COMOX VALLEY – In a first for Vancouver Island, a Comox Valley gallery featuring First Nations Northwest Coast Art and Jewellery is delivering their newest exhibition I’TUSTO—Rising Again: Calvin Hunt and Karver Everson in a physical and virtual format. Online visitors to the gallery now have the opportunity to explore the exhibition with a Virtual Reality headset for a 3-D immersive digital experience or take a 360º gallery tour that easily navigates throughout the gallery space. Both types of self-directed virtual tours are augmented by links to the gallery’s website and social media.

With existing and cost-effective technology by Shopify, Matterport and Oculus, as well as the inspiration and teamwork with Proper Measure North Island, Coast Imaging Arts, art curator Carol Sheehan and Video Producer Zac Whyte, the team at Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery has pivoted their focus to improve online visitor experience. The Gallery’s new online model provides thousands of people the opportunity to virtually enter the Gallery at the same time and engage in a safe, immersive, educational, and inspiring experience as if they were visiting the Gallery in person.

Although these technologies are frequently used in the gaming, technology and real-estate industries, this is the first time they have been used to deliver an exhibition in a gallery setting on Vancouver Island. The virtual tour offers direct access to videos of the artists speaking about their art and offering detailed descriptions of their exhibition pieces. During the virtual tour, visitors to the site also have the option to purchase art directly.

Spirits of the West Coast Gallery owner Walter Stolting is excited to be at the forefront of this technology that encourages visitors from around the world to immerse themselves in the rich cultural beauty of Northwest Coast First Nations Art without leaving the comfort of home.

“With so many talented artists and carvers on Vancouver Island and beyond, we are honoured to be able to share their contemporary art and stories with a global audience. The pandemic provided an opportunity for us to think creatively about how deliver our exhibition programming and enhance our online experience,” explained Walter Stolting. “We wanted to create a wonderful, inspiring and safe experience for all our visitors, and this is a great way to adapt to the new realities, embrace new opportunities. We invite everyone to visit and be inspired by British Columbia’s amazing First Nations Cultures. “We also hope to encourage other entrepreneurs and organizations to utilize these cost-effective technologies, to create better experiences for their visitors, customers and communities, so that they too can adapt and prosper in these challenging times.

“As we move forward with this new online model, we express our gratitude and respect to the Northwest Coast First Nations communities, as well as to our customers and network. Without their help and inspiration, the Gallery’s innovative online adaptations would not have been possible.”

Visit the website at www.spiritsofthewestcoast.com to access the virtual exhibition tour.