Peace Gallery North rings in the new year with new curator

A familiar face is returning home to manage Peace Gallery North.

Catherine Ruddell will take the helm from Lisa MacLean, whose last day as manager will be Jan. 11.

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“If I could take the gallery and all the wonderful people in Fort St. John’s cultural community with me when I leave, I would very much love to do that,”said MacLean, who started last June and plans to move back to Vancouver with her partner, who is retiring, after a vacation in Mexico.

“The people have been amazing. I’ve loved being here, loved the gallery and the cultural centre, but I’m really happy to leave it in Catherine’s capable hands.”

Ruddell returned home in December after a year in Prince George, where her partner was completing master’s studies.

During that time, Ruddell said she was able to focus on her art practice and personal brand while working at the city’s Two Rivers art gallery.

“I’m happy to be back,” said Ruddell. “Moving away gives you a bit of perspective and I think we take for granted our small town connections.”

Catherine Ruddell at the opening of the Flora & Fauna exhibit at Peace Gallery North on Oct. 6, 2017. - Matt Preprost

Expect Ruddell to focus on those connections as she adjusts to her new job in the heart of the city—kitty corner from the Whole Wheat and Honey Cafe that she managed for years.

Driving more foot traffic into downtown shops, and linking the gallery with tourism spots like the museum and visitor centre will be among her priorities to connect visitors and viewers with local artists. 

“I really do believe a community is built around personal connections,” Ruddell said. “We understand each other better when we know more of each other’s stories, and that’s how people tend to interpret art.”

Ruddell has fond memories of visiting the gallery and exhibiting in student shows when she was young. 

"It's been great to see the different personalities that have come through the gallery," she said. 

"I really believe no matter how long someone is here, they're able to see things with fresh eyes and leave a new mark."

The gallery's next exhibit will be My Neighbourhood, a series of acrylic paintings of Fort St John and the Peace Region by local artist Joe Johnston. The show opens Friday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

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