Vedrana Ascroft, artist and gallery owner, sits in her Aquamaris Art Gallery in Duncan. Don Denton photo

When the world needs more beauty

Artist Vedrana Ascroft curates her Aquamaris Art Gallery

  • Apr. 2, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Sandra Jones Photography by Don Denton

Perhaps it was simply the imaginative pursuits of a youngster or an indicator of what was yet to come, but Vedrana Ascroft’s first work of art was drawn with her mother’s greasy, crimson lipstick on a wall in her childhood home in Ogulin, Croatia.

“I was probably three years old and it was my first masterpiece,” laughs Vedrana, an award-winning artist and owner of Aquamaris Art Gallery in Duncan.

As the daughter of a teacher who was creative in her own right, Vedrana’s childhood was richly steeped in cultural and artistic pursuits.

“My mom was a math teacher, but she was always doing something creative, from making lace to designing costumes for theatre groups. And at school we learned a lot about almost every artistic medium,” she recalls.

That immersion in the arts had an impact on young Vedrana. “I was bitten. I knew that I could ‘zen out’ when I was creating something and anything that was concerning me at the time would disappear.”

But although her love of art grew, it met its match when she went on a school vacation with her mom.

“I wanted to be the woman at the front of the tour bus with a microphone in her hand showing people the sights,” says Vedrana.

The travel bug took hold and Vedrana pursued a degree in hotel management in Opatija, Croatia. Just two years into the program, war broke out, prompting accelerated work towards a diploma in economy of tourism, before the 20-year-old emigrated to Sudbury, Ontario, to live with family. There she furthered her studies and charted a new course that took her to Toronto and across Canada.

While she ultimately went on to enjoy a 27-year career in the tourism industry, mainly as a tour director “at the front of the bus,” Vedrana continued to paint.

“Art was something I could count on to help me regain my equilibrium. My focus on art would ebb and flow, but I was always yearning to paint and draw on the side.”

In 1997, Vedrana met her future husband, Gerry, moved to the west coast and was re-inspired to pick up her art again.

“We fell in love with Vancouver Island and knew that this was the place our family needed to be. Water is always something that has inspired me—shorelines, rivers, waterfalls—the way the light plays across it is mesmerizing. That’s why waterscapes often appear as a theme in my paintings.”

Her work as a tour director in the summer left her the winter months to pursue her art. Despite splitting her time between these two passions, Vedrana became an active status member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and her art began to garner international recognition. Her painting, Pacific Rhapsody, was published as one of the finalists in the International Artist Magazine and her work has found its way into homes in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan.

In 2019, Vedrana made a life-altering decision that was serendipitously prompted by getting her hair cut.

“I had always felt that at some point I would open an art gallery but how that came about was by having a vision. I went to get a haircut and there was a vacant space in the same building. It just hit me that this would make an amazing gallery. At first it didn’t occur to me that we should be the ones to create the gallery but I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

Several months later, after extensive renovations, Aquamaris Art Gallery opened its doors. Situated on the second floor of a century-old designated heritage building, the original wooden floors, brick walls and light-filled space form a warm and inviting backdrop for myriad art that lines the walls.

“I wanted to create a venue where art appreciators and artists would have a place to come and enjoy that immersive experience. We carry the work of 20 BC artists who we chose specifically because we’ve admired their work for years. Every piece we carry, whether it’s a painting, sculpture, textile or jewelry, is carefully curated.”

While the artists currently reside in the region, their origins are widely cosmopolitan, coming from places like Indonesia, South Korea, England, Germany, Serbia and the United States. Clients are equally international and often work closely with Vedrana to find just the right piece for their space.

“Particularly now, with the limitations of travel, our customers will send us photos of a space and ask us to recommend art to complement it,” says Vedrana. “I’ll keep my eyes open and then digitally style their home photo with art so they can see how it looks in the space. I recently did that for a woman who lives in Chemainus and it was exactly what she was looking for. We get people shopping online from as far away as the UK.”

But of course there’s no substitute for viewing the art in person.

“Our doors are open and with such an airy space, there’s room for people to move comfortably and safely in the gallery. The pandemic has been hard on the art and gallery world because it traditionally relies on well-attended art openings and live events to showcase and sell the work. However we are encouraged by a renewed focus on home and on supporting and shopping local.”

For Vedrana, the world of art has provided a creative outlet, a renewed sense of purpose and a new livelihood, but she believes that art is also integral to the wellbeing of people on so many levels.

“Exposure to art fosters creativity, tickles our imaginations and inspires innovation. And above all, it connects us to our humanity. I think now, more than ever, when the world needs more beauty, art plays a significant role. I’m honoured to play a part in bringing that beauty to more people.”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

ArtArts and EntertainmentCultureEntertainment

Just Posted

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Visitors to a pop-up temporary aquarium in Prince Rupert will have the chance to see marine ecology from July 21 to Aug. 15, like this viewer watching sea anemones at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert pop-up aquarium will bring sea level to eye level in July

A permanent peak to reef ecology centre is in the planning stages by North Coast Ecology Society

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read