Participants in the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA) work on projects during a past session at Pearson College. The summer arts school is in the final stages of accepting applications for this year’s workshops.

WEST SHORE ARTS: MISSA magic: an artistic retreat on the West Shore

Annual summer arts workshops in Metchosin attract various creative souls

Quietly located on the shores of Pedder Bay in Metchosin, Pearson International College transforms its classrooms into spaces for creative exchange and art-making for two weeks each summer.

In early July, the campus becomes home to many artists attending the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts, otherwise known as MISSA. Now in its 32nd year, the program has grown from 53 students and an offering of five courses, to upwards of 400 students with over 40 workshops in varying media.

Classes run from July 2 to 15 with an assortment of two-day and five-day workshops, as well as a 14-day studio mentorship. This summer’s Artist-in-Residence, Susan Low-Beer – a Saidye Bronfman Award winning artist – will provide instruction to a small group of students enrolled in the two-week program.

“Students basically have a chance to work uninterrupted for 14 days,” said Dave Skilling, MISSA’s acting executive director. “They have 24-hour access to a studio and most of them stay on campus. They have no interruptions, really, as most of us do in our normal daily lives.”

While the residency program requires a portfolio for admission, the majority of classes are open to artists of all levels.

The public is also welcome to attend the Faculty Lecture Series, an opportunity to visit the campus and learn about MISSA’s instructors. “Each evening has quite a range of media featured. There is a variety of artists and many who are quite well known in their field,” Skilling said. “Students love it because of that interdisciplinary exchange.” West Shore residents are also encouraged to attend the annual Gumbo Fundraiser on July 14. The ticket includes dinner in a one-of-a-kind handmade bowl, which attendees can take home with them.

“Many residents of the area don’t know about MISSA,” noted Skilling. But those who have discovered the summer art school tend to return several times. MISSA’s captivating quality – referred to as ‘MISSA Magic’ – can be attributed to several factors. First is the stunning campus, with its views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. “It is quite isolated so it is peaceful and conducive to creative pursuits and contemplation,” said Skilling. “It feels like a real retreat.”

The second factor is the college staff. “The Pearson staff takes really good care of MISSA students,” Skilling explained. “And the chef makes everyone feel at home.” For students who commute daily, tuition covers lunches and snacks. Those who wish to stay on campus can purchase accommodation and meal packages.

“Thirdly are the people; the instructors who have come for many years, and the students who come back year after year, and who look for that chance to explore, to share, and to have a chance to have a creative retreat.”

Many workshops are already full, but some spots are available. Visit missa.ca for a full listing.

Kristi Hoffman is communications and outreach assistant with the West Shore Arts Council. Visit them at westshorearts.org.

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