The visual arts sector is a vibrant and vital part of Newfoundland and Labrador’s creative industry. You don’t need to travel far to find an artist painting one of our many inspiring landscapes, a sculptor preserving our history and heritage with metal and clay, or a photographer capturing our story through their own unique lens.
Creating the art is one thing, but getting eyes on it is quite another. For artists who don’t have their own gallery space, this can be a challenge. But there are other options out there – and one local artist and business are showing how working together can benefit both.
Business Portals is a fully serviced business space rental concept located on Church Hill in downtown St. John’s. June Walker-Wilson is a landscape oil painter and the owner of Ultramarine Fine Art Studio on Duckworth Street. Last year, Walker-Wilson and Kim Hickman, CEO of Business Portals, joined forces to fill Business Portals’ spaces with art, while celebrating and giving exposure to local visual artists at the same time.
“In 2016, Kim and myself were both members of NLOWE (Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs). Kim held an NLOWE networking event at her business premises at Church Hill around Christmas 2016, which I attended. At that time, I asked Kim if she would consider holding an art show at her Business Portals premises,” explains Walker-Wilson of how the partnership came about.
Hickman had some vacancies at the time and hopped on board – providing advertising, marketing and refreshments, in addition to the exhibition space. The Pop-up Gallery Exhibition was held on April 28 and 29, 2017. Four other artists participated in the show with Walker-Wilson: Carl Hansen (photographer), Phil Hanley (stained glass artist), Christina Rees (acrylic painter), and John Bear (sculptor).
“We had about 60 people walk through over the two days and a couple of pieces were sold. I considered it a big success!” Hickman says.
After the event, Hickman invited Walker-Wilson to display her work in Business Portals’ hallways – an opportunity for which Walker-Wilson says she’s grateful.
“Visual artists are often looking for places to show their work. This is a win-win situation. I get to show my work in a non-traditional setting and Business Portals has original art on their walls. Also, Business Portals’ clientele is constantly changing, so the work is being seen by new people all the time,” Walker-Wison says.
Hickman says while Business Portals doesn’t currently have the capacity to host another exhibition, she welcomes local art on the walls.
“I enjoy having local artists place their work on the walls of my centre, as many of my clients are from away and may be interested in a Newfoundland artist’s work. And June still changes up her work so we see different paintings on our walls. Her work is lovely and gives my centre a ‘colourful warmth’ when walking through the halls. We did receive positive feedback from those who attended the exhibit and still do even now with June’s work on display,” she says.
“I think it is very important to support local businesses and artists. As June mentioned to me, a lot of artists do not have a gallery of their own to showcase their work. I am only too happy to style my business centre with work from the local community, especially June’s art. It’s a win-win!”