Breaking out of the box
The Semiahmoo Peninsula is going to be stepping ‘Outside The Box’ starting next month – and the only question is how it will ever get back inside again.
A seven-week celebration of fibre and textile art, Outside The Box – spearheaded by internationally recognized artist and White Rock resident Pauline McLean Dutkowski – is highlighting an idiom often overlooked by those more focused on painting and sculpture.
But, even more importantly, the revolutionary festival, which runs Sept. 1 to Oct. 21, is breaking down many of the boundaries that separate artistic disciplines and create a schism between arts and business – and completely ignoring the artificial border between White Rock and South Surrey.
“I suppose I’m a bit of a ‘disturber,’” admits the genial, British-born Dutkowski.
“I’m encouraging people to think outside the box – and it’s not just about this festival. That’s what we need to do every day.”
Particularly surprising is that while the festival has enlisted the active participation of arts groups like the White Rock and South Surrey Art Society and the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners; Semiahmoo Arts, the City of White Rock, White Rock Library, White Rock Museum and Archives and the White Rock BIA, Surrey Public Library, and businesses including Semiahmoo Shopping Centre, Dutkowski has managed it all without a society, a board, or government funding.
How is this possible?
First of all, Dutkowski has a record of positive pragmatism that goes back at least as far as her decision to become a full-time artist in 1972, and an infectious enthusiasm that has allowed her hand-woven tapestries and multi-layered, felted and stitched fibrescapes to shrug off the ‘crafts’ label and become valued works of art frequently exhibited and keenly collected throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.
A resident of White Rock for the past three years with her photographer husband, Don, she was deeply involved with the Richmond Arts Council (she’s a past-president) for some 11 years, and equally active in the arts community in the Chilliwack area, where she and Don lived for 18 years after that.
Her practical experience also includes being a delegate to the first world conference on Arts, Politics and Business at UBC in 1986; organizing the Celebration of Ability – a three-week arts festival for the disabled in Richmond in 1989 – and serving on a Commonwealth Games bid committee.
A particularly proud moment for her was participating in an art exhibition in the Louvre in Paris in 2009 – it was a visit there with her parents when she was 11 that she credits with sparking her fascination with the visual arts.
But she traces the roots of her pragmatic approach even further back into that childhood.
“I grew up in wartime and post-war England,” she said. “You tended to use what you had. You didn’t complain – you made the most of things and used your imagination.”
She said Outside The Box “came out of the ashes of something else that was going to happen last year – the Hands Across The Pacific exhibition.”
While she had secured the use of space in Bosa’s Miramar Village for the touring exhibit, the venue proved unsuitable for the requirements of the show.
Undaunted, Dutkowski set about creating something new – and the energy with which others have joined in has been “astonishing.”
“I didn’t want to tell people what to do – I presented it to people and said ‘how would you like to participate?’,” she said.
Another secret is that it’s an extended event, providing more opportunities to participate, instead of conflicting with other events planned in a small time period.
And the very notion of fibre art itself is versatile and all-encompassing, Dutkowski said.
“Paper is a fibre, canvas is a fibre – music is made with fibres. I’m even hoping to have restaurants involved – a taste of fibre,” she laughed.
“The main idea is to have fun.”
Among upcoming events under the Outside The Box banner will be:
• the launch of Fibre Fusion, a six-by-nine foot touring mural made by more than 20 members of the Virtuosi Infraganti Collective (opening Sept. 1) at White Rock Museum and Archives;
• a main display at White Rock Community Centre (Sept. 10-Oct. 21) by the Women, Art and Society class at Langara College;
• demonstrations and ‘fun with fibre’ displays at the White Rock BIA’s Uptown Summersault Festival (Sept. 10);
• an exhibition of art quilts by the Crescent Quilters and the ‘Piece Arch’ Quilters at the White Rock Library, which will also feature the launch of the book Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery (Sept. 19); a presentation by Anne Kristiansen, Interwoven Stories: A History of Textiles in Fashion and Art (Sept. 26) at White Rock Library.
Visit www.outsidetheboxwhiterock.com for more info.