Art lovers enjoy the closing night gala for the 2017 Salt Spring National Art Prize, at Mahon Hall in Ganges. The juried selections for the second edition of this nationwide competition are on exhibit now through Oct. 21. Courtesy Salt Spring Arts Council

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Tess takes an autumn art adventure

Salt Spring National Art Prize attracts top-notch artists from across the country

By Tess van Straaten

Monday Magazine columnist

It’s a crisp, early autumn morning and I’m waiting to board the ferry to Salt Spring Island for its famous Saturday market. Rain or shine, the popular market runs until the end of October, and in addition to all organic produce, farmstead cheese and delicious food offerings, it’s a Mecca for hand-crafted artisan goods from Canada’s ‘Island of the Arts.’

Monday columnist Tess van Straaten

“The artisan community is very important and one of the defining factors of the culture of the island,” says Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce executive director Jessica Harkema. “What always surprises people is the multitude and variety of talented people here.”

One of those people is artist Ron Crawford, who’s been painting for 45 years. Four years ago, Crawford launched the Salt Spring National Art Prize, which is held every two years and has grown to become one of the largest visual arts competitions in the country.

“It’s really fun to have seen it grow,” he says. “I thought it would take some time, but it’s just exploded across the country and we’ve just had a huge response this year with artists from every province and territory submitting.”

Close to 1,200 Canadian artists entered and 52 were chosen to display their work at the 2019 exhibition, put on by the Salt Spring Arts Council and running now through Oct. 21.

“As an artist myself, I think it’s really important for us to see the best of Canadian art and give artists an opportunity to show their work and compete at such a high level,” Crawford says. “We’re out here on the West Coast and we don’t get to see this kind of art very often. It’s national art. It really reflects the diversity of Canadian culture.”

Five of the artists selected by a national jury are from Salt Spring, with another five from Vancouver Island, which Crawford says shows the calibre of work being done here.

“In the jury process for SSNAP, they don’t know the artists’ names, so to have so many from here, and three from Duncan alone, is quite remarkable.”

Close to 900 people attended the 2017 exhibit and 1,500 are expected this time. But it’s not the only reason to make the trip to Salt Spring this fall. Sip & Savour Salt Spring is back for its eighth year on Oct. 19.

“It’s a great event, because it showcases all that Salt Spring and the region has to offer – live music, farm fresh produce, delicious eats, creative and unique drinks and a whole lot of fun,” Harkema says.

New vendors this year include local caterer Salty Hospitality, Salt Spring Pie Co., Switchboard Café and Four Winds Brewery. And whether you go for a day trip or weekend getaway, don’t forget to check out some artists’ studios for an art-filled autumn.

Find more information on these events at and

Also by this author:

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Chilling in Cook Street Village

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Brentwood Bay bliss awaits

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Marine magic at play in James Bay

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B.C. wines pair nicely with locally sourced cuisine during the annual Sip & Savour event, happening Oct. 19 on Salt Spring Island. Courtesy Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce

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