Arts and the Economy: The Annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour on Gabriola Provides a Large Part of Island Artists' Annual Income

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Arts and the Economy: The Annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour on Gabriola Provides a Large Part of Island Artists' Annual Income

The 27th Annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour is coming up from October 7th-9th on Gabriola Island. Life on Gabriola TV's Theresa O’Leary sat down to chat about the important arts event with Carol Fergusson, Executive Director of the Gabriola Arts Council.
58 artists and 65 studios are involved in the longstanding tour. Some of the artists -- “diehards” -- have been on every single tour since it began.
Fergusson says it’s a special time of year. “In September and October, it gets really frenzied and you can feel the creativity in the air as artists are painting and sculpting and transforming their studios in preparation for visitors.” She adds that the annual event is important economically for the artists. “Last year, they reported sales of over 150 thousand dollars, so that’s significant when you spread it over 55 to 57 studios.”
She agrees the tour provides a large portion of an artist's annual income although as far as she knows no one relies on it completely. In 2011, the Canada Council did a study and discovered that Gabriola Island was 9th in the country in terms of having the most professional artists, which was defined as earning a living from their art. “I’d say it’s probably higher today," Fergusson adds, "because we've had quite an influx of professional artists during Covid, people getting out of the city and liking the idea of island life.”
The GAC Executive Director provides a guide to how to approach the tour, given the number of studios and the variety and range of art to choose from. She explains that reviewing the guide is the best place to start, at, then find a map and attend Tour Central on opening night, where you pick the studios you will visit after viewing samples of all the art included in the long-weekend event.
Generally 2,000-2,500 people attend the tour, many from the big island (Vancouver Island), especially Victoria and Sooke where there is a concentration of art lovers who buy art.
Fergusson acknowledged that there are concerns about the current economic situation and whether that will affect visitors and sales this year, but overall they are hopeful. She shares some of her experience working with the Gabriola Arts Council since 2020 and meeting and engaging with artists, and admits it’s had an impact; “It changed me, coming here."

Life on Gabriola TV is generously sponsored by:

Journalist: Theresa O'Leary / Videographer: Frank Moher / Editor: Marshal Fries


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Video Upload Date: September 29, 2023

Based on Gabriola Island, one of the Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea of BC, Life on Gabriola TV provides programming for Gabriolans, by Gabriolans. We cover events and issues in our own community, including adjacent islands, and in the Salish Sea region generally.

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