Francine Klysen with her art at the Gage Gallery exhibition Challenge Crisis with Creativity. Klysen has found time to work on her art as she has been unable to visit her husband, who has been in care at the Kiwanis Pavilion for five years. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Oak Bay pandemic project gets 300 submissions

Gage Gallery exhibit shows how people cope during crisis

When she met her husband 37 years ago, he told Francine Klysen she should take time to work on her art.

This summer, in what has been the least ideal circumstances, Klysen can finally call herself a “painter,” she said.

Klysen hasn’t seen her husband for 13 weeks. He suffers from advanced dementia and has been living in lockdown at the Kiwanis Pavilion for five years. Until COVID-19 showed up, Klysen would visit for hours a day. Between that and work, she had no time for her art. Since being locked out, Klysen found herself with time to burn and, knowing how he supported her, she finally prioritized her art. She sold five pieces to the same buyer just last week, and has now sold eight in total. All proceeds go back to the Kiwanis Pavilion, where staff host daily video chats for her and her husband and update family members with daily newsletters.

READ MORE: Gallery in Oak Bay to showcase community art project created during COVID-19 crisis

“He really doesn’t know who I am anymore or that COVID is going on, but he’s happy in his own little world,” Klysen said. “As hard as it is, and it is hard, I’d rather see him virtually, than risk an outbreak in the pavilion.”

Klysen made multiple submissions to the Challenge Crisis with Creativity exhibit on display in the reopened Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue this week. There was no opening night ceremony, just 47 pieces selected from over 300 submissions by 120 artists in the gallery until Saturday.

The Challenge Crisis with Creativity exhibit is categorized by 10 of the 11 weekly themes that it ran with and includes physical submissions from artists of all ages. While only running briefly as a physical exhibit from June 23 to 27, it is fully available as a virtual exhibit at gagegallery.ca/challenge-crisis-with-creativity. There is also a video slideshow of all submitted works in the back room of the gallery (limited capacity).

“This gives the community the opportunity to see, digest and marvel at how we were all coping during these unprecedented times,” said Gabriela Hirt, a member of the artist cooperative that runs Gage Gallery.

READ ALSO: Galleries innovate in a time of crisis

As for Klysen, she will continue producing about one painting a week, for the foreseeable future.

“I’m happy. Kiwanis is happy. I just mailed them a cheque,” she said.

The Gage Gallery received a grant for $1,300 from the District of Oak Bay for the Challenge Crisis with Creativity exhibition. The gallery’s next show is a two-part exhibition, Out of the Silence, June 30 to July 11, and July 14 to 25.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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