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Year in Review: 2021 tested the strength, resiliency and unity of Tri-City arts

The arts community stayed vital to the region amid the unique times of the COVID-19 pandemic across all fields like theatre, publishing and crafts.

With the provincial health orders waxing and waning this year, it was a tough go for performers and arts venues — with shows booked, only to be cancelled a few weeks later.

Still, the continued COVID-19 pandemic proved to be fruitful for many in the arts field and, in some cases, the work reflected the mental health challenges during the lockdowns.

Here are some of the highlights that Tri-City creators produced this year:

• Coquitlam’s Susan Greig opened Braid Street Studios in Port Coquitlam in February after the New Westminster building that the popular arts hub was in was razed for housing.

• Steve Sainas, a Coquitlam resident and Terry Fox Secondary’s Rock School teacher, joined forces with Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon in March to table a music petition to call for a living wage for professional musicians.

• Port Coquitlam’s Margaret Franz released her debut book in March about her sister Mary Steinhauser, a psychiatric nurse who was killed in 1975 during a hostage-taking at the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster.

• Asalah Youssef, 18, of Port Coquitlam, offered nine images and stories about the pandemic in an outdoor photo exhibit at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam that captured the pandemic isolation around the world.

• Dolores Altin and Elvira Monteforte created tree costumes with the public out of recyclable materials to dress up trees at Port Coquitlam’s Lions Park. Their city-funded project paid tribute to Suzanne Simard’s studies on tree connectivity.

• The TD Community Plaza was busy on Saturday nights in the summer as Alberto Gonzalez and Teresa Szfler of the Hot Salsa Dance Zone held outdoor salsa lessons and dance parties, drawing hundreds of revellers. 

• Thousands of actors and crew members landed in Port Moody this summer to film a massive new TV adaptation of James Clavell’s Shogun, at the Flavelle sawmill site. Part of the property was turned into a 17th century Japanese village.

• The BC Highland Games made use of the pandemic window between stages 3 and 4 to host its annual ScotFest BC at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park in early September. Vaccination stations were set up at the entrance.

• For the second year in a row, Photomotion — a juried digital slide show of photography from members of Port Moody’s Pacific Digital Photography Club — was held virtually instead of at the Inlet Theatre in November. “We have had over 900 views from 20 different countries, and have raised over $1,400 in donations,” co-organizer Jim Hayes told the Tri-City News.

• The Blackberry Artists Society, a non-profit collective that runs the Blackberry Gift Shop and is under the leadership of Del Holbrook, marked its 25th Christmas Marketplace at PoMoArts. “Our objective is to keep increasing our sales,” he said, “and we’re doing that by five to six per cent a year. That’s because we keep upping the bar and being unique to Port Moody.”