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Daily Dose — Oxygen Art Centre Celebrates 20 years

Founded as the Nelson Fine Art Centre Society in 2002, the Oxygen Art Centre is having a 20th birthday bash Saturday at the downtown Nelson location. — Submitted photos

Oxygen Art Centre has been a crucial player in the region’s cultural landscape and actively nurtures contemporary professional art practices while engaging the broader community through multi-disciplinary programming.

Oxygen puts on experimental, accessible and inclusive programming through education, residencies, exhibitions and events.

Oxygen was founded as the Nelson Fine Art Centre Society in 2002 by former writing and visual art faculty at the Kootenay School of the Arts. In 2005, the Society opened the Oxygen Art Centre in downtown Nelson.

The Oxygen Art Centre is a 900 square feet. renovated warehouse studio and serves as a classroom, exhibition space and residency centre.

Community members can get a sense of the history of Oxygen at the anniversary event by checking out a display of archive photos.

“Inside the gallery, we’ll have a slideshow with historical images of Oxygen events and performances,” says Wallace.

In true Oxygen fashion, the event will involve artist-led celebrations; former Oxygen board member Bessie Wapp will perform, Slava Doval’s DanceFusion will do a hip hop demonstration with some of her students, and Coleman Webb will do live painting. There will be supplies set up for creating artist trading cards.

There will be art and entertainment, but Wallace says the event is all about people coming together.

“It’s not heavily scheduled. It’s more about people coming together with art performances happening in between,” she says.

Wallace has been impressed by the community’s support of the anniversary event. For example, Baldface sharing their parking area for the alley party is just one example.

“I’m blown away by the generosity of this community,” says Wallace.

Wallace’s favourite thing about Oxygen is its artist’s residency program.

“It’s been great to have exposure to artists outside of Nelson through the artists' residency program. They have artist talks and exhibitions, and we do school tours through the gallery while artists are working.”

She explains that people can have many levels of connection to Oxygen.

“Some connect through taking classes, exhibitions and artists’ talks. And there is a component of engaging the literary community through author reading series.”

Since moving onto Zoom during Covid, these series have engaged more broadly, says Wallace.

“We have people attending the author reading series from all over the place, and the artists were from all over. Some positives came out in terms of accessibility.”

Community members can enter to win a door prize by renewing or becoming an Oxygen member, says Wallace.

“We encourage people to support Oxygen through membership. We make it very accessible, as a single membership is $5. We offer senior, underemployed and student memberships at $2 and a family membership for $10. It’s about showing support and getting our newsletter.”  

Oxygen gratefully acknowledges its sponsors, including the Civic Theatre, which is donating a private viewing at the Shoebox Theatre.

Other sponsors are Home Hardware, Kootenay Coop, Nelson Credit Union, Cowan’s, Craft Connection, the Law Firm Connolly, Trillo & Yates, Oso Negro, and Safeway as well as some private community sponsors.                                                                                                                  

“They have all been incredibly supportive,” says Wallace.