Miranda Chiasson, Tammy Hudgeon and Melinda Wilde (from left) are among the those presenting workshops during the upcoming online edition of Isle of the Arts. (Photos courtesy Miranda Chiasson/Ode Howard/submitted)

Gabriola’s Isle of the Arts Festival returns in online form due to COVID-19

Variety of workshops offered that participants can take part in from home

Once again the Gabriola Arts Council is presenting a modified version of its annual Isle of the Arts Festival to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

Registration begins this week for the 11th annual IOTA Festival, which kicks off on March 31 and runs until April 11.

Festival coordinator Victoria Bamford said there were hopes to be able to offer smaller in-person workshops like last year, but instead the decision was made to hold the entire festival online. Registrants will be participating in the workshops virtually from home and in some cases will be provided art supply kits to help them follow along with the artists.

Miranda Chiasson will be providing soil, fertilizer and seeds to participants in her gardening workshop. Chiasson was a farmer in the Fraser Valley for six years and has been living on Gabriola for the past two months.

She’ll be teaching the basics of a kitchen garden and offering some tips and tricks, and although doing it online will be a new experience for her, the teacher-student interaction should be familiar.

“I can see what they’re doing and they can see what I’m doing and they can still ask lots of questions,” Chiasson said. “The most intimidating part to me actually is teaching it online and I don’t really know what it’s going to look like yet but I hope that it’ll just be the same except through a computer in the middle.”

Bringing technology into the workshops can also be beneficial. IOTA regular Melinda Wilde is leading a watercolour workshop and will be teaching techniques for creating a spring floral bouquet.

She said moving to online will give her participants a better view of the action.

“In-person people tend to gather around the table, and if you’re short or if there’s a lot of people, you’re kind of behind and you’re looking over someone’s shoulder to see what’s going on,” Wilde said. “Whereas this people will see it right there, big. They’ll see just my hands, just what I’m doing on the screen. So in some ways, it’s better.”

The online format also suits Gabriola artist Tammy Hudgeon, who describes herself as “very introverted” and hasn’t wanted to hold workshops with adults in her studio.

Her workshop, Creative Empowerment through Visual Journaling, is based on an online course she’s created. She calls it “a deep dive into creativity and visual journaling and the ways that we stop ourselves and the ways that we can help ourselves move forward to make our mark” and she said presenting it online has been a good fit.

“I’m hearing from people of how relieved they are to find this space where they are allowed to play and express in whatever way feels true for them,” she said. “And that’s all been done online.”

WHAT’S ON … The Gabriola Arts Council presents the 11th annual Isle of the Arts Festival taking place virtually from March 31 to April 11. Registration is open from March 10 to 26 at artsfest.artsgabriola.ca.

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