An interview with Carol Fergusson, GAC Executive Director

Carol Fergusson, GAC Executive Director

Gabriola Arts Council is at the core of our vibrant artist community on Gabriola Island. The last two years have been lackluster for events and gatherings due to the pandemic, and there is so much creativity and imagination eagerly awaiting to be released!

I spoke to Carol Fergusson, Executive Director of GAC, to gain insight into the ongoing projects and ambitions of the organization. Carol became ED in May of 2020 and has yet to be in the role outside of the pandemic. GAC’s focus during this time was to be the community cheerleader and a positive distraction, but now that in-person programming and events are returning, Carol is beyond excited to showcase the ideas that have been awaiting their debut. GAC’s priority is to keep the community safe and healthy, but also recognizes the importance of coming together for laughter, sharing, and celebration. And with that, below is what we can expect in the near future:

 Previous programs have evolved and are to be re-released:
  • Healing Power of the Arts: This program was graciously brought into being through the Kitty Heller Foundation. The purpose is to use creativity and self-expression to discover and analyze a personal situation and assist in the healing process. GAC has received funding to enable this program to grow to an even higher potential. 
  • Art Friends: This is a group of adults with diverse abilities that work with facilitator Amanda Ings. This program has been in place for a number of years but has recently evolved to support the participants in skill-building, emotional expression, and connection through art. It is a very rewarding project as the participant’s excitement is contagious, especially when they complete a project and create something beautiful with their own hands. 
  • Intentional Aging: A program to honour, understand, and respect the aging process and to move into the later years of life with grace using Narrative and Drama therapy. Discussions include death, creating a legacy, and harmonizing with your place as an elder in the community.
And, new programs will be offered:
  • Snuneymuxw First Nation & Gabriola Island: Art & Culture Break Down Barriers: This Fall, GAC will begin a program that is funded through a grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage! The $195k grant will be dedicated to the Arts & Culture of SFN in an effort to undermine systemic racism and develop a deeper understanding of the Snuneymuxw people. Carol and the Directors of the Arts Council are excited to work with several community partners and engage the community while building long-lasting relationships.
  • Mental Health Program: This is Carol’s most anticipated release as it is a passion project for her. Mental health has been a challenge for Carol in her own personal life and therefore, she understands the importance of bringing light to and normalizing mental health. It is a free program centered around mental health, in particular anxiety, focussing on developing a life-long practice to manage the condition. The program will evolve over time to accommodate the vast topics encompassing mental wellbeing and health, but it will begin with a focus on anxiety and art therapy. What an incredible resource to bring to our community! 
  • GAC’s Digital Media Program: This program began last summer with a Videography Camp for youth, but is now expanding into broader workshops for all ages and levels and at a low cost. Jules Molloy, the new (and first!) GAC Media Creative Director is excited to explore new possibilities. GAC will be hosting a Video Equipment Program leading with a complimentary introductory course that, once taken, will allow you to access the equipment for your personal creative projects. There is so much to explore with this professional equipment! This is your chance to explore and find your area of expertise whether that is editing, videography, or producing.
Festivals and events: 

With the very successful completion of the Gabriola Live, GAC is turning its attention to the 2 upcoming summer events: 

  • Cultivate Festival: Cultivate is a yearly summer celebration of Theatre, Arts, and Music at the Gabriola Commons, and it is just around the corner! Last year’s event was a more intimate gathering to follow the pandemic guidelines and procedures, but this year it will be a complete event with the excitement and connection we are all anticipating. The event is taking place from June 30th to July 3rd. 
  • GLOW Lantern Festival: GLOW is a free one-day event filled with high spirits, dancing, workshops, and of course, a lantern parade! Material to create your lantern is provided at workshops preceding the festival. Look out for more details in the near future as GLOW is held in late August.
And what’s next after all that?

GAC’s dream is to bring GAC TV to life! This would be a spirited and witty docudrama series of local content. Imagine observing the life of artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and more behind the scenes at local events, businesses, and initiatives. The production crew would consist of locals who, in the process, could develop technical skills for themselves to advance their careers. Eventually maybe even leading up to a Netflix series!

Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre

GAC has long been a progressive non-profit organization, and now with Carol’s direction, you can expect leaps and bounds in the vision. In fact, there are already more programs and initiatives than ever before! Carol is constantly seeking collaboration opportunities in our community. Recently, she was the lead on a very exciting funding opportunity through the Heritage Canada Commemorative Grant, which combines GAC, Gabriola Museum, Agi Co-Op, and Gabriola Chamber of Commerce into a year-long celebration of community. The outcomes have yet to be announced, but if granted, will provide immense opportunity for our local economy. Keep your fingers crossed! 

Thank you Carol for taking the time to discuss the ample potential and programs GAC has to offer. I think it is fair to say on behalf of the community, we are excited to mingle and create once again!


For more information on programs and events visit: