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By Peter W. Rusland   photo: Peter W. Rusland

Arts and culture are a life-long labour of love for artist, teacher and volunteer Judy Brayden.
Her selfless commitment to exposing Cowichanians to creative expression of all types was publicly rewarded when Brayden earned the City of Duncan’s 23rd Perpetual Arts Award Dec. 2 in council chambers. “I was delighted,” the former Cowichan Valley Arts Council president said of the community award started by the former Cowichan News Leader Pictorial newspaper.
“The arts award means a lot to me.
“It was very touching to be honoured the same night as Phil Kent,” the former Cowichan Valley Arts Council president said of Duncan’s retired mayor named a Freeman of the City during Duncan’s inaugural meeting.
Brayden was also chuffed council’s coveted arts award is open to valley-wide public nominations saluting efforts by arts patrons, artists, and teachers — including late local choirmaster Peter Yelland, the award’s 2019 winner.
“I appreciate the city doing this award — and they don’t simply look only at Duncan (residents); that’s wise and wonderful,” Brayden noted.
Her award and maple-box keeper piece partly honours Brayden’s work on the Cowichan Valley Arts Council. CVAC among five valley arts councils including those in South Cowichan, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan.The artist and former arts teacher joined CVAC’s board in May 2010 and became its president that summer.
Soon afterward, the busy arts council moved into the PORTALS gallery space fronting the Cowichan Community Centre’s lobby.
Brayden, 70, is not on CVAC’s board now — she retired in May 2019 — but is still an active arts council member.
“You can be entirely consumed by CVAC and proposals that come up.
“I just ran myself too hard and had to stop.”
Her long-running efforts helped CVAC’s 2019 shows in PORTALS, including young artists’ displays in the Arbutus Gallery.
Fostering young arts talent has “really been a thrust by CVAC as a service to our community.”
“We receive civic money and offer services to people of all ages.”
Brayden is proud of CVAC’s scholarship program, and its receiving of annual grants in aid from the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s respected arts-and-culture function.
“Each of our five subregional arts councils get a specific grant each year.
“CVAC gets the most because we’ve been around the longest,” she explained, noting CVAC’s 50th birthday next year.
That half century has seen thousands of multi-media artworks presented to countless culture vultures during the volunteer arts council’s annual Spring Arts Show, and other remarkable exhibits.
“It’s tremendous,” the Langley native said of CVRD arts funding.
That regional purse also sees grants applied for by various local groups spanning actors, musicians and other artists.
Brayden applauded “the energy of people who’s step forward” to help Cowichan’s arts and culture scene amid “thin budgets and thin human resources.”
“People step up and do the best they can with an open heart”.
“I’ve always taken the approach that we live in the (entire) Cowichan Valley, not just in small towns. We share, and what we give is used by everybody.”
Brayden also supports the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery project as outreach to bring more art — bringing global, national and local works— to valley folks and tourists.
“We all benefit when there’s art in the community.
“It’s not only visual art I’m interested in; I’m interested in working with people on problem solving too.“
Wide-ranging arts interests also saw Brayden win the Jeff Hunter Memorial Award last year.
Her kudos follow a productive life immersed in the arts.
Brayden trained as a secondary-school arts teacher, and focussed on printmaking and painting.
She left teaching in 2005, and finished a diploma in interior design that dovetailed with her business called All Facets Of Design.
“Now, I wouldn’t mind doing a retrospective show, or doing a big installation helpful to the community in collaboration with other artists.”
Meanwhile, Brayden is confident Cowichan is “on the right track” concerning a bright arts-and-culture future creating jobs and enlightening lives.
“The arts can only get better, and everyone can benefit from this.”

Brayden’s current work aimed at PORTALS is dubbed Dissenters’ Story: The Story of Father & Son Dissenters.
The 3-D installation creation, inspired by Hardy Lee Scott and his son, involves pieces of writing “that you react to. They’re quotes from the father’s FBI file and from the son’s draft board appeal,” she explained.