“Even when I gave up on art, I didn’t really give up”: Magdalena Saito, Vanderhoof artist

This wall has illustrations from Magdalena’s new project. A lot of her work that she normally does is up on the walls at the Visitor’s Centre. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Magdalena Saito, at her home in Vanderhoof, B.C. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

This week, the Express reached out to Magdalena Saito to be our featured artist of the week. Saito is an active member of the arts community in Vanderhoof and has been instrumental in setting up the Anonymous Art Show in the District.

“Art has always been part of my life as far back as I can recall, even before then, I recall a story when I was Grade 1 and would end every sentence with a drawing instead of a period.”

“It was enjoyable to create, and I loved everything about art until High School when we get a new teacher who made the subject miserable, and would make you feel bad for simply not knowing how to create art professionally,” Saito recalls.

But she never gave up.

During University, doodling and drawing helped her focus on information being delivered, and it was easier for her to listen and not get distracted, if she was doodling.

“So even when I gave up on art, I didn’t really give up. But it was nearly 20 years before I picked up the paintbrush and tried to create art once again,” Saito said.

She started of with the Art Nights at the Integris Community Centre, who gave her a chance to have a place to encounter and engage with other artists and art forms.

“Originally it was having a place to work on a statute restoration, then after a few restorations, I wanted to just paint and explore.”

“Then before you know it I had enough art pieces for a show that very first year! It was such a rush,” she said.

After that, Saito started putting up classes for Paint Nights and Kids classes, which she calls ‘phenomenal’ and ‘fun’.

In terms of the forms of art she practices, Saito says there are many things she wants to try out, but doen’t have the time to do it all. But painting has been her medium of choice.

“I really enjoy experimenting and learning new things.”

Currently, Saito is challenging herself to learn how to paint portraits, by painting a hundred of them. The artist is hoping to have an exhibition of all the portraits by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Anonymous Art Show has been a passion project for Saito. It’s an annual event put up by the Nechako Community Arts Council. It’s a gallery show and includes art without restrictions in terms of medium, age, skill level. Artists from across the globe are welcome to put up their work at the Anonymous Art Show in Vanderhoof.

“I have my eye on a few artists I love, but the great part about the show is that it is anonymous, meaning you can fall in love with a piece and not know until you’ve purchased it whether it was done by a 2-year-old or a professional artist.”

“Last year we’ve had pieces go as far as overseas, and this year we hope to have the online auction bring awareness to Vanderhoof and its artists and have their pieces travel throughout the world. This show gives people the opportunity to express themselves without fear of judgment. It gives people a chance to just try, and be a part of something great and to join the community in new and exciting ways,” she said.

As an artist who lives in the District, she said she would like to see an Arts Centre. “The centre could be one big structure that meets the needs of the community and all of its people from storytelling, a cultural centre, art galleries, and space for artists to work, people to meet, places to dance, and to put up performances from year-to-year with ample storage for back-drops and costumes.”

Saito said it would be ‘wonderful’ to have a galley to enable emerging artists to grow, to inspire youth and to provide mental health benefits that arts can provide.

“I think Vanderhoof and surrounding areas are filled with amazing communities and incredible artists in many fields. It’s hard to discover and nurture that talent when it’s hiding in a basement all on its own because there is nowhere else to go. Vanderhoof was meant to be an artists retreat was it not? Art runs deep in this community, just look at all the entries at the Fall Fair, so many brilliant ideas and creations,” she added.

Currently, Saito does painting – acrylic, oil, watercolour; pastel-digital artwork, graphic design, ink-work, beading, polymer clay, sculpting, statue restoration, paper-crafts, cartoons and animations.

The Express is featuring a regional artist weekly. Have suggestions? Email the newsroom with names to newsroom@ominecaexpress.com.

READ MORE: Honouring relationships, culture and tradition through art: Gladys Michell

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express


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