16 artists to form downtown artists’ cooperative

Sixteen artists are banding together to form a cooperative gallery in the space formerly occupied by Audrey Nanimahoo's Native Art Gallery at 113 First Street West. They are, from left to right starting in front: Nicola McGarry, Rob Buchanan, Sue Davies, Rachel Kelly, Christina Romeo, Cherie Van Overbeke, Suzanne Spisani, Arleigh Kurucz, Tina Lindegaard, Gwen Lips and David Rooney. In back are Audrey Nanimahoo, Jacquie Pendergast and Andrew Stacey. Not present are Jennifer Hedge and Nancy Geismar. Photo courtesy of Bill Sanders

By David F. Rooney

Sixteen painters, sculptors and jewellers are forging an artists’ cooperative — the city’s first — that will open its doors downtown in a month or two.

The seed for this idea was planted during a discussion Jacquie Pendergast and Audrey Nanimahoo had shortly after the Cree sculptress decided to close her gallery on First Street West. Momentum rapidly grew and on Tuesday evening 16 painters, sculptors and jewellers gathered in — Oh, how appropriate this setting was! — in the garrett of Castle Joe Books to hash out a rough plan for the cooperative.

The coop will tentatively be called Art on First and will feature work by the members. Each member will pay an up-front fee towards the start-up costs for the coop. They’ll also pay a monthly fee that pays for the rent, utilities and other costs.

The coop will not compete with the Visual Arts Centre. All of its members are Centre members, too, and many have for years been mainstays of The Centre’s exhibitions by local artists. However, The Centre does not have a permanent exhibition space dedicated solely to local artists. The coop will fulfill that need. And its location at 113 First Street right next door to the Nickelodeon is a prime location that will greatly increase the visibility of work by local artists.

The founding members of the coop are: Jacquie Pendergast, Chistina Romeo, Rachel Kelly, Audrey Nanimahoo, Andrew Stacey, Rob Buchanan, Sue Davies, Cherie Van Overbeke, Tina Lindegaard, Gwen Lips, Nicola McGarry, Jennifer Hedge, Arleigh Kurucz, Suzanne Spisani, Nancy Geismar and David Rooney. Their collective skills encompass all of the major artistic media.

Membership may in the future be extended to other artists but for now it will be limited to these 16 painters, sculptors, photographers and ceramists.