Saturday, 2 September 2017

Gallery 33 and The Painted Turtle Art Shop in Thunder Bay

Run separately yet conjoined under the same roof, a young Kristen Wall has run Gallery 33 for two and a half years while her cohorts, Lorraine Cull and Angie Jenson have run the Painted Turtle Art Shop for fourteen. Together they have served Thunder Bay well with art shows, procuring art supplies for individuals and groups, especially schools, and offering classes and contributing to the community extensively. Further progress was made with their move from the downtown North Core to the corner of Balsam and River St. next to George’s Market where they have benefited from free parking and walk by traffic.  
     About forty visual artist and ten authors are represented in the gallery where sections of the wall and displays are rented to new and emerging local and regional talent. The quality and variety vary, but there are enough stunning works to make the gallery a professional space with noteworthy artists. Other items such as soaps, jewelry, books, cards, sculpture, pottery, glasswork and prints are sold throughout along with specialty items like Wolfhead coffee and Chocolate Cow. The chocolate is soon to be restocked as it had a habit of melting in the summer months.
    As part of the mission to support artists, the public is offered classes, the most popular being Paint and Wine Nights, occurring multiple times a month. These are public and private parties, a fun way to get together with friends and try out acrylic paints. As Fall hits, classes for children and youth are offered where they can draw and paint using watercolours and oils. 
     At a youthful twenty-seven, Kristen has an Honours Bachelor in Fine Arts and has lived in Thunder Bay her entire life. “I’ve always been into art,” says Kristen, “and always imagined the business would be attached to my house, but this opportunity fell out of the sky and I jumped on it. The work is a lot more commercial than I thought it would be, but I’ve been able to shape it in the image I wanted, which is to give the gallery that homey feel.”
     With a faux fire place and tan coloured walls Kristen designed the space to be warm and welcoming, unlike a typical white-walled gallery space. “We have CBC Radio on all the time,” she smiles. 
     Kristen has had little time for her own art, earning some of her living by teaching most of the classes. Other income is generated through art commissions, space rentals and the occasional sale of her own art. Artists Linda Dell, Ken Crawford and Betty Nash have been brought in to teach classes. Coming soon is Rene Beerthuizen who will teach oil painting. 

 Bursting from the corner of the gallery is a virtual potpourri candy display for artists. Here is the Painted Turtle Art Shop where you get that magic feeling of opportunity, where you can enter other worlds by creating your own portals. Shelves crammed with gleaming art supplies are offered to professionals and novices alike, the tools of the trade that every artist and wannabe needs in order to play around or get serious. It’s a challenge worth taking.
     Formerly owned for many years by artist Ruth Tye-McKenzie, the art supply shop moved around from Red River Road to Cumberland. Co-owners Lorraine and Angie took it over in 2003 before the moves feeling the need to keep Ruth's legacy and the shop running. Angie spends her time managing the books and the waterfront’s “Baggage Building” these days. Lorraine is the constant stalwart of the shop and thus a virtual window to the arts community. Recalling the days of Norval Morrisseau and Roy Thomas, Lorraine offers up stories of wild artists and art crimes that I can’t disclose. Instead I can say Lorraine is a wonderful source of information about the supplies, local talent and events.
     The Painted Turtle has also contributed to the city with a long list of membership on boards to improve the arts within the city, with donations to schools, galleries, and to artists with prizes at various high school and University shows. It's been a tradition to give back to the art scene since the shop's inception. 
     On a personal note, the Painted Turtle is where I ordered my first batch of linen to paint large oil portraits when I was eighteen, knowing that the master painters of the past used only the best materials I was determined to emulate them. So I saved my pennies for top quality oil paints and quality linen, thinking my paintings would last for hundreds of years. Time will tell. 

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