Nita Forrest, 1926 - 1996
Nita Forrest was named 2017’s “Legacy Artist” by the Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society, an organization that provides bursaries to students studying at any one of Victoria’s five local art academies, an indicator of Victoria’s ongoing support of the arts, the seeds of which were planted in 1968 by Forrest and her vibrant Print Gallery in Oak Bay.
Nita Forrest arrived on the Victoria art scene at the age of 24. She immediately started studying with Herbert Siebner and joined “The Point Group”, a group of printmakers who actively showed together and promoted each other’s work. She cited Richard Ciccimarra and Maxwell Bates as major influences on her work.
In 1968, Forrest’s entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm made her the perfect person to take over Pandora’s Box on Wilmot Street in Oak Bay. She renamed it The Print Gallery, and set about exhibiting and promoting contemporary BC printmakers. Art shows and book launches brought all sorts of artists, writers, readers and professors together in an otherwise quiet town. Jack Shadbolt, Tony Onley, Michael Morris and Donald Harvey were just a few of the artists who exhibited with her.
The openings were a who’s who of Victoria’s art scene, and Robin Skelton recalled in The Limners (1981) that the openings at the Print Gallery often turned into parties described as “unexpected Dadaist events” due to the eccentric personalities of Victoria’s artists. Forrest herself was an original and active member of the Limners, a group founded by Max bates for Victoria artists interested in modernism to support each other. Forrest eventually moved her gallery downtown to Wharf Street, but the waterfront location was forced to close when Hartwig Court was renovated in 1972.
In 1981 Forrest’s work was selected to represent Victoria in an exhibition, which toured China and in 1983 she was named an Honorary Citizen of Victoria.
Nita Forrest died in 1996.
Confederation Art Gallery, Charlottetown, PEI
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, ON
Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, BC
University of Victoria, Victoria, BC
Provincial Government Collection, Victoria, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC