After two and a half years, my time on West Main Street will come to an end. Although I’ve many good memories in this place, from Art Nights, early BLX art shows, as well as all the art and tattoos I’ve done there, I’ve outgrown my use for my art studio. I had come to the decision to move to a more open space after concluding that I needed it to accommodate my needs of making art, as well as the fact that I now tattoo at a studio in St Catharines (Picture Me Perfect) and no longer need my current space for tattooing.
In making this decision, I decided to put the word out to other local artists to share the rent on space, in the hopes of not only reducing my own expenses, but to also create an arts incubator of sorts: working alongside other visual artists, bouncing ideas off of each other, and networking with artists both here in our own community as well as Niagara.
Originally, my thought has been to find a suitable space that could accommodate several artists, but decided to keep it small and simple for the time being, with room to grow in the future if need be. I had a few places in mind, all located in Downtown Welland East, but finally settled on a location I knew well: the former location of The HardWay. I was familiar with the layout, appreciated the windows that would work as a gallery to the street view, and couldn’t argue with the cost of rent, which was comparable to what I was already paying at my current location.
My decision to move downtown locations was also in response to the growing appreciation and acknowledgement of the contribution of artists and art in this community. What was once viewed by many as a “hobby” when not working our “real jobs” has slowly become accepted as part of the socio-economic health of the community. Art used to be small articles in the back pages of our local newspaper; now it sometimes occupies front page headlines.
I am also aware that there are two more art studios/galleries moving to downtown Welland: one on Niagara Street South, and one on East Main Street. Word through the grapevine informs me these studios are the result of efforts of others coming to the area from outside of Niagara. As well, we also have Welcomics, which also houses some excellent artwork from an internationally-known artist. It appears as though Welland is becoming in its own small way a destination for artists. I’m not surprised: fairly cheap rents, support from community organisations and governance, and the fact that this yet-to-be-defined arts centre in Niagara entails a sense of romanticism: the exciting upswing of something new happening here before our eyes.
In this current climate of Arts awareness and support, I foresee some exciting and interesting times ahead. Already there is discussion of bigger things for arts locally, but I will not reveal such things until there are more details. In all this, I see the importance of creating such an arts incubator as The ArtSpace: first as a place to work and create, second as a place to exchange ideas, and third a potential place to have arts events or seminars, or to perhaps accommodate other artists.
I’ll be taking possession of the new place at the beginning of December. I’m currently figuring out some details with the other notable artist in residence at the studio, Wendy McIntyre. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside Wendy before on numerous art shows and initiatives, both in and out of BLX. I’ve much respect for her work, her ideas and opinions, and am very hopeful to start up this new studio with her. Within a few weeks, you’ll be seeing her artwork in the windows on the corner of Division Street and Hellems Avenue, alongside mine. Maybe we may have another artist or two involved by then, but we will see how things unfold.
I feel that one chapter of my artist life and career is ending as a new one begins, and grows bigger and better. I’m appreciative of the fact that this new art space is already receiving attention before we have even opened.
Initially, this place serves the artists sharing the rent and expenses there, and will only be open by appointment. I am sure there will some small events and art exhibitions in the future, but small steps first. I can announce that the Open Art Nights held at my studio on West Main Street will relocate to the new location.
I very much look forward to once again occupying this little corner of downtown. I remember in the days of The HardWay how much life was brought to this corner, though temporarily. Hopefully, I can try my best to help bring a little of that feel back to that spot again.
December 1st can’t come soon enough!