South Granville galleries open up for ArtWalk

Event shows art can be both accessible and affordable

By 4 p.m. this past Saturday, those working the South Granville Art-Walk were hoarse. Julie Lepper, director of the Ian Tan Gallery, apologized for her lack of a voice but it was a miracle she had anything left at all since she'd greeted a good chunk of the 800 who came through the doors that day, tracked by her mechanical hand-held counter.

"On an average Saturday we would normally get 25 people, could be 50," she said. Enthusiasm overrode exhaustion, though, as Lepper gestured to Erika Toliusis's vibrantly natural landscape paintings, all done, incredibly, by a palette knife. While the paintings are the current draw for Ian Tan, Lepper points out many of the day's walkers are surprised to walk further into the gallery to discover art by a range of artists that come with affordable price tags.

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Accessibility is the key behind Katsumi Kimoto's Kimoto Gallery, which opened its doors three weeks early to partake in the ArtWalk along with 15 other galleries. A good decision, as the room was packed with artists and art appreciators for its summer group show that included Will Rafus's oil painting of The Only seafood shop on Hastings, White Rock native Reuben Kambeitz's "Collective" and Kapil Harnal's oil and charcoal "Nude with Shawl and Flower."

The gallery features affordable works - yes, some in the thousands but also some sizeable work that can be purchased for a few hundred. "I want to offer art in an accessible range," said Kimoto. "It's a way for people to support art as well as collect something original."

Around the corner and down the street from the Kimoto is the delight that is Uno Langmann Ltd. which, amid chandeliers and antique wood pieces, is showing a collection of oils, watercolours and sketches by Charles John Collings. A departure from white walls and open spaces, this gallery -part antique store, part museum - is the kind of place you want to tuck your purse in a little closer for fear of knocking over a vase. Working from an office that reflects the character of the store with its floor to ceiling bookshelves and ornate framed paintings, Jeanette Langmann, Uno's daughter, says ArtWalk exposes more people to the art world.

"Once in a while you get the feeling people are intimidated, and this is a great way to let them know there's no reason to be intimidated," she said. "This day is the nicest thing, people coming in here are just so happy. It's wonderful."

With just an hour before her gallery was to close, the charismatic Elissa Cristall of the Cris-tall Gallery showed no sign of weariness. She agreed that ArtWalk is a gentle way to not only expose people to art, but to let them know that despite the upper crust sensibilities of Granville's Gallery Row (at Uno Langmann, for instance, people have to be buzzed in during regular store hours) that the galleries are for everybody.

Cristall says she had a conversation with a man who didn't realize the galleries were open to the public, as well as a woman who flat-out told her she wasn't overly keen on Amanda Reeves' colourful abstract paintings. "So I spoke with her, and she had a better understanding. She was traditional."

At the Petley Jones Gallery, Amelia Alcock-White wrapped up an artist talk about her latest project "Painting for Change." Her most recent oil painting in the words, of a kelp garden, will be raffled off (tickets are given with every donation made in 20 dollar increments) and funds will be used to support ocean conservation projects at the Vancouver Aquarium.

"Art sometimes feels self-indulgent," said the Vancouver Island-born artist. "I want to feel like I'm doing something larger, doing something that makes a difference."

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