Apples influence ‘Art for Change’

Lake Country artist Julie Elliott makes a statement with her ArtWalk installation.

Julie Elliot’s installation

Julie Elliot’s installation

One might say, the orchard is the apple of Julie Elliot’s artistic eye, at least the Canadian orchard.

While she is also a veteran grower, the Lake Country-based artist branches out into a new area of the Okanagan art scene this season as her work becomes the poster front for this year’s Lake Country ArtWalk advertisements.

The installation was created for the 2011 growing season and is being used as an example of the “Art for Change” theme of this year’s event as it takes a bite out of the free trade debate and showcases the plight of local farmers.

Illustrating how American apples flood the Canadian market, making it difficult for orchardists to survive, Elliot hopes the piece gives all those who stop by her print installation a taste of the disparity between American and Canadian growers.

“The market is just deluged with American apples,” she said. “It was made for the 2011 growing season and at that time I think there were 109 million boxes of apples in Washington to three million grown in B.C.”

The original piece thus had 109 prints of apples representing 109 million boxes of apples; in the middle of all those boxes sat three real apples, impaled on spikes, depicting the Canadian portion of the fruit business.

Looking at pictures of the installation, it’s easy to see the imbalance; and the point could equally be made for cherries.

This year, cherry orchards topped the headlines with stories of fruit crops left to rot on the tree because cheap fruit from the States eliminated Canadian growers’ profit margins.

Elliot knows the farmers’ plight can seem baffling. She’s heard the questions and admits she didn’t fully appreciate the problem herself until she finished the work.

“I knew it intellectually, but until I made that visual connection, I didn’t really have the full (scope) of the issue,” she said.

Her point in making this piece is to demonstrate how important it is to buy B.C. Every year, she and her husband stop in at grocery stores throughout the province to see if there are Canadian apples for purchase, often with dismal results.

“I think it’s improving,” she said. “For years, you wouldn’t be able to buy anything other than American, but today you can usually find some (Canadian).”

When she installs Buy B.C., as the piece is called, it will have evolved. There are now four million boxes of Canadian apples grown and sent to market to 116 million American; hence there will be 116 apple prints and four real apples.

This is the 18th year of Lake Country’s ArtWalk and the event is as essential to the Okanagan art scene as apple pie is to the American way of life.

With painters and photographers, sculptors, fibre artists and performers, ArtWalk  fills the Lake Country Community Complex on Bottomwood Lake Road with more than 300 artists and 3,000 original works. Typically, attendance tops 7,000 and the price of admission is a toonie.

The event runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

–– Jennifer Smith is the arts and culture reporter with the Kelowna Capital News.