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A&E column: Musicians earn gold; photos give voice to period poverty; Artisans Studio Tour; book sale

Two Cowichan Valley musicians have earned top marks and gold medals from the Royal Conservatory or Music.

The Conservatory recognizes excellence by awarding a gold medal for the highest exam marks in B.C. during the academic year. A medal is awarded for each level of each instrumental category, provided that mark is above 80 per cent. This year pianist Alessio Dagostini of Ladysmith (Level 4 piano) and cellist Oliver Conwright Ogawa of Shawnigan Lake (Level 1 strings) came out on top.

Dagostini, 15, began playing piano at the age of seven and his current teacher is Nancy Warkentin. He is in Grade 11 at Ladysmith Secondary School and plays the clarinet with the school concert band and piano with the jazz band, and as pianist he received an award for Best Solo Performance at the West Coast Jazz Festival in 2022. He composes and performs his own piano pieces, and collaborates and performs in a violin/trumpet and piano duo. Dagostini has obtained First Class Honours with Distinction in all of his RCM Piano Exams and placed second in the national Grade 4 Youth Division of the RCM Music Lights the Way Festival in 2023.

Conwright Ogawa, 13, has been playing cello for more than a year. He is home-schooled, and enjoys writing songs, playing the blues, and coming up with fun licks on his guitar, which he has played for more than four years. He is inspired by orchestral movie soundtracks, by composers like Ludwig Gorensen and John Williams, and is excited to be invited to play at the Chan Center along with other RCM gold medalists from B.C. and the Yukon at the awards ceremony in Vancouver on Nov. 4. He will be accompanied by his cello teacher Trisha Daniell, of Dandelion Music Studio in Mill Bay.


Cedar is the focus of a new exhibition from the Cowichan Valley Arts Council and North Cowichan 150 at the CVAC gallery at the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan.

Cedar: A Celebration, will include works from more than 40 Vancouver Island artists with more than 60 works “that contemplate the beauty, tradition and profound significance of cedar.”

“The forests hold such deep and complex meaning. The Cedar: A Celebration exhibition is an opportunity to consider how this meaning varies across both time and culture,” said Brenda Isaak Takao, CVAC president.

Two special events will be part of the exhibition. Both are free, though people are asked to RSVP.

First up is a reception on Friday, Oct. 20 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. where guests will have the chance to speak with the artists about their works and buy pieces that are for sale.

Then on Saturday, Oct. 21 from noon to 2:30 p.m. two guest presenters will lead Cedar Contemplations, taking a “deep dive into cedar, from artistic inspiration to traditional practices.” The presenters will be Hwiemtun (Fred Roland), a cultural ambassador for the Cowichan people who will discuss cedar weaving, and Rob MacLean, an art history and art appreciation instructor who will consider artistic interpretations and arising themes of stewardship.

Everyone can take home a pair of cedar seedlings, courtesy of Mosaic Forest Management.

RSVP to or 250-746-1633.


The first Period Poverty Photovoice Exhibition opens at the Cowichan Valley Arts Council studio Oct. 24.

Launched by the Cowichan Women’s Health Collective, the show illustrates through participants’ photography and stories the true cost of period poverty to women.

“The artists share their photographs along with their stories about what the images mean to them,” said a press release for the show. “These can include the stigma or cultural practices related to menstruation, and the consequences of experiencing period poverty.”

Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual products (pads/tampons, pain medication and underwear), other hygiene facilities, waste management and education.

“It causes physical, mental and emotional challenges. Many women have to stay home from school and work, with lasting consequences to their education and economic opportunities,” the release said.

And if you think this is a problem only in poor countries, a 2023 study found that one in four menstruating women in Canada have had to choose between paying for period products or for other essentials such as food or rent.

The show runs until Nov. 10 at the Cowichan Community Centre on James Street in Duncan.

“Please be aware that this show deals with issues associated with menstruation and contains graphic content that may not be suitable for all ages,” the release noted. “Viewer discretion is advised.”


People are invited to explore the Cowichan Valley and its culture in the Cowichan Artisans Fall Studio Tour on Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 29.

The tour is self-guided (see the map on the Artisans website for studio locations), and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. There are 15 studios to choose from.

“Visit our artisans, and enter their private worlds where they create honest, authentic and original works,” says the artisans website. “You will discover the special places where our artisans transform raw materials into original personal creations using the specialized tools and traditional practices of their craft.”


Calling all book lovers!

The Garden Hosue Foundations epic annual charity book sale is on the way Saturday Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 29 at George Bonner School in Mill Bay.

With an estimated 20,000 books to choose from, with most priced at 50 cents to $3, there is truly something for anyone who likes books.

The sale starts at 9 a.m. both days, running until 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Payment will be taken by card or cash.

Recipients of proceeds from the sale include Cowichan Family Life, Cowichan Woman Against Violence and the Cowichan SPCA.