The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, a historical 1889 mansion donated by Sarah Spencer in 1951, is strategically situated near Craigdarroch Castle and within walking distance of Government House or downtown Victoria.
The gallery showcases a permanent collection of 14,000 objets d’art including Canada’s best Japanese collection, a range of modern Canadian art, including that of Emily Carr, and regular travel exhibits.
A year after donating her mansion to art, Miss Spencer invited a group of women to her home, and a volunteer group, “The Women’s Society,” now called the “Gallery Associates,” held its first meeting with elections. Today, the volunteer organization includes both men and women.
Past President Joan Shimizu, First Vice-President Joan Huzar and Art Tours Committee Chair June Sohuus are three of the groups’ enthusiastic supporters.
Joan Shimizu grew up in Camrose, Alberta. She moved to Edmonton to get her RN at the University of Alberta and later to the United States, where she lived for two years while her husband did post-graduate work.
The lifelong volunteer and mother of four began volunteering with her children’s preschool and figure skating. Additionally, she says, “When the children were young, I needed adult conversation and cultural stimulation,” so she joined the docent program at the Edmonton Art Gallery. Soon, she began fundraising for the Gallery and served two terms as Member of the Board of Directors.
Joan’s other volunteer positions includes working for six years with the United Way of Greater Edmonton and volunteering as Area Board and Director on the Edmonton Opera Society Board.
Joan’s family appreciates the arts. “My husband and I have enjoyed attending opera in various cities around the world, as well as visiting major galleries in Canada, Europe and the US.”
Having moved to Victoria, Joan was invited to a meeting of the Gallery Associates. “I thoroughly enjoyed the guest speaker and meeting other members over coffee. I joined that day,” says Joan.
“I believe the arts, music and opera are the soul of a community,” says the five year Associate. “It just seemed natural that I would volunteer in this area when I moved to Victoria, and it turned out to be The Art Gallery.”
Joan Huzar came to Victoria from Ontario in 2003, bringing with her a long history of volunteering. She was introduced to the Gallery Associates when “a friend who I had known from Ontario suggested I might like this group and invited me to a meeting. I liked what I saw and joined,” says Joan.
Although her main contribution to the gallery has been with the fundraising house tour events, where she has been contributing for several years, she has also supported the Associates with her computer and organizational skills in working with the Art Attire Chair to develop application forms and other work.
Volunteer work has been Joan’s chosen career path. Her particular interest has been in consumer protection. Joan was a founding member of the Consumer Council of Canada, a new consumer organization started in Canada in 1994. There, she served as president and board member. In addition, she co-chaired an IODE committee that put a $1.5 million dollar addition on to the Goderich Town Library in Ontario in 2000 and volunteered as a secretary and committee member with the Canadian Standards Association.
The fundraising events help create a strong organization and an appreciation for the volunteers within the Art Gallery, says Joan, who hopes to help the Gallery financially, as well as raise an awareness and general appreciation of art in the community.
Joan’s other hobby is gardening. “I’ve died and gone to heaven living in Victoria,” she says.
June Sohuus says, “Galleries, museums and libraries are important because they reflect in their different ways who we are. Such institutions couldn’t survive without volunteer help.”
June has lived in London, England, Brisbane and Sydney, Australia and Copenhagen. She has volunteered for a variety of organizations. Two of the most memorable: running a summer music school for young string players aspiring to join orchestras; and serving as president of a community organization that acquired, renovated and opened a house for a community centre.
Born and raised in England, June worked in administrative positions in communications, mostly in universities, helping to set up projects and liaising with students. She has fundraised for a new university in Queensland, Australia. “Perhaps the most demanding and rewarding [volunteer experience] was as a junior member of a team setting up two new university colleges at the University of Toronto.”
Four years after joining the Gallery Associates and spending time on the road touring and meeting interesting people, June is now chairing the Art Tours Committee.
Recently, June led a tour to The Treasures of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. With art housed in nine buildings, “we’d had 10 days, and we’d only had a glimpse of it,” says June. “It was a trip of a lifetime.”
Previous tours have taken the Gallery Associates to New York, Montreal, Cuba, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and “the architecturally stunning newly-opened gallery in Edmonton.” The group routinely visits artists and galleries around Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
Dedicated to the arts, the Gallery Associates, a group of hard-working volunteers, support the gallery financially with their fundraising ventures, promote cultural interest in the community through gallery activities and provide members with educational and social programs.
Membership ($20 annual dues) to the gallery provides a unique opportunity to learn about the Gallery from behind the scenes and to develop a real connection with and appreciation of the Gallery staff and the arts in the community.
Fundraising events include:
* Annual House Tour
* Art Tours
* Bi-annual Lecture Series on Design
* Bi-annual fashion show Art Attire “celebrating wearable art”
* Government House coat check
JULY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE