Small Gallery, Big Connection

A favourite place to go and reconnect with myself in the city is the public library on 6th Avenue’s art gallery upstairs. This tiny little gallery is often full of students with their faces in textbooks or laptops but I’ve really enjoyed throwing on some nice ambient music in my earbuds and having a wander. Don’tRead More

A favourite place to go and reconnect with myself in the city is the public library on 6th Avenue’s art gallery upstairs. This tiny little gallery is often full of students with their faces in textbooks or laptops but I’ve really enjoyed throwing on some nice ambient music in my earbuds and having a wander.

Don’t know what gallery I’m talking about?

Head up to the second floor at the uptown library location and veer left. Freestanding panels are around the space with visual art for you to look at.

Some historical information provided by Chief Librarian Julie Spurrell: 

When the library renovated the Uptown location in 1978, they built a full art gallery on the second floor. The space now occupied by the study space, and the Gallery room, right up to the top of the stairs was a big, open gallery.

Art was hung on the walls, and there were no free-standing panels like now. Twice a year the Arts Council held their Art Rental program from the space – they hung a wide variety of paintings, and residents could rent the pieces for a reasonable price. The same people who ran that program were the Library’s Hanging Committee, and they hung and dismantled the shows each month. Because of the large space, they also hosted opening receptions for many of the shows.

Library staff always selected the art, though.

In 2004, the second floor was renovated to make more study space for library users, and more space for technology. The only downside to this very successful renovation was the loss of the dedicated gallery space.  The library didn’t want to lose the connection to art, however, and had the architect design the free-standing art panels. They are very heavy, and had to be brought in with a crane through the balcony doors!

Custom designed free standing gallery panel in the gallery in the New Westminster Public Library's gallery upstairs. Photo by Kate Sloan.
Custom designed free standing gallery panel in the New Westminster Public Library’s gallery upstairs, featuring a piece by Barbara Webb. Photo supplied by library staff Kate Sloan.

Although the shows are not as large as pre-2004, they have been very successful. Since the inception of the art space in 1978, the library has hosted shows by most of New Westminster’s celebrated artists, and many by up-and-coming artists.

As far as staff know, there has only been one complaint, when a very explicit nude was displayed. Staff tell me that library users love the opportunity to be surrounded by art as they study, and library staff love working in a building that is so connected to the art world!

The library currently has a call for artist submissions open until February 29th.

Details from the library:

Call for Artist Submissions at New Westminster Public Library

Is your work current and original? Do you work in two-dimensional media, such as painting, drawing or photography? If so, we want to see your work!

Starting February 1, the Library will begin accepting applications for one-month showings that will run from April through to December 2016. Via email, artists will be asked to submit samples of their work along with an Artist Statement and other details. Please note that the library will only accept digital submissions.

The Call for Submissions will run from February 1-29, 2016 and shows will be chosen by our newly formed Community Art Selection Committee.  The Committee has been assembled to make sure that both the community and library are represented in the selections process.

Comprised of three community members, a Library trustee, and a Library staff member, the Committee will evaluate all of the submissions received and choose artists based on our newly established criteria for selection. Once the Committee has deliberated, the chosen artists will be notified by mid-March and announced officially soon after.

For more details, see our website: http://www.nwpl.ca/your_library/art-at-the-library. Please email us at art@nwpl.ca for any questions that you may have about the Call for Submissions or art at the Library.

Jen Arbo

Jen Arbo is the editor and co-publisher of Tenth to the Fraser. She's been writing for the site since 2007 and lives in Sapperton with her family. A project manager at heart, she also operates Hyack Interactive, a digital communications company. Find her on Twitter or Instagram.

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