Why is Salt Spring Island a hub for artists of every description?

(reading time 1.5 minutes)

Growing up with artists for parents is a common enough beginning for most Salt Spring Island kids. Most of the families I knew growing up depended on art to earn their daily bread, but I often wondered why? Why so many artists in one place? What was the draw?

The first clue lies in the land and its original inhabitants.

Since ancient times this land has been home to the Coast Salish people, who held rich artistic traditions. Having abundant natural resources at their disposal year round, they enjoyed leisure time creating some of the world most ingenious and beautiful cultural art. This artistic tradition  would fascinate newcomers and inspire them to create further artistic traditions. It is as though the land held a rare nutrient to encourage the growth of artistic genius in its inhabitants.

The second clue lies in a phenomenon know as “critical mass”.

The new inhabitants of the island were a little slow to start their creative endeavors, as they were greatly in need of food and roofs over their heads. The settlers had a mind to acquire these necessities in a very different manner than the Coast Salish people. From the 1850’s to the 1920’s the settlers chiefly occupied themselves with clearing the land, producing agriculture, building infrastructure as well as basic services. Then in the 1930’s Salt Spring Island was transformed into a destination and resort town for tourists and retirees. By the 1960’s many artisans of every description began to move to the island. These artists were drawn to the relaxed, rural tourist town, and saw it as fertile grounds to create art and sustain a living. It is at this juncture that Salt Spring redefined itself as a world class art epicenter.

These are the secrets behind Salt Spring Island’s thriving artistic community. This land has a rich artistic heritage leading back into prehistoric times. Both the land the ancient inhabitants have inspired generations, fostering the creative community that is Salt Spring Island.   


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One Response

  1. Norene Procter
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    I love going to Steffich Fine Art Gallery – it’s my favourite gallery on SS. I have found myself sitting staring at Carol Haighs art of the sea unable to get out of the chair as she takes you RIGHT there to the sea and sky -Carol has surely captured the magic of the sea. There is a fabulous eclectic mix of fine art here and the art openings are a ton of fun. I love the staff at Steffich – always welcoming – even my small pups. Thank you Matt & staff for the joy you bring on my visits always to your wonderful island!

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