A group of women with a creative flair are celebrating 15 years of socializing, making art and getting things done.
“We’re gals on a mission,” says Mary Teer one of a group of about 12 women who make up the Driftwood Club of Campbell River. “We’re always on a mission to save something.”
The club was founded around the creation of Hobbitats – west coast villages made from driftwood. They became – and are still – quite a hit when they burst on the local art scene 20 years ago and soon spread far and wide in popularity.
Club members were in high demand for workshops teaching how to make them. After a while they came to be known as the Driftwood Divas because they don’t take themselves too seriously.
The women in the club are in it for the fun and creativity and never really saw it as a commercial venture. In fact, right from the start, they put their output to use to benefit the community. “We have always been a charitable-minded group,” Teer says.
The accomplishment they are most proud of is spearheading the fundraising to help save the Sybil Andrews Cottage. Sybil Andrews Cottage is the former home of renowned Campbell River-based artist Sybil Andrews. Andrews and her husband Walter Morgan lived in the oceanfront cottage in Willow Point from 1947 until each passed away. The cottage is a heritage home and the adjacent woodworking shed have been saved and restored and is the home of the Campbell River Community Arts Council. It is also made available for various artists and groups to use for creative endeavours.
The Driftwood Club formed the Sybil Andrews Heritage Society in 2004 and its membership along with the Tuesday Painters At Sybil Andrews Cottage made contributions through art sales to help restore the cottage in 2011.
The Driftwood Club evolved into the Friends of Sybil Andrews Cottage Art and Garden Group but their mission is still the same: to do art projects for charities to use for fundraising efforts. The group likes to accomplish at least one large painting, small quilt or wall hanging per year. The group holds an annual summer sale at the cottage and creates smaller art pieces for giving throughout the year. This fall and Christmas season, they will be selling their second colouring book and a series of “doodle art” black and white prints.
“We’re gals on a mission. We’re always on a mission to save something.”
They like to produce work in a lot of different art mediums, making it more interesting for this fun-loving group. They used to meet every Monday night at Sybil Andrews Cottage but have reduced their get togethers to once a month. But that just means they’re ultra-focused on whatever their current project is.
“We’ve got the one night on the Monday and we all get there and we just lay into something,” Teer says.
Teer says they are all so inspired by living in such a beautiful community that they can’t help making art of some kind. And although some of them are getting on in years, they continue to create.
“We are lucky to live in such a beautiful environment, so conducive to art in all its forms,” Teer says. “Where else is lovely nature so close? The river and its tall trees; the estuary and the sea full of marine traffic and Quadra Island as our constant view.”
Creating art goes back a long way for many of them. “There are still a few of us around who started out some 45 years ago performing art in Campbell River who belonged to the original art groups in town,” Teer says. “In fact, quite a few milestones have been reached this year, 2016.”
The Lights and Shadows Art Group, as it was known in 1970, become the Campbell River Community Arts Council 45 years ago. In fact, the Arts Council put on an impressive three-day event in the old Community Hall 40 years ago, called Showcase ’76. As part of that event, they put up a display in the display case in the Centennial building that used to house the museum and which is now the home of the Art Gallery. Coincidentally, the Community Centre is once again displaying work from the “The Divas of Sybil Andrews Cottage.” Teer says it reflects how artists and their organizations are all intertwined over the years.
But with the cottage restored as a centre for art and creativity in the community, the Divas are now turning their mind to another project. Why sit still now? And their goals are nothing if not ambitious. “We like being a small force for good in our community and the next project on our minds to save could be simply awesome,” Teer says.
BC Hydro will be demolishing, in 2018, two of the surge towers as part of the John Hart Generating Station project. Three large surge towers were built as part of the John Hart hydroelectric project in the 1950s which are now being replaced with a mostly underground facility, in a billion dollar project currently underway.
The 90-metre high towers prevent the old penstocks which transport water from John Hart reservoir from bursting during periods of low production. They become redundant when the new generating station goes online.
One of the three towers will remain as a beacon. But rather than demolish both of the last two, the Divas want to save one of them and move it to a platform by the Quadra Island ferry terminal. But it won’t just be a surge tower standing there, the Divas want to replicate a project one of their members saw installed in New York City beside the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s where a water tower was placed with its sides removed and replaced with stained glass panels. The multi-coloured stained glass water tower is then lit up at night with solar-powered lighting and serves as a colourful beacon.
The Divas would like to see the same thing done with one of the surge towers. It doesn’t need to be installed at the same height that it currently stands on the hill above the John Hart Generating Station, it could be only a portion of the current height.
To get a sense of what the Divas envision Google “stained glass water tower, Brooklyn Bridge.” It’s a distinct and attractive concept that would become a community landmark. Teer says they have been in contact with BC Hydro and weren’t discouraged from pursuing their idea. In fact, Teer says Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said they have until 2018 to develop a proposal.
The Driftwood Club members would like to see it in place on the three acres the city owns adjacent to the Discovery Harbour shopping centre. Combined with a new tourism information centre and a new library, it would become a distinct public place for Campbell River.
Teer says the motivation is inspired by BC Hydro which she believes the community owes much to for building and producing power at John Hart for over 60 years and now their restorations have given a boost to the local economy when it is needed most.
“What better way to commemorate and promote what we have than by installing a beautiful art installation and saving another piece of heritage?” Teer says.
The Divas have another mission. You just can’t hold them back.