Artist carving out a niche for disabled

Small gallery at Marketplace IGA showcases works by local artists

Drew Curry with best friend Sam does some touch-up painting on a piece of artwork at his gallery The Nook@Marketplace IGA this week.

A year ago Drew Curry opened a small gallery to give local artists — many facing physical and emotional barriers — a chance to showcase their work.

Now having recently celebrated his first anniversary, the 54-year-old city resident who has his own disabilities is even more dedicated to that cause.

“It’s important because many of us don’t have the physical capabilities that would allow us to set up and tear down kiosks (at temporary markets), let alone man them,” said Curry. “And almost all of these things you see in here are done by people who live in this area, you won’t find anything made in China.”

Most days he can be found with his best friend Sam talking to customers or working on his own projects at The Nook@Marketplace IGA, which is little more than a small gated corner in the entrance to the Government Street grocery store.

Measuring only a couple hundred square feet in size, his shop is filled to the brim with a variety of arts and crafts.

“The Nook isn’t a money maker,” said Curry, who suffered two heart attacks last spring. “It’s a way for me to stay involved and a way in which I can help enrich the lives of other disabled artisans.”

In fact he often drives to and from the homes of some of his providers to pick up their work and drop off any money the products have brought in.

“Most of my people are living on old age or disability (pensions) and it means a whole lot, it keeps them in bread and butter, as it does me,” said Curry, who added he charges less than half the consignment fees of other dealers. “That’s a big part of the reason why I have such wonderful artisans, I know I would rather give away my wind chimes than pay someone 50 per cent to sell them.”

While this time of year can be difficult for shops like his because of the large number of craft fairs that come and go, just surviving the initial 12 months is something to be proud of.

“I also picked a tough year to open this little venture, what with all that is happening in the world and the value of a buck, and there is a lot of empty retail space in Penticton as of late so I think this is good for everyone,” said the civic volunteer and longtime Kinsmen Club member.

The one person he credits with making his dream a reality and keeping it alive during the initial start-up is Colin Powell, owner/operator of IGA.

“With his (Powell) tireless dedication to community services and special-interest groups, he has also helped us showcase our works and charges us a very minimal fee,” said Curry, who added he receives no outside government funding.

For his part, the grocery store owner liked the idea of the little shop from the outset.

“At the time he (Curry) was just very ambitious with wanting to support local product, and that goes hand in hand with my business because we’re a business that supports our local community and I thought it would be a good fit,” said Powell. “Drew is a good guy and has got a good heart and I just wanted to support what he was doing.”

 

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