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A Conversation with Dennis Brown

Dennis Brown moved to Ladysmith in 2001, where a small group of women were already making an effort to get the arts off the ground. At this point in time, the main goal of the group involved differentiating themselves from the Cowichan Valley Arts Council. Dennis, along with all of the other early members strongly believed that Ladysmith needed its own arts council. With help from the town in the form of a grant, the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District was successfully registered under the Societies Act on June 26th, 2003. This grant from the town was the first of many that would be awarded to the council in the future.

Dennis recalls that one of the first big projects the council took on involved the preservation of 2 acres of land in the Holland Creek area. At the time, the relatively small plot of land was set to undergo development. In their efforts to save the land, the council held a number of art auctions and fundraisers. The scheduled development was delayed, however it has since been subject to a number of environmental and industrial changes. It was during this time that the determination and force of the council was first showcased and put to the test.

Despite the early successes of the council, Dennis does make a pointed effort to inform me that consensus did not come easily to the small group of members, and efforts to enforce changes often resulted in petty arguments. These petty arguments, as insignificant as they may have seemed at the time, eventually resulted in a near-complete collapse of the new organization only a few years after its creation. Dennis remembers a large amount of tension being present in the group during this disheartening period of time.

All was not lost however, as this collapse eventually led to the acknowledgement that something had to change, and this change had to come sooner rather than later. More specifically, the type of change needed involved the introduction of certain leadership roles. Armando de Santos, a good friend of Dennis, stepped into the role of President with ease and no objection from other members. Dennis himself also acquired the role of Vice President at the same time.

The council began meeting at a variety of locations, including the living rooms of members' houses and the staff lunch room at the Ladysmith Hospital. Armando recognized that this constant change in meeting location wasn’t necessarily sustainable in the long run. This acknowledgment was a catalyst in the hunt for a new, more permanent physical location for the council. In a move that would end up paying off big time, Armando campaigned for the council’s use of the top floor of Ladysmith’s historic machine shop, which was built back in 1936 for the purpose of storing large logging trucks. You can read more about the detailed history of the shop here. Post 1986, the machine shop ceased operations and remained vacant of any tenants for a number of years. Eventually, the shop became home to a number of small local businesses, including what became known as the Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery.

Today, Dennis spends most of his time working out of his studio at the decommissioned St. Joseph's School in Chemainus. The majority of his artwork is done in oils, and can be viewed at


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