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Archipelago – Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea: Exhibition Opens at SJIMA on September 22

The San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA) presents, Archipelago: Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea bringing together artists who are separated by an international border but share a common practice of making work that is informed and influenced by the all-encompassing Salish Sea.

photo: Mahon Hall exhibition, Spring 2023, Salt Spring Island, BC. photo credit: David Borrowman

This collaborative exhibition with SJIMA, Salt Spring Arts, and ArtSpring showcases collections by artists of the Southern Gulf Islands (San Juan Islands artists were featured in Canada’s Salt Spring Arts’ Spring Show this past April/May). Running September 22 through December 4, 2023, in the second installment of a two-part exhibition.

The six exhibiting artists from the Southern Gulf Islands are Temoseng Chazz Elliott, Anna Gustafson, Jane Kidd, John Macdonald, Sam Montalbetti, and Joanna Rogers. Curated by Canadians Richard Steel and Patrick McCallum and American Peter Lane of SJIMA, the six Southern Gulf Island artists and six San Juan Islands artists were selected for their thoughtful and boundary-pushing work in four mediums – painting, printmaking, sculpture/installation, glasswork, photography, and tapestry/textiles.

The show is framed as “twelve artists, six mediums, three exhibitions, two countries, one sea,” the descriptor orients visitors to the structure and theme of the collaboration.

The natural geography of the Salish Sea has always shaped the lives and culture of its inhabitants. Now, bisected by an international border and reshaped by the evolution of two countries and modern transport systems, island communities are still bound together by their shared geography.

From melancholy weather affecting their palettes to the desire for self-imposed isolation; from creating their work in old-growth forests and on mountaintops to immersing themselves directly into the sea; from the Salish Sea being a location versus a state of mind – the artists share that they have a sensibility, a spirit, and a profound sense of place. Despite the forces holding them apart, the artists of the Salish Sea seem bound together more by commonalities than distinguished by differences.

This exhibition marks the first time a cross-border exhibition of this size and caliber has been launched in the region and a first for these three arts organizations to work together towards a unified show – Salt Spring Arts and ArtSpring in BC and the San Juan Museum of Art in Washington.

“The impetus behind Archipelago was the desire to encourage a collaboration among the communities of the San Juan Islands and the Southern Gulf Islands - a region intertwined by history, in a space defined by a common geographical location, but divided by an international border,” - Barbara Cox, Exhibition Committee Member and Advisor to the San Juan Islands Museum of Art.

For Yael Wand, Executive Director of Salt Spring Arts, connecting with the San Juan Islands was a natural fit. “We inhabit separate islands in one archipelago; a stone's throw away and yet we rarely connect,” she says.

“I'm curious how this creative dialogue will unfold – is there a common island language? Are there surprising contrasts? It’s a fascinating artistic conversation that lets us explore and better understand our neighbors across the sea and those down the street.” - Yael Wand, Executive Director of Salt Spring Arts

12 Artists. 6 Mediums. 3 Exhibitions. 2 Countries. 1 Sea.

Exhibition Dates: Friday, September 22, 2023 - Monday, December 4, 2023 The museum's hours of operation beginning September 5 are Friday-Monday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Mondays are the Pay What You Like Days.

Location: 540 Spring Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

Exhibition Sponsors:

The Honeywell Charitable Fund, Kim Miller, Dr. Timothy Kopet & Judith Okulitch, Anonymous, The Washington State Arts Commission, The Town of Friday Harbor, NEA Printonyx, Browne’s Home Center, Harbor Rental



Opening Reception: Archipelago –Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea

Thursday, September 21,

5:30 - 7:30 PM

Location: SJIMA

Dive into an evening where art meets the essence of the Salish Sea. Get an exclusive, members-only first look at the Archipelago: Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea exhibition before its public debut. Revel in the artistic brilliance of six acclaimed artists from the Southern Gulf Islands and celebrate a cultural tapestry that transcends borders. This is not just an exhibition – it's a journey through the vibrant spirit of the Salish Sea region. Come, be a part of this momentous occasion and embrace the unique artistic narratives that define our shared geographies.


Artist Talks: Archipelago –Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea

Saturday, September 23,

10:00 - 11:30 AM, 1:00 - 2:30 PM

Location: San Juan Island Grange

Venture into the minds of renowned artists from the Southern Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands with two illuminating artist talk sessions. Be captivated as they unravel their inspirations, artistic journeys, and deep ties to the enchanting Salish Sea. It's not just about the art – it's about the stories, the landscapes, and the vibrant pulse of the islands that shape each creation. Join us at the San Juan Island Grange for a day of artful conversations, bridging the sea and stories.

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