A Conversation with Louise Ferguson

The arts community in Fernie has so many talented, strong women working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure artists have spaces to teach, learn, and show. Louise Ferguson has been the Executive Director of the Fernie and District Arts Council (FDAC) for the past seven years. I deeply appreciate Louise’s involvement in the Arts Station. What follows is a small excerpt from a conversation I had with Louise in February. 

MH: Before you started working here [at the FDAC], you were a full-time artist, correct? 
LF: I worked in costume, so that’s my background. 

MH: For stage or for screen? 
LF: I definitely focused more on the theatre because that was always my love growing up. I loved fashion and history so it kind of came together. I did that for a little while and then I got travelling and ended up here [in Fernie], which doesn’t have a huge need for costumiers. 

MH: Can you give me an example or like a highlight from your career as a costumier? 
LF: Definitely working at Disney World. It’s got the largest costume department in the world. In the Magic Kingdom they have 10,000 employees and every cast member has a costume. So that was a really awesome place to work—to be able to see that industry from that large scale.

MH: It’s not often you find the creative and the administrative skills in the same person. Did working at Disney contribute to understanding how you have a gift for details as well? 
LF: I don’t think I realized at the time, but now I look back and those are skills I have that lend themselves to my current job. Because it was such a big operation, I learned how they organize, and I definitely bring that into my world now.

MH: What prompted the transition from costumier to administration? Was there something between that and this?
LF: One of the primary skills that I got from my education was being a seamstress. In a ski town that means a lot of ski jackets, but zippers are my most hated thing in the world. It really took away my creativity because it made me hate sewing. So, I went to work with Angela [Morgan] alongside Tara [Higgins] for a little bit, and then I worked with Chantel at Freyja; all super inspiring, strong women. I was very lucky to have them as mentors. Then a part time job came up at the FDAC and I applied because it just seemed to fit into my interests. I got a job here as an assistant. It was very different to what it is now—it was a very part time role. 

MH: Was there an inkling at the time where you thought, “Well, this is kind of satisfying. I’d like to step it up?” 
LF:  Yeah, I definitely think that even though I came from the creative side, 
my skill set and personality lends itself to organizing and I like facilitating the arts. It was exciting to be able to be in an arts organization, especially in a small mountain town. I think we take it for granted; we are really only half the size of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. We forget what we actually have at our fingertips, considering we are in this very rural sport-driven world. 

MH: What are the things that keep you inspired and interested? 
LF: The people. There’s definitely challenging days and it just takes one kid to say something about how happy they are to be here or how excited they feel, and then it reminds me why I’m doing it. It’s moments like those that really keep me coming in every day and doing the things that I do. Not that long ago, I received a really lovely email from a teenager who just got into arts school. She said it was 
a lot because of the opportunities she’d had through the Arts Station; being able to participate in the programs that we offered, and even as a kid being treated like an artist. It made me cry when I read the email because that’s why you’re doing it, right? To make a difference, it doesn’t have to be on a big scale. 

MH: And on the other hand, how do you feel that this role and this institution and this arts community—do you feel like that’s impacted your life? 
LF: It definitely has, yeah. I’ve learned so much over the years and I think it has made me a better person and made me really appreciate the community I live in and the arts more. Community arts is such a cool aspect of the arts to work in, and I love it the most. I would take community arts any day over a big shiny museum or art gallery just because of the people. You can see the impact it makes on the day to day. The influence it has on everyday life and community I think is really special. 

MH: And in the meantime, are you still sort of puttering away on your own craft?
LF: I have been dabbling in a few things: I joined one of the groups here, the Spinners and Weavers, so that’s been really fun. I don’t really know where I’m going, but I am excited about doing art again and not just, you know, watching other people. I also get super inspired by teaching a few workshops, especially for kids—they really are inspiring.

MH: Thanks for taking the time to chat!
LF: Thanks for asking me.

This interview has been edited for length. Please click here for the full interview.