Nanoose Bay artist Kelly Corbett said she is excited to use her artwork to bring attention to the plight of Shelly Creek, the last salmon-bearing creek in Parksville.
She visited several different sections of the creek to take reference photos for her painting, and found most parts of it seemed to be in rough shape.
“The idyllic version of Shelly Creek is what I ended up painting,” Corbett said. “But in truth Shelly Creek does need a little bit of help along the way.”
The situation inspired her to create three large-scale paintings for ‘The Tale of One Urban Creek,’ the McMillan Arts Centre’s (MAC) summer exhibit, which showcases the work of many artists and the story of one of the last local waterways that bears salmon and trout populations and what the community can do to help.
The creek begins in a farmer’s field in Errington and flows into the Englishman River, just above the Orange Bridge.
One section of the creek is home to spawning salmon, but they cannot swim into the creek’s upper reaches because of a large culvert, Corbett said. Trout live in the creek’s upper reaches.
The creek will often go dry in the hot summer months, reminding Corbett of a similar situation she witnessed while living in the Okanagan with her partner Joe Enns, who is an artist and fisheries biologist.
While living in Penticton, she saw the difference a restoration project can make to a stream. The waterway’s cement bottom was removed and replaced with rocks and other places where fish could hide. Right away Corbett began to notice herons, salmon and ducks return.
A love of nature is the starting point for all of her art.
“I’m an avid outdoor adventurer, I backpack, I kayak, hike, snowshoe,” Corbett said.
She especially loves painting scenes of the Island’s West Coast — locations such as Florencia Bay in Ucluelet. Closer to home, Corbett finds inspiration at Rathtrevor Beach, Nile Creek and Thames Creek.
She enjoyed collaborating with Christopher Smith, whose glass fish are part of the installation. Smith’s glass creations appear to ‘swim’ in Corbett’s painting.
“When I was getting my reference images for the stream, I was very conscious of trying to get a lower angle and focusing more on the water aspect of my landscape,” Corbett said. “So it would feel like you’re in the creek a little more so that the sculptures of the fish would fit in well.”
She decided to make art her full-time job after she and her partner relocated to the Island from Penticton. Corbett said she learned a lot while working in an art gallery in that community and realized she could make a living as an artist. Before this Corbett was a wedding and portrait photographer for 14 years.
She is a resident artist at the MAC (133 McMillan St) and paints in a studio there on Tuesdays. Corbett also paints in a studio at The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH) on Fridays and Saturdays.