The Stinking Fish Studio Tour will live on through the lasting legacy the participating artists imparted on the regional arts scene.
Artist Bev Petow first got involved in the event under its original moniker, the East Sooke Metchosin Studio Tour, before it officially became known as the Stinking Fish Studio Tour in 2000.
It was one of the first tours that took people into the artists’ working environment, so it had a real educational component,” said Petow, a metal artist best known for her steel dresses.
Another benefit for the hundreds of people who took the tour each year was that because the studios were spread throughout East Sooke and Metchosin, it exposed many people to the natural beauty of the area, said Petow, who works in sales with Black Press.
The fact that it was a juried tour helped maintain the high calibre of artists who participated as well, Petow said.
The difficult decision to hit the pause button on the tour was made in 2018 following the annual Christmas show.
“We decide to take a couple of years to assess the situation,” Petow said. “A lot of the people who knew how to organize the tour were becoming fewer and older. And despite growth in the community, people weren’t coming out like they did when the tour peaked around 2007 to 2009.”
Petow said she would miss the interaction with the people who took the tour, especially watching their focus increase as they began to understand what was involved in the artists’ process.
“I met some really great people. You saw a lot of the same faces every year,” she said.
Petow believes the tremendous support from the community is what made the tour a success for so many years.
“As an artist, the process of doing the work is its own reward, but I’ll miss the interaction with the other artists as well. Doing the graphics and the brochures was always great fun because of the diversity in the group. While a lot of tours focus on one or two genres, we had fibre art, glass, wood, pottery, jewellery and mixed media.”
It helped to have internationally renowned potters Robin Hopper and Judi Dyelle on board as well. “They were instrumental in helping mentor the other artists on the business side of the tour,” Petow said.
The Stinking Fish Studio Tour artists last got together for a farewell dinner in 2019.
“It was bittersweet,” Petow recalled. “We had members sharing their experiences over a 20-year span.”
The group decided to donate about $4,000 that remained in savings to the West Shore Arts Council, the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts, and the Metchosin Art Pod.
Stephen Green, director of the West Shore Arts Council, expressed gratitude for the $1,243 donation in a March 31 letter and thanked the many talented artists in the Stinking Fish Studio Tour for the high quality of arts and crafts they shared.
“We thank you sincerely for enriching our communities for so many years,” Green said. The diversity of artists and their work made the tours a source of inspiration to artists young and old, he wrote.
“As we reflect on the success and positive impact the Stinking Fish Studio Tour has had on aspiring young artists over the years, we would like to use this gift to fund students scholarships to be awarded at the end of this school year.”