Hope’s arts hub has found a new home beside the Hope Arts Gallery, and Diane Ferguson said it’s the only facility of its kind between here and Maple Ridge.
It was standing room only at the Art Machine’s grand opening Friday, as over 100 community members came to see the completely revamped modular building which now sits on District of Hope land beside the art gallery at 357 Fort St. The effort to get the modular from bought to renovated has taken two years and a lot of help from a wide range of local companies, funds from the province and federal government, the Hope Lions Club and individual donors, as well as the sweat equity of volunteers who gathered on Friday to witness the fruits of their labour.
“When this first started, it was a vision of mine. A dream. And to me, art is like breathing. Being creative it’s like breath itself,” Ferguson said, who is the executive director of the Hope and District Arts Council as well as an artist with a focus on Raku pottery. “The community should be able to share that — adults, seniors, everybody. And we have such a fabulous arts community here, all ages.”
Ferguson’s dream was to have a stable facility, which could allow the arts council to pour money into classes as opposed to where a lot of the funding was going previously — into rent. Now that the Art Machine is housed on district land for at least 10 years, and the plan is to hand over the facility to the district in exchange for what Ferguson hopes is a very affordable rate, more money can go into expanding classes and hiring teachers.
Jan Kinna said the space, which consists of two gleaming new studios as well as washrooms and a hallway separating the studios, is ‘almost magical’ for the arts community in Hope.
“I get emotional about it, because it’s such a wonderful facility for the community. And we’ve always, from the get-go, we’ve had to fundraise, beg, borrow and scrap because we want to make our programs affordable,” said Kinna, who is treasurer of the Hope and District Arts Council and a Raku potter herself. The idea has always been to offer art, especially to children, at rates that allow everyone to experience it.
Studio A, the visual arts studio, will host watercolour and acrylic painting and specialty workshops. Studio B is all about pottery, with space for students to store their pottery, as well as space to glaze and a separate room with a kiln. Studio B also has some pottery ‘gems’ Kinna said, including an extruder, a pottery tool used to create certain shapes like handles or corners, and a slab roller for hand building classes.
As some students who come to Studio A activities are sensitive to dust, the two doors between the studios can be closed preventing contamination.
Benjamin Neufeld is a potter who has been making pottery animals at the Art Machine for quite some time — owls, birds, koala bears — so much so that he held the key to the previous studio and came before work to focus on his craft.
“Well it’s brand new. It’s amazing. And all these windows and stuff, it’s beautiful with the natural light,” he said of the new building.
In addition to volunteers who made the project a reality, Ferguson praised local contractors who without offering ‘amazing deals’ on their work the project would not have been possible.
The Hope Arts Gallery is also celebrating its twentieth year, which Ferguson said is quite a feat in a town the size of Hope. Most small galleries go through cycles of opening then closing as the economy worsens, however, Hope’s gallery has stayed open continuously for these two decades.
Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, who remarked that council was unanimous in its support of the project, said he was also pleased to see the building looking so good.
“I think the cliche of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse is kind of applying here. This is an amazing building,” he said, remarking that when he first saw the building it wasn’t in such great shape.
The funding for the Art Machine renovation came from a BC/Canada 150 grant of $50,000, a B.C. Collaborative Spaces grant from the provincial government for $40,000, as well as $1,000 from the Lions Club, money from a Gofundme campaign and individual donations given through the District of Hope and privately.
Classes began Monday in the Art Machine: on offer are watercolour and acrylic painting, paper art, wheel throwing and hand building pottery classes.
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