Hammered steel is spread out in the math classroom.
Flasks and test tubes are replaced by art prints in the biology lab, and an assortment of random household items that will soon be art are spread out in the chemistry lab, where there isn’t a formula to be seen. Instructors and students are in the classes, but the discussion isn’t about high school, it is about art.
The Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts at Pearson College, in its 30th year, attracts hundreds of artists from all over the world. Participants from Belgium, the United States and across Canada come year after year – some have been coming for decades – yet pottery co-ordinator Meira Mathison said many locals don’t know it exists.
“(It is) more than 40 classes over the two weeks with more than 450 students,” she said. “Because we are bringing in absolutely incredible renowned instructors, it has been wonderful. I have been able to see the best in the world and get to know them and get to see what they are doing.”
Cindy Moyer, incoming executive director, referred to the gathering of artisans as “an international school founded by international artists.”
“It’s an amazing collective of workshops and seminars,” she said, “a retreat opportunity where you are isolated in the midst of nature and have access to facilities with great teachers, (which is) what has made it magical for 30 years.”
Offering everything from pottery and printmaking, to steel work and basket weaving, the school engulfs the sprawling Pearson campus for two weeks every summer. Many students, including 17-year participant Al Scott, a longtime potter, say it is among the best two weeks of their year.
“Each year I come out, I pick up some new ideas … (from) people not only in the pottery community, but every other art form,” he said. “There is a sharing of ideas and talent.”
The Vernon resident teaches pottery full time in the Interior, but makes his way to Metchosin every year with a goal of learning something new he can share with his students.
“People are so open to sharing their talents and they don’t hold back. They (give that) little piece of info you need to be able to take that package and apply it through your own hands and to your own life. There is no holding back here, that is the big thing,” he said. “And this is such an idyllic situation, I tend to sit in the same spot and look out onto this bay.”
Kristin Murray, who sits at the next wheel, is on Vancouver Island for the first time. She enrolled after getting a tip from her pottery instructor back home in Brandon, Man.
“You are learning not from just instructors, but general conversations you are having with people from other classes and other backgrounds,” she said. “It becomes an interesting dialogue with people who have been in the business for many, many years.”
After only two days the university student is already looking forward to an opportunity to return to Metchosin.
“The space is beautiful, you couldn’t ask for a better space. If you ever need inspiration, you just walk outside and you have all the inspiration you need. Just how positive people are and how creative and willing to share … that comes from the community and that has been the best (thing) so far. I hope I can come back again next year.”
For more information on the summer school visit missa.ca.