Photographer/artist Ric Wallace told council the artists walk along the promenade should be able to reopen safely, with physical distancing measures in place, since the White Rock Farmers Market was able to do so. (photo courtesy Ric Wallace – WhiteRockBeach.ca)

White Rock artists walk on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic

Physical distancing requirements under study by city staff

White Rock’s promenade and pier may be open, but one popular waterfront element – the artists walk – is still missing.

And it’s not likely to reappear until plans can be worked out to allow it to operate safely under COVID-19 restrictions, according to city cultural development manager Elizabeth Keurvorst.

In a brief verbal presentation and written memo to council on June 15, Keurvorst was responding to a question to council from local artist/photographer Ric Wallace.

Wallace had asked whether the artists walk was to re-open, with physical distancing measures.

He noted that the White Rock Farmers Market is currently accepting non-food vendors; that council is taking measures – including providing picnic tables – to help support waterfront restaurants; and that even some buskers have returned to designated outdoor areas in the city.

But Keurvorst pointed out that resuming the artists walk – which in pre-pandemic times provided space on the grassy area just west of the museum to some 14 exhibiting artists – would create challenges under current provincial restrictions.

Ordinarily, individuals pay a $150 annual fee to participate in the artists walk, which enables each to set up, display and sell their artwork in a six square-metre space, and keep 100 per cent of the proceeds of sales.

“In looking at how we can restart, we look to the provincial health office, and there are two considerations that we would want to look at before re-opening the artists walk,” Keurvorst said.

“One would be physical distancing…as people walk the promenade they tend to veer onto the grass to allow for that six-foot distancing, that two-metre distancing,” she added.

READ ALSO: White Rock Farmers Market back with a difference May 3

“As well, the public health order has put out guidelines for farmers markets, when it comes to including artisans, but there is a market manager present to monitor that – we wouldn’t have that at the artists walk. We would need to look to the provincial health authorities’ cross-departmental team in order to look at reopening the artists walk, so there is a lot of work to do before we can open it again.”

Coun. Christopher Trevelyan asked whether there had been any consideration given to alternative locations for the artists walk.

“The short answer is no, but the same principles would apply; looking to the provincial health officer to help us with any guidance on both buskers and artists,” Keurvorst said.

Trevelyan sought, and received, assurances from Keurvorst and chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero, that staff is actively studying ways to bring back the artists walk.

“In concert with all the other services we’re doing, we’re looking at the Pop-Uptown Gallery, we’re looking at the artists walk, buskers and all the services we offer,” Keurvorst said.

In her memorandum, she noted that artists who exhibited in 2019, but could not this year, have been encouraged to participate in online marketing in association with the city’s Virtual Canada Day event on July 1, and also online art shows offered in partnership with Semiahmoo Arts.

“Re-thinking how the tents are set back and how walkers are able to walk between or behind to maintain physical distancing, where artwork is stored, and how far down the beach, we want to stretch, will be important for us to comply with the provincial health distancing requirements,” she wrote.


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