If the popularity of the Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts is any indication, the arts community on the West Shore is alive and well.
The retreat-style school, known locally by its acronym ‘MISSA,’ returns to Pearson International College for a 31st year starting this weekend (June 20) and once again offers numerous creative options for artists at various levels.
“MISSA is really a joyful home place for artists who want to stretch and celebrate their individuality in a place that is truly supportive,” said school co-ordinator Cindy Moyer. “That is the big takeaway for people – they feel like they are among friends.”
Of the hundreds of artists who descend upon the idyllic college overlooking Pedder Inlet, for everything from two-day workshops to two-week residencies, many are returning participants, giving proof the experience is as much about the network as the artwork, she said.
“The exchanges that happen at break times are at times as important as what happens in the classroom,” said Moyer, who also runs the Coast Collective Arts Centre in Colwood.
“It is relationship building. It’s two weeks of magic and is really something to behold. Beautiful things are being created, people are joyful, resourceful, working with their hands and developing (art). You can see (its) evidence when they are in the studio or relaxing outside while enjoying the amazing views.”
An introduction to graphic novels is one of the many art forms to be explored, and instructor Renee Nault sports an impressive resume. The Belmont graduate, who grew up in Colwood, is an internationally commissioned artist who is in the midst of a partnership with renowned author Margaret Atwood, creating a 200-page graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
“I think comics are such a great medium for reaching people because you don’t need a lot of money or other people to make them. You can make them on your own for free and get your story out to people totally unfiltered,” said Nault, who will offer a slightly different take on traditional comic book adaptations. “Historically, they have been focused on action comics for guys, mostly super heroes with few other perspectives … but I would like to see more voices coming into comics.”
Her two-day workshop is one of the shorter courses at MISSA, a situation she finds somewhat fortuitous.
After seeing the lineup of workshop instructors, Nault said she’s just as interested in taking classes as she is teaching her own.
The two-week retreat, which runs to July 3, features other topnotch teachers and courses, ranging from studio residencies with interdisciplinary artist Suzanne Northcott, to drawing with Alain Costaz and mould-making with Victoria sculptor Samantha Dickie.
“MISSA is many things,” Moyer said. “First and foremost it represents a remarkable place for learning about the arts, whether you are just discovering your artful self, an artist mid-career, a teacher who teaches arts or someone who works professionally. If you are looking to be inspired or re-inspired by art in a beautiful sense of space, without the trappings of modern society, this is the place.”
For more information on classes and instructors visit missa.ca.