The year 1986 was one of significance for arts and culture in Sicamous.
It was the year the former Eagle Valley Museum opened its doors and the year Dorothy Aberbcrombie’s book, Sicamous, Mara to Three Valley: Gateway to the Okanagan, Land of Shimmering Sunset Waters was released.
It was also the year local arts groups pulled together to apply for and receive provincial grant money to help in the purchase of the Red Barn from Walter and Betty Derkaz to use as a community facility.
The Eagle Valley Arts Council led the successful bid for building – constructed in 1926 and named the Red Barn after the grant was approved in June 1986. The council was supported in the purchase by its various member arts groups including the Eagle Valley Brush and Palette Club. Joyce Balestra, who helped found the arts council, was president of the brush and palette club at the time.
In February 1986, Balestra presented Carol-Lyn Davidson with the club’s life membership honour in recognition of her work being displayed in Vancouver during Expo.
Thirty-one years later, Balestra received the same honour for her contributions to the club and community, including her help in the acquisition of the Red Barn.
“It’s a great privilege, but then it’s been a great privilege to help develop and see the development of the brush and palette club over all these years,” said Balestra while surrounded by club members, including fellow lifetime honour recipients Amy Boutwell, Betty Hill and Juanita Etson, in the Red Barn on Friday, Nov. 24.
Before her foray into the art world, Balestra was a trained physiotherapist in England. After working in several hospitals, she spent three years working in Africa. Balestra moved to Canada in 1957. She lived in Vernon and worked with the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society, then at a hospital in Enderby. Balestra moved to Swansea Point in 1977 and became actively involved in the development of local arts groups, the Swansea Point Communit Association and the preservation of Turtle Bay.
Reflecting on the club’s early years, Balestra said they used to meet in the community’s former firehall before it was condemned.
“All the fuses used to blow… So then we went to the bottom of the municipal office for a while,” explained Balestra. “And then, of course, Expo came up and the people who were running a bingo hall wanted to sell this building.”
Eagle Valley Brush and Palette Club president Terry Sinton refers to Balestra as someone who makes things happen.
“We just wanted to honour her for the contributions she made starting the arts council and starting the brush and palette club and really giving us a legacy in this town for the arts,” said Sinton. “Joyce a force to be reckoned with. In my opinion, it’s people like Joyce who made this happen because they don’t know how to do anything other than make things happen.”
At 91 years, Balestra is still painting, or “playing” as she calls it.
“I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and I’ll still come here – as long as I’m around. I’m not sure how long that’s going to be,” joked Balestra. “You’re a lot of fun, you’re all great and everybody has advanced so much over the years.”
The Eagle Valley Brush and Palette Club meets Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Red Barn, and Sinton welcomes everyone to stop by.
“We would also like people who are here know that the brush and palette club isn’t some kind of exclusive society where you have to have some kind of magical artistic talent,” said Sinton. “It’s a place to come and experiment and play and sort of learn what you can do and can’t do and what you want to do. It’s really open to anybody.”