The latest space for up-and-coming visual artists in St. John’s is more travelling roadshow than curated gallery. The art show and sale that took place at Nautical Nellies on Monday night drew a small crowd, but an enthusiastic one.
Sasha Okshevsky, the organizer as well as one of the contributing artists, hopes that this is just the beginning.
“We want to make it more of a regular event and give people an opportunity — local artists who don’t get their work shown in galleries. A very informal night where you can put your stuff up on the walls, meet other people and just have a look at what’s out there.”
There’s a lot to be learned at open mic nights and careers can start there. It’s the same thing with a group visual art show.
Okshevsky didn’t have to go far to find artists interested in such an opportunity. “I knew that I had a lot of friends who make artwork for themselves but they don’t show it, they don’t pursue galleries to show their work and because of that very few people outside of their friend group ever get to see it.”
For Monday night’s show he relied primarily on Facebook invitations to gather artists and spread the word. He hopes that future events will see more artists participating, especially those who might be currently unknown in the community.
The manager of Nautical Nellies, Sarah Gillam, was eager to host the artists and offered the space for free after seeing Okshevsky’s first effort, an arts and crafts show and sale held just before Christmas at the nearby Grapevine.
Okshevsky credits the manager of the Grapevine, Susan Wyse, with coming up with the idea. “Susan originally came up with it and then Sarah wanted to do the same here and I was more than willing to do it.”
‘A group effort helps one shoulder the fear’
Paddy Barry, one of the contributing artists, thinks that such an all-inclusive show is an idea whose time has come.
“I think a group show is a great idea. Many people are nervous about showing their work. A group effort helps one shoulder the fear.”
He likens the idea to the new musician’s rite of passage – the open mic night.
“There’s a lot to be learned at open mic nights and careers can start there. It’s the same thing with a group visual art show. There is a lot to be learned and it’s fun to get a group of artists together, talking and exchanging ideas.”
Joe Taylor brought down some new paintings to show. “I’ve been working on a series to do with the human body for a couple of months and I was glad to take the opportunity to present it and get some feedback and find out what people think.”
His work has shown in Vancouver in the past, but never here in the city – something that might change if Okshevsky’s vision of regular shows becomes reality. “Every time Sasha wants to do an event I will contribute some artwork, absolutely.”
Okshevsky was displaying some of his own photography and credits his comfort with showing his work to his current position at Focal Point, the gallery on Duckworth St.
“For a lot of young artists, just showing is sometimes a little bit daunting, whereas an event like this where you’ve got other people who are right there with you and everyone’s just putting their work on the walls and everyone’s being positive, it might encourage people to do it more regularly.”
And more regularly is exactly what Okshevsky has in mind. If these Monday night shows are successful, he hopes to eventually move to a more permanent location.
“A gallery, ideally, that’s just intent on showing people whose work isn’t hung in other, more formal galleries. A really relaxed sort of space alternating featured artists every month. But of course something like that takes funds and we haven’t really looked into fundraising yet, though it’s something we’d like to pursue.”
They may not have the funds, but Okshevsky feels that there’s support out there for regular events. “Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks it’s a wonderful idea.” And keeping it informal and accessible are his main goals.
“It shouldn’t be exclusive in any way. Anybody is welcome to email me and get involved.”