The Thursday Artists are a group of artists with varied backgrounds, varied levels of experience and varied mediums who gather once a week to work on their art together.
The meet at the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre and work in various forms of painting, drawing, sculpting, felting, collage and much more. In the summers, when the Arts and Recreation Centre is busy with children’s programming, the group meets at each other’s homes for a potluck.
“We have people in our group who are very experienced, who have had many exhibits, and others who have really only begun to exhibit,” said Ellen Facey, noting the drop-in group is mostly women, but they do have a few gentlemen who come periodically. “It’s become more of a special event too because we get to see each other’s homes in the summer.”
Members of the group — along with a few special guests — are sharing what “joy” means to them in the next exhibition at the Quesnel Art Gallery. Their show, JOY!, opens Friday, Oct. 18 and runs until Nov. 9.
Some of the artists, like Maggie Ferguson-Dumais, Vi Martens, Zoe Strang and Darleen Hendry (who has since moved away), have been part of the group for decades.
“Many of us took courses from Maggie and Vi,” noted Facey, who has been part of the group for about 11 years.
Anna Ashcroft is happy to have found a group to get together with.
“What I found is it’s very isolating for me as a sculptor and be home alone, and it’s wonderful for me to be able to meet other people,” she said. “It’s a gift.”
Zoe Strang, who has been in the Thursday Artists group for 30 years, feels it is fitting that the exhibition is called JOY! and is being held in October, when the days start getting shorter and colder as we enter the winter season.
“What it does is as the dark days are approaching, it gives us something to be optimistic about,” she said. “The theme is joy as we enter winter, trying to pick us all up and give us all a lift.”
Strang, a retired art teacher, loves the fact that everyone gets to do work in their own style.
“I think for all of the people here, it gives us a focus; it gives us something to really work very hard on,” she added. “We have to come up with our own biographies and an artist’s statement for each piece and documentation of what we are doing and what it means to each of us. I think we have a wealth of talent in the Cariboo and a wealth of different styles.”
The group used to be called the Thursday Painters, but they changed their name to the Thursday Artists last year to reflect the diversity of the women and men who participate.
The word “Joy” is displayed in big, bold letters on the wall outside the Quesnel Art Gallery, and these letter are covered in squares that have been decorated by the artists exhibiting their work in this show. Facey found the artist blocks at Books and Company, and over the past six months, all the artists involved in the show have been decorating them in whatever way they choose, as long as it reflects joy.
“We’ve done projects in the past where we say everyone gets the same object and you can do whatever you want with it,” said Facey. “With this many people, you get this wonderful diversity of styles and ideas, humour and drama. [The “JOY” display] represents a lot of work. I think we all did something.”
Facey says the idea for the JOY! exhibition started two years ago when they were sitting around bemoaning the politics of the time and focusing on negativity. She suggested they try to focus on the opposite.
“Meeting weekly, the members of Thursday Artists support each other in grappling with the effects of difficult, even shocking political events,” Facey writes in an artists’ group statement for the exhibition. “Believing that this is a widespread experience in our culture at this time, we propose to explore how to cope with dark times through focusing on a counterpoint, which we are calling ‘Joy’ for short.
“We will do this using different materials, methods, and perspectives to help portray what joy means to each of us. As regional artists with years of experience in creating and exhibiting art works, we invite you, the viewer, to consider our responses to this social concern and to explore your sense of what constitutes joy, and what gives or creates joy. There are as many answers as there are individuals, but common themes emerge, including but not limited to Family, Love, Animals, Nature, Belief in a Higher Power, and many others.”
This exhibition features works by Joan Ramsey Harker, Judith Desbrisay, Megan Long, Emily Pearson, Denise Wellband, Anna Ashcroft, Ellen E. Facey, Sybille Muschik, Maggie Ferguson-Dumais, Monica Sequin and Zoe Strang.
The JOY! exhibition runs Oct. 18 to Nov. 9 at the Quesnel Art Gallery, located in the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre at 500 North Star Rd.
The exhibition opening takes place Friday, Oct. 18 from 7-9 p.m., and the show is sponsored by Forsythia Holdings Inc. and Monica and Bob Seguin.