COMOX, B.C. – Organizers of the Originals Only Art Show are voicing their disappointment about the annual event’s cancellation.

After 16 years of running the fine arts oriented event on behalf of Comox Recreation, the annual show that’s usually penciled in for the second weekend in August at Marina Park will not be taking place.

According to local artist Joe Smith, who chairs the event’s organizing committee, this is due to the fact that Comox Recreation has decided not to include the event as part of its programming.

Developed as a free public event, the show was designed to provide local and island based artists, working at all levels, an opportunity to showcase their talents.

At the same time it would also offer visitors an opportunity to learn more about the creative process and encourage those interested to sign up for some of the arts oriented programs that were being offered at the time.

“The organizing committee comprised of volunteer artists who participate in the show is certainly disappointed at this turn of events,” said Smith. “Other than some support from town staff, the event was always run on its own merits and never needed any additional funding from the town to cover any expenses. The committee prided itself on the fact that it never had to seek any outside funding and was always able to show a positive balance at the end of the year.”

Comox’s chief administrative officer, Richard Kanigan, explained why the event was excluded from town programming.

“When the town conducted an evaluation of various programs, the Originals Only program which has been long running and I believe a successful program throughout the years… we realized that this was a program that was just essentially using town bank accounts to pay for their suppliers and contractors,” Kanigan told the newsroom.

“We didn’t have any recreation staff involved in the program itself and the only other thing that we provided was the park at no charge.”

Kanigan said the town encouraged the Originals Only organizers to look for other community groups or set up as a non-profit themselves, so they could “continue the successful program for years to come.”

It wasn’t that the event needed additional funds from the town, Kanigan said, “It was just that there were no controls that the town had.”

“There were invoices that would come in, there was nobody in the town staff that had authorized that expenditure. Our normal process is we have a budget, we control those expenses against those budgets, and this was something that was long-standing and run in a different way from the past. We’re just bringing it up to the present standard of ensuring that we have control over the taxpayers’ funds.”

According to a release from Originals Only, the town has benefited from the event over the years.

“While it attracts visitors to the town’s core and revitalized harbour area on a summer weekend, it also enhances the Town’s cultural identity,” the release said.

“In fact, in its inaugural year the event was voted as the best new tourism event in the valley and had also contributed to the valley being named one of the country’s cultural capitals.

“Artists who participated came from all corners of Vancouver Island and over the years it has provided hundreds of artists with an opportunity to gain some exposure and most importantly feedback from art patrons. From aspiring artists, to students to those who have made a name for themselves, the show was an inspiration to some and a unique opportunity for others to gain some public attention.”

While attempts were made by the committee to find another local organization that would include the event as part of its programming, the outcome was not positive.

“Any thought of resurrecting the Originals Only show in its current format is unfortunately unrealistic at this point in time,” said Smith. “However on a positive note there are a few artists trying to put together another outdoor fine art event to take place around the same time in August but nothing at this point has been finalized.”