Coming Soon: An Art Gallery in Kentville
By Genevieve Allen Hearn
Expanding creative enterprise is one of the calls to action in ONE Nova Scotia’s *Now or Never* report. The report states, “Recent studies link the arts, culture and the creative sectors to positive impacts in employment, community development and social inclusion and well-being.” It also acknowledges that many young people are drawn to the creative sector, while stressing the importance of mobilizing creative youth.
Sasha Nelson is a graduate of the Master of Fine Art degree program from the University of Waterloo, the Bachelor of Fine Art degree program from NSCAD University, and a Red Seal Certified Carpenter. He recently moved to Kentville with his family (having purchased his wife’s childhood home) and the timing couldn’t have worked out better.
Just as Sasha was contemplating a creative enterprise, the Town of Kentville was gifted the Calkin building – the building on the corner of Cornwallis and Webster that used to be home to Central Café. Kentville released a request for proposals for three different spaces in the building, and gave priority to a creative enterprise for the space at 36 Cornwallis. Seizing an opportunity, Sasha formed the Kentville Art Gallery Society comprised of five people in cultural, economic and real estate development, and created a plan for a nonprofit gallery that would also serve as an artistic hub, offering a variety workshops, artist talks, and events. Sasha remarks, “There are very few spaces for the public to view and purchase art in the Annapolis Valley, particularly works that display contemporary issues and aesthetics”. His mission is to showcase art from the local area and beyond that address or come from diverse perspectives. This could include, as an example, creative work that stimulates a discourse around mental health. The Kentville Art Gallery Society chose the name Hardware Gallery to acknowledge the history of the building – which served for many years as a hardware store.
To generate income, Hardware Gallery will be selling exhibited art, as well as run a rental program whereby businesses pay an annual fee to display a rotation of artwork by local artists provided by the gallery. The gallery will also have a retail section that offers prints, greeting cards, art books, and items for the home made by local artists and artisans. Furthermore, donations and sponsorships from the local community will be vital to the success of gallery.
Community Economic Development Coordinator, Lindsay Young, shares her enthusiasm for the prominent Calkin building. “The Town of Kentville is so very excited about the future plans for the building. We feel we have been successful in selecting tenants that will both add to the current downtown mix of businesses and help round out the offerings Kentville provides to downtown visitors.” Other tenants include Hill’s Grills Panini Press & Tea House specializing in breakfast and lunch sandwiches and tea-based beverages, a shared space for the Kentville Farmers’ Market and Makery, and an innovation hub upstairs.
Research shows that people seek communities with an active cultural environment because with culture comes a better quality of life, happier citizens, and a sense of place. Culturally active communities become destinations that attract new businesses, increase tourism, and draws local citizens out of their homes and into public spaces. There are a few wonderful examples of creative enterprises in Kentville, including Gaspereau Press, Deep Hollow Print, and CentreStage Theatre. Hardware Gallery is another essential building block to boost the creative economy in Kentville. “We’re hoping that, by providing the public with more opportunities to engage with art and artistic practices, it will create a vibrant atmosphere that welcomes innovation, increases foot traffic in Kentville’s downtown core throughout the day and into the evening, and encourages an inclusive community,” comments Sasha. “We are excited to brighten people’s lives with new experiences, and to show how art and culture is fundamental to a progressive society.”