Thursday, May 27, 2010

Silver Alumni, Naess Gallery, The Paint Spot, until June 28, 2010*

Serving Edmonton’s visual arts community for 25 years, the staff of the Paint Spot are receiving a retrospective “Silver Alumni” exhibition spanning past and present employees. As the first staff exhibition in their new location just south of Whyte Avenue (10032 81 Avenue), there have also been changes to the gallery, renaming it from the Fringe Gallery to the Naess Gallery after Paint Spot cofounder and gallery curator Sidsel Naess Bradley. The gallery size has also shrunk considerably, but the trade off is that the space moves front and center into the entrance way with natural light and far more exposure. While this is only the first show I’ve seen in the new space, I preferred the solitude of the old gallery space and its configuration, as this new space with one dominant wall will have to do more with less. But that’s not the case for this show. Showing close to forty artists from across Canada, the exhibition wraps around the Naess Gallery and above the retail floor and back to the workshop space on walls designated as the Salon Gallery, Vertical Space, and Artisan nook.

New works by names new and old pop up by artists that have no other connection to each other than where they all once worked. With a concentration still within the Edmonton region, all of the Paint Spot’s staff are artists themselves, and many still keep ties whether as workshop instructors, fill-ins, and of course as customers. The problem then is that the show does not flow and has a challenging task of mixing various artistic levels and interests, and it would have been more interesting to show works that spanned 25 years rather than getting all new works, but the most positive aspect is the connection many of the staff still have to the store.

“The staff exhibition is one of the things that motivate our staff because we specifically hire artists to be our staff,” Kelley Brent, General Manager and a staff member for the past six years. “When people come to the Paint Spot they are talking to knowledgeable people in their field. With a staff show, there’s a different respect, and customers feel a little more comfortable knowing that our staff are on the same wavelength facing the same problems.”

With the big move came an extra 2000 sq. ft of space, most of that obvious on the much larger and expansive retail floor, and it is clear the move off of the hustle and bustle of Whyte Avenue has actually been quite positive.

“People no longer ask ‘Why?’ after they see the new space,” says Brent. “It’s so much bigger and brighter, the exhibition space is on the main floor, and it just feels more like an arts center. It’s also been great having so much more space to see the range of products and move around and feel less claustrophobic.”

Having twice as much shelf space, the store is now able to display the full range of sizes and colours of their products. Gone are the cramped aisles and low ceiling and the densely packed shelves of nibs and tints. Humming along after the formidable move of their displays and inventory, the Paint Spot remains the main organizer of Whyte Avenue’s Art Walk coming up in July, which will be the largest yet as the artists set up across the tracks and an emphasis is given back to originals by fine artists.

All images courtesy of The Paint Spot

*First published in Vue Weekly

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