Artists breathe life into old build­ing

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS MORIN

“We are lucky to be here,” Dave Ston­house says as he sur­veys painted but crum­bling walls and stained ceil­ings.

De­spite the shab­bi­ness of the room, which cur­rently serves as a pop-up art gallery and stu­dio, Ston­house is clearly proud of the space.

The Saska­toon build­ing, once known as Victory Manor, is cur­rently home to a di­verse col­lec­tion of pho­tos and paint­ings.

Lo­cated in the 200 block of 20th Street West, it’s also the head­quar­ters of artist col­lec­tive BAM, which stands for Bridges Art Move­ment.

In Rivers­dale, a neigh­bour­hood where change has be­come a con­stant, the build­ing is cur­rently hav­ing some­thing of a re­nais­sance pe­riod.

BAM, com­prised of Ston­house, Joanna Speed, Derek Sand­beck, Andie Pa­lynchuk, Ev­ge­nia Mikhaylova, B. Johnathan Michaels and Cyn­thia Blanchette, has been mak­ing waves across the city.

Dur­ing the most re­cent LUGO party at the Men­del Art Gallery, the group pre­sented an in­stal­la­tion that en­cour­aged par­ty­go­ers to flirt and chat by fa­cil­i­tat­ing anony­mous let­ter writ­ing and de­liv­ery.

Since tak­ing up res­i­dence in the build­ing, BAM’s mem­bers hope to in­spire the city’s art scene by host­ing solo and group ex­hi­bi­tions un­der the same roof as their work stu­dios.

“We have a lot of per­son­al­ity — we aren’t quiet peo­ple,” said Ston­house, who ad­mits that he no­tices similariti­es be­tween his pieces and the work of the other artists.

“Cyn­thia cre­ates th­ese mas­sive paint­ings that end up look­ing like pat­terns, and it’s an el­e­ment that I do as well. We are rub­bing off on each other, but we are also like-minded.”

The col­lec­tive came to­gether af­ter sev­eral mem­bers be­gan search­ing for a shared space. Af­ter sev­eral months, the group stum­bled upon its cur­rent home.

The new life they have breathed into the build­ing is on bor­rowed time. The build­ing’s owner, a Saska­toon busi­ness­man, has de­signs on tear­ing the struc­ture down com­pletely.

“We’d love to stay if we could,” said Mikhaylova, who also works as a print designer. “Our last show, which is mine to cu­rate, is sched­uled for April.”

Be­yond that, the group isn’t sure what will hap­pen.

The build­ing has a sto­ried his­tory. Sev­eral lo­cal mu­si­cians have used the room as a jam space. Ryan Meili ran a bid for the lead­er­ship of the NDP from the store­front. Prior to all that, it was a soup kitchen that hosted ser­mons.

The walls still tell the story: the old Victory Manor sign that once graced the ex­te­rior of the build­ing has since been re­pur­posed as part of the wall that leads to the base­ment.

The mas­sive wooden shelves that were once a part of Joe’s Cy­cle, a bike shop that used to in­habit the build­ing, are now gone, but scraps and tele­phone lists from the pre­vi­ous owner can still be found tacked to what was a back­room of­fice.

Saska­toon doesn’t have an abun­dance of spa­ces that would be suit­able as art stu­dios, but the room is ev­ery­thing the col­lec­tive could ever want, Ston­house said.

“It had a store­front and it was in a bit of dis­re­pair. We saw through that and we banded to­gether to fix it up and cre­ate some­thing. It was a big­ger risk, but it had the most pay­off.”

The con­nec­tion to the street it­self is im­por­tant for the group.

“A lot of gal­leries aren’t nec­es­sar­ily im­me­di­ately ac­ces­si­ble, and of­ten peo­ple feel in­tim­i­dated go­ing in­side,” Ston­house said.

“We thought that this could be a way to en­gage peo­ple who are pass­ing by. We ac­tu­ally get peo­ple com­ing in­side who are just cu­ri­ous, and some of them have even left with some art.”

The group is in good com­pany and knows it. The space is lit­er­ally in the mid­dle of a bois­ter­ous arts scene in Rivers­dale.

Next to the BAM build­ing is a gallery cu­rated by artist Cui Jinzhe in the Chung Wah Gro­cery store.

Across the street is The Store­front, a re­tail store that has fea­tured sev­eral group and solo shows, and Stu­dio on 20th, an­other col­lec­tive space. Down 20th Street are the AKA Gallery and Paved Arts, and around the cor­ner on Av­enue G is 330g, an artist-run space lo­cated in the for­mer Ukrainian Labour Tem­ple.

“We’d re­ally love to see more of th­ese types of spa­ces come up,” Ston­house said. “They re­ally help get peo­ple ex­cited with the things that are hap­pen­ing in the city.”

The group’s next show is Beta Days, which opens tonight with a re­cep­tion and runs to March 11.

“It’s Andie Pa­lynchuk’s turn with the gallery,” Ston­house said. “She’s cre­at­ing an in­stal­la­tion mim­ick­ing her fan­tas­ti­cal worlds that she paints. The show also fea­tures Derek Sand­beck and Sean O’Reilly.”

De­spite the limited lease, Ston­house said he is op­ti­mistic the group will con­tinue once it’s evicted from the space. For now, he and his co­horts are happy to be a part of the build­ing’s fi­nal days.

“We hope to see a few more peo­ple come down while they still can.”

RICHARD MARJAN/The StarPhoeni­x

The Bridges Art Move­ment at 229 20th St. W. is a col­lec­tive of seven artists, in­clud­ing Ev­ge­nia Mikhaylova.

PHO­TOS: RICHARD MARJAN/The StarPhoeni­x

A pod­cast records an in­ter­view on Jan­uary 24 with Bridges Art Move­ment (BAM) artists, from left to right, Cyn­thia Blanchette, David Ston­house and Andie Ni­cole Pa­lynchuk in the gallery. Mem­bers of BAM use the space at 229 20th Street West as a stu­dio...

David Ston­house, one of the artists in BAM, likes the space’s con­nec­tion to the street.

David Ston­house checks out a piece he’s worked on.

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