Artist Barbara Adams is Oak Bay's new Arts Laureate. Adams has been an art teacher and also paints and makes ceramics and jewelry.

Former teacher inaugural arts laureate

Barbara Adams chosen because of her devotion to art and her innovative ways of promoting art in the community.

Former Monterey school art teacher Barbara Adams has been named Oak Bay’s first arts laureate.

Adams, who taught at Monterey school for 10 years and, along with Kerry Liggins started Artistshow, the annual artist-in-residence program hosted in Victoria-area hotels every summer, will be Oak Bay’s arts and culture ambassador.

“It’s a historic moment,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, who was given council approval to handpick Adams. “This is the first time Oak Bay will have an arts laureate and it’s the first one in the (Capital Regional District).”

Jensen said he picked Adams because of her devotion to art and her innovative ways of promoting art in the community. Adams built Monterey’s art room and started an artist-in-the-school program. That program became self-funded and a money maker for the art department after its first year, thanks to the annual art auction and evening of entertainment which followed each artist-in-residence’s tenure. When she retired, she left the art department with $25,000 in the bank.

“I am looking forward to great things from Ms. Adams,” Jensen added. “Pardon the pun, but she will be working with a fresh canvas.”

Adams wants to make Oak Bay an art destination, a place where tourists and locals can enjoy public art, which doesn’t exist right now.

“Oak Bay has zero public art except for one somewhere at the rec centre somewhere,” Adams said. “My vision is to enhance the profile of art in Oak Bay. Make it important for visitors, artists in Oak Bay and the people in Oak Bay to enjoy.”

Adams’ background is in visual art but she also envisions musicians performing and artists creating in a park where people can relax and enjoy the ambiance.

“Oak Bay has this tweed curtain, which is not totally bad,” Adams said. “Tweed as we know it as a fabric is warm and I want to make the curtain more hospitable, more esthetically pleasing.”

Adams worked with children for 37 years. Originally from Alberta, she moved to Victoria to attend school at UVic where she did a double major in political science and sociology –something she never intended to do when she arrived.

“I stood in line for fine arts, as I wanted to get into fashion design,” Adams said. “I got to the window and they asked me ‘where is your portfolio?’ and I was like, ‘what portfolio?’ I then got into the next line. I knew some people who were interested in political science (so I enrolled in that).”

A masters degree in education at UBC followed and she ran an art program in Vancouver’s Eastside for five years before moving back to Victoria.

Adams is also a silversmith, making jewelry, which she sells at the Avenue Gallery. She started silversmithing 10 years ago as a hobby.

“I couldn’t find any jewelry that I liked,” Adams said with a laugh. “I do original and non-traditional pieces of jewelry.”

According to the District of Oak Bay’s arts laureate terms of reference, the arts laureate position expires December 31 of the year in which there is a general local election. Adams’ tenure will be an abbreviated one as there will be a municipal election in November 2014.

Adams will have a $7,500 budget, which is provided equally by the municipality, Oak Bay Tourism and Oak Bay Business Improvement Association.

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