s subway tunnels and asked people what they thought. It’s an interesting video.

 

THE BOMBING OF GUERNICA

The bombing of Guernica (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡeɾˈnika]) (26 April 1937) was an aerial bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It was carried out, at the behest of Francisco Franco’s nationalist government, by its allies, the Nazi German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria, under the code name Operation Rügen. 

The bombing is the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso, commissioned by the Spanish Republic.

— Wikipedia

 

PABLO PICASSO

Pablo Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the 20th century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. He saw himself above all as a painter, yet his sculpture was greatly influential, and he also explored areas as diverse as printmaking and ceramics.

Finally, he was a famously charismatic personality; his many relationships with women not only filtered into his art but also may have directed its course, and his behavior has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.

More Culture | News
Cumberland’s dilemma: Save the Ilo Ilo or create arts space elsewhere?

Cumberland’s dilemma: Save the Ilo Ilo or create arts space elsewhere?

Henry Fletcher at The Convoy Club, an attempt to create a co-working space in Cumberland. Photo by George Le Masurier

Cumberland’s dilemma: Save the Ilo Ilo or create arts space elsewhere?

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Does Cumberland want to save the historic Ilo Ilo Theatre or does it want to create a performing arts space in the most viable location?

That was a question debated Saturday afternoon in the renovated lobby of the former opera house by about 30 Cumberland business people, residents and performers.

It’s an urgent question because Henry Fletcher, who has spent “a stressful” year trying to save the theatre as a performance venue, has reached the end of his resources and is moving back to Toronto this week.

His parents, who bought the building in 2007, have listed the Ilo Ilo for sale at $1.25 million.

The building began life in 1914 as an opera house and transformed over the years into a movie theatre and a dance hall. It was last used as an an auction house operated by Dave and Cathy Stevens until July 2007.

None of those discussing the theatre’s fate on Saturday questioned the need for a new performing arts venue in the Comox Valley.

“There’s a hunger for performing arts space,” said Meagan Coursons, an arts promoter and executive director of the Cumberland Community Forest Society. “People are starving for it.”

It’s hard to book the busy Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, and it’s expensive for struggling performing arts groups.

And there was no doubt among participants in Saturday’s discussion that a cultural economy could be created in Cumberland around the demand for space.

Darren Adam, owner of the Cumberland Brewing Company, said if the building could be renovated, then the “end result as an economic driver is beyond words.”

But Adam questioned whether a community project to preserve, restore and promote the Ilo Ilo as a performing arts space was a viable option.

Nick Ward, owner of The Update Company, a website design and marketing business, said it would take at least $500,000 and probably more to renovate the theatre building. And Adam doubted whether the village or individuals with the expertise to take on such a large fundraising project had the capacity to do so at this time.

“There’s no privately owned theatre in Canada that doesn’t rely on a public subsidy,” Adam said. “And the village is already heavily taxed.”

He said it took “an amazing effort” to create the Cumberland Community Forest, but to do it again would be “a long shot.”

Admitting that she has a “romantic attachment” to historic theatre, Cursons said the community needs to have a larger conversation about it really wants — to save the Ilo Ilo or to create performing arts space.

The Cumberland United Church building is also for sale at a much lower purchase price and could be renovated more inexpensively.

“We have to focus on one project, or we could lose both,” Cursons said. “What is the more achievable goal? If it’s performing arts space we want, then we need to get this conversation outside of the building (Ilo Ilo).”

The group agreed on the need for a community mandate.

There was also consensus that to attract an “angel benefactor” willing to preserve the Ilo Ilo and transform it into a quality performing arts space, the village has to have a governance structure and a business plan already in place.

And that raised the question if there are people willing to donate time and energy creating a society and a plan knowing that another buyer could tear down the building for some other commercial purpose.

A spokesperson for the Cumberland Culture and Arts Society said they already have a nonprofit society for this purpose. It staged the recent Woodstove Festival. It’s annual general meeting is scheduled for January.

Cursons expressed sadness around how many times people have gotten their hopes up about restoring the Ilo Ilo only to see it flounder again.

An exhausting experience

For Henry Fletcher, the Ilo Ilo has been “an emotionally exhausting period of exploring an idea that nobody in their right mind would undertake.”

Fletcher came to Cumberland with hopes of creating a cultural economy, using the Ilo Ilo as a hub for performing arts, town hall meetings, a dance studio, weddings and other events.

“I’ve been spraying ideas around to see what sticks,” he told Decafnation. “But nobody was ready to join on that train.”

Fletcher is a performer himself, mainly through a fictional comedic character he created called Henri Faberge, a naive buffoon and European aristocrat. Faberge is the protagonist in improv performances whose eyes help the audience understand other characters.

Henri Faberge is also a foil for Fletcher’s own self-examination.

“Sometimes the lines are blurred,” he said, referring to his obsession to animate community interest in his ideas for a common performing arts space. “It me, it’s not me. It’s hard to shut off.”

He questions whether it was his own naivete about navigating bylaws, about how to do fundraising and writing grants and about how to run a business that doomed the Ilo Ilo project.

“I struggle with not pursuing the vision I have. It’s a mental illness, I can’t not do it,” he said. “Everyone wants arts and culture, they just can’t pay for it.”

Fletcher thinks his timing might have been wrong. He sees Cumberland at a point where it has attracted a large community of creative people, yet not enough resources to support them.

But he’s glad for having tried and for the learning experience he’s had.

“Because, you know, it’s the maniacs who are either A) burned at the stake; or, B) achieve a new paradigm and change the world.”

 

HISTORY OF COURTENAY’S SID WILLIAM THEATRE

Vancouver Island entrepreneur E.W. Bickle designed and built what is now the Sid Williams Theatre. The state-of-the-art movie house was opened on June 20, 1935, with a gala presentation of the new colour film spectacle “Babes in Toyland.” E.W. wanted to create the finest movie theatre on Vancouver Island, and his new Bickle Theatre on Cliffe Avenue featured many luxuries that event theatres in bustling Victoria did not offer. Bickle also built and owned Cumberland’s Ilo Ilo Theatre, Courtenay’s E.W. Theatre (subsequently the Palace Theatre on 5th Street), and the Comox District Free Press. The theatre’s current namesake, Sid Williams, actually worked at the E.W. in the 1940’s.

Bickle was a “hands on” theatre owner; many locals still remember attending shows and seeing him sitting in a leather wing chair in the lobby supervising the crowds as they came and went. Well into his senior years he arrived each evening in a chauffeured limousine to collect the day’s box office take. After E.W. Bickle passed away, the building operated for a time as an auction house and later became vacant for a number of years. On an early January morning in 1968, the Riverside Hotel next to the theatre at the corner of 5th Street and Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay burned down. This event was the turning point by which the citizens of the Comox Valley acquired a civic performing arts theatre.

After a great deal of fundraising, a land swap involving Crown Zellerback, a generous donation by the E.W. Bickle family, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on the part of many individuals and groups in the community, the black hole of the former Riverside Hotel got cleaned up. A fountain was built, the old Bickle was renovated and in September 1971 the new Civic Theatre and Civic Square were opened by Premier W.A.C. Bennett.

In honour of a much loved local actor and comedian, it was named the Sid Williams Civic Theatre in 1984. Sid Williams was born Frederick Sidney Williams on October 14th, 1908, in New Westminster, BC, and arrived in the Comox Valley in 1921 at the age of 12. Sid’s earliest stage appearance was in a school production in 1922. This began a lifetime of theatre involvement. From his tours with the Barkerville Players and as Century Sam; his many live appearances, both local and distant; to his television work (on The Beachcombers, PharmaSave commercials, and a documentary for CBC’s On the Road Again), they brought him many honours. Sid also served continuously as Alderman for the City of Courtenay from 1942 to 1964.

Sid ran the Civic Theatre for many years as a one man tour-de-force, and rain or shine could be seen up a ladder every week changing the messages on the theatre’s marquee. He passed away on September 26th, 1991. View the Courtenay & District Museum’s online exhibit Sid Williams: Out of the Ordinary.

The Sid Williams Civic Theatre has been serving the Comox Valley for over 25 years as a performing arts facility, and has had a professional administration since 1992. In 1998, the theatre was closed for some much needed renovations. After a few seismic tests, the City of Courtenay extended the original $1,000,000 budget to an incredible $2,500,000. The renovations extended the lobby, added a concession, a large ticket centre, family viewing seats, a 144 seat balcony, many needed washrooms, larger dressing room space, and much more.

Now a 500-seat performing arts facility, the Sid Williams Theatre will continue to host quality entertainment in the Comox Valley for many years to come.

Excerpted from a history courtesy of the Courtenay & District Museum on The Sid’s website

 

 

Art Alchemy shows 250 square feet of art

Art Alchemy shows 250 square feet of art

Art Alchemy shows 250 square feet of art

By George Le Masurier

Art Alchemy, the Comox Valley art collective born out of a desire for more places to see local art, will hang its eighth annual Square Foot Art show this weekend

This article was updated Nov. 20 to include a quote from painter Sofie Skapski

H elen Utsal came to the Comox Valley to paint. She pictured a place “riddled with artists” and wanted to become part of the cultural scene that, she assumed, would have an abundance of public places to see the art created here.

She found something quite different when she arrived. There was, in fact, an abundance of artists working in a variety of mediums. But they mostly worked in isolation from each other, at home and in small out-of-the-way studios, and they all had little visibility in the community.

“It was and still is a struggle for local artists to get their work shown,” Utsal told Decafnation. “There’s just not many places to see art.”

So Utsal began forming the idea of a Comox Valley collective of artists who would create their own gallery and studio space, and share overhead costs.

She rekindled a plan by fellow artists Lucy Schappy and Jennifer Weber to take a chance on renting a space for a studio and gallery. They found a small space in Comox, but it fell through when the physiotherapists that owned the building decided to expand their own office.

Undaunted, Utsal formed the West Coast Art Collective during the winter of 2010-2011 with other nine Comox Valley artists who shared the dream of making local art more visible. The collective staged their first exhibition — a selection of 12-inch by 12-inch canvases they called The Square Foot Show — in June of 2011 at the now-defunct Purple Onion cafe in Comox.

Two years later, Utsal, Shappy, Weber and two new artists, Stacey Wright and Guillermo Mier, found the perfect space at 10th Street in Courtenay, above United Floors. It’s bright, has high ceilings and big windows and is large enough for all nine artists to have both studio and gallery space. They named the new endeavor Art Alchemy.

The artists at Art Alchemy have changed over the years, but the goal of having a place for artists to share their creative vibe and camaraderie has remained a constant.

And so has the Square Foot Show.

The nine current artists of Art Alchemy will be joined this weekend by 38 other mostly Comox Valley artists for the eighth annual Square Foot Show. (Friday, Nov. 23 from 7 pm to 10 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, from 11 am to 5 pm.)


Art Alchemy artists:  Mary Gorman,Shea Kottila, Sharon Lalonde, Larissa McLean, Nancy Randall Burger, Sofie Skapski, Helen Utsal, Nicolette Valikoski, Maggie Ziegler


It’s the first year the show has been juried and that submissions were accepted through a digital process.

“The whole purpose is to support artists and encourage them,” Utsal said.

Most serious art buyers have traditionally lived in larger cities, where cultural demands are greater.

“The Comox Valley is not a prime market,” Utsal said, noting that most local professional artists — those who support themselves through their art — sell to buyers in Vancouver, Toronto and internationally. “But that’s changing. Our population of art collectors is growing.”

Twenty-five artists have passed through the collective in its first seven years. Artists will rent space for two or three years and then move on, creating their own studios or moving from the area.

Sofie Skapski, one of the current artists at Art Alchemy, describes the experience like this: “I love our studio space here at Art Alchemy because of the openness and the wonderful light. It is important to me to work within a group because working alone in a studio can be isolating. Here we have camaraderie – we inspire each other in a supportive atmosphere but at the same time still maintain our privacy in our own personal spaces.

As the only remaining founder of the collective, Utsal has assumed the role of Art Alchemy’s principal artist, which means she takes on most of its administrative chores, like organizing the exhibitions. But it’s made easy by the “generous cooperative spirit we value and encourage.”

“Everyone pipes up, we’re all protective of the vibe,” she said.

This weekend’s Square Foot show is one of two exhibitions staged annually by Art Alchemy. They have another proprietary show in June that coincides with the Valley-wide art studio tour. And Art Alchemy artists also display their work at the Comox Valley Airport from May through October each year.

The Art Alchemy studio gallery is open to the public at 362C 10th Street in Courtenay. It’s open to the public from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays, or “whenever the door is open.”

 

 

 

More Culture

Art Alchemy shows 250 square feet of art

Art Alchemy, the Comox Valley art collective born out of a desire for more places to see local art, will hang its eighth annual Square Foot Art show this weekend

Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art

Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage

Bob Cain: Hornby Island’s photographer laureate

Photographer Bob Cain has documented life on Hornby Island for nearly 50 years, capturing the people, events and rituals of island living in black and white, and going mostly unnoticed. Now he’s sharing his voluminous archive with the world.

Fraser Cain: from Hornby Island to outer space

Fraser Cain was raised on Hornby Island, but his mind was always on another planet. Most of the time, Cain led the life of a normal teenager. He played video games and fooled around on the two-ferry, two-hour bus ride to school in Courtenay. But whenever he could, Cain dreamed about the stars, the planets, the universe.

Down East fiddler Ashley MacIssac performs at The Filberg

Ashley MacIssac, the Juno award-winning fiddler from Cape Breton Island, performed for a sold-out audience at Live! At Filberg Park Aug. 24. Known for some outlandish behavior in the past, there was nothing controversial about his Filberg performance, except that he...

More Culture