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

The new cases reported over the week of May 2 to 8. (BC CDC)
Weekly COVID-19 cases on the decline in the South Okanagan

Summerland saw its daily cases per capita resturn to normal levels after a spike

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Over 42,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine given to South Okanagan residents

That includes more than half of the residents in the Penticton local health area

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Police working to identify the two bodies found in Naramata

Expect big police presence in the area this week as the investigation continues

File photo of osprey. Black Press Media
VIDEO: Livestream of osprey birds and their babies in Kelowna

FortisBC sets up a nest with livestream camera in Kelowna for Ospreys

Susan Larsen, who still lives on her own, celebrates her 100th birthday on May 16, 2021. (Contributed)
99-year-old Vernon woman eagerly awaiting second COVID-19 vaccine

Susan Larsen celebrates her 100th birthday May 16

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Richard Green writes poetry under the nom de plume Rick the Poet Warrior. Homeless, Green sometimes spends his summers in Revelstoke but winters in Victoria, travelling to Ontario to visit his sister whenever he can. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke nomad pens poetry, offers insight into homelessness

Rick the Poet Warrior’s books can be found online as well as at the Revelstoke library

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
B.C. teacher suspended after calling students ’cutie’ and ‘sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Most Read