By Jared Davidson –
For the past seven years, a small group of Wellington West galleries has been participating in 1st Thursdays Art Walk. As the name suggests, the walk occurs on the first Thursday of the month and gives attendees a chance to sample the works on offer at their local gallery, socialize, and attend openings. It’s also a great way to experience the diversity of the area and various art styles, as the galleries range from the Fritzi Gallery at the GCTC to Railbender Studio, a tattoo parlour that features distinctive local art.
The walk’s location has become particularly ripe for events such as this, as local work spills out from galleries into coffee shops and pubs. The art scene is a definitive part of the community and there is plenty of it to go around. Between the five galleries currently participating in the art walk, one could spend a great deal of time experiencing what artists have to offer but also walk outside, drink great coffee, and enjoy excellent food.
The origins of 1st Thursdays are found in the New York art scene. Cube Gallery owner, Don Monet, got the idea during a visit to New York City during which he noticed the galleries stayed open late on the first Thursday of the month and were crowded with visitors. When he returned, he began approaching galleries with the idea. It caught on in Wellington West. As Don explains, there is no theme to the event. Instead, it’s an opportunity to celebrate whatever is at the galleries.
“The galleries are open late, and whatever is happening at the galleries is happening at the galleries,” says Don. “It has become really popular.”
Ever since the beginning, the 1st Thursdays Art Walk has been well-attended and well-loved, and more galleries have been collaborating with artists to schedule openings to coincide with it. Don attributes the walk’s success at least in part to sites like Facebook and Meetup.com where users arrange gallery outings during 1st Thursdays Art Walk.
Whatever the reason, the walk has helped to foster a growing art scene in the neighbourhood. Manon Labrosse, whose wilderness-inspired series opened at Gallery 3 in April, had extra people stop by thanks to the walk.
“It was a nice way to start spring,” she says. “People who normally wouldn’t come out came out tonight.”
Her captivating show was an exploration of hidden parts of Algonquin Park, based on experiences she had as the park’s artist-in-residence. Manon uses strong contrasting colours and lines to help depict the feeling of these natural landscapes.
Between April 26 and May 29, Kathy M. Haycock will be showing a series of paintings in a show titled: Magical Edge. It is an exploration of places in which environments meet: a quiet swamp bridging the water’s edge, a shifting weather front, a line of trees on the fringe of wilderness.
Though the crowds haven’t diminished in seven years, the number of galleries is thinning. With Orange Gallery’s move and Patrick John Mills’ closure, the walk is smaller than ever, which has Don thinking about expansion again.
“The best would be if 1st Thursdays were Ottawa wide,” he says. “I could see it expanding into places that are not typically used for art.”
He imagines the art walk incorporating pubs and coffee shops, like the Hintonburg Public House or the Ministry of Coffee. This would bring exposure to smaller independent artists, and could be a good opportunity for the shops as well. However, Don admits that there are some drawbacks to this plan.
“The problem with places like that is that there are people eating,” says Don. “You don’t necessarily want someone coming in and looking at some art over your linguini.”
Take a walk on the wild side
The next 1st Thursdays art walk is taking place on May 5. Drop by any of these locations for a visual treat:
- Cube Gallery
(1285 Wellington St. W.)
- Fritzi Gallery
(1233 Wellington St. W. inside the GCTC)
- SPAO @ Exposure
(1255 Wellington St. W. upstairs inside Thyme & Again)
- Gallery 3
(1281 Wellington St. W.)
- Railbender Studio
(3 Hamilton Ave. N.)
On May 5, Railbender will be setting up for a new exhibit for local artist ARPi, as part of Hintonburg Happening. It launches on Sunday May 8. For details, check out the “ARPi Does Railbender” event page on Facebook. Word has it Railbender will definitely be part of the art walk in June.
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