Lloyd Theatre injects energy into Penticton’s downtown

For three decades the Lloyd Gallery has been a fixture of Penticton’s art scene

For three decades, the Lloyd Gallery has been a fixture of Penticton’s art scene, so much so, it would be hard to imagine the community without it.

Whether walking through the doors of the original gallery at 598 Main St. or the current location at 18 Front St., tourists and locals alike have been able to find works by many of the best-known and best-loved artists hanging on their walls.

Over the years, Nel and Alphons Witteman have showcased artists like Toni Onley, Frances Harris, Phil Clark, John Revil and Glenn Clark.

Some, like Frances Harris, are still showing work at the Lloyd Gallery. Harris is now 102 years old, but still active according to Nel, who visited her recently in Kamloops. Nel was accompanied by fellow artist Angie McIntosh, and found Harris eager to look at their new works.

“Her spark is still totally there. She looked with a magnifying class at my iPad, at my paintings,” said Nel. “It was so cute, she critiqued our paintings.”

“Another person we are still showing is John Revil,” said Nel’s daughter, Marjo Thompson. “And Toni Onley.

“Over the years, Toni Onley came to stay with them and teach workshops in their studio. We were pretty close.”

Marjo said they have never lost enthusiasm for the art and artists they promote.

“Every time an artist sends us paintings, we open a box and it’s like Christmas morning. We put them all around the gallery and talk about them, we are very excited to see the new pieces,” said Marjo, as Nel chimed in that “It’s like kindergarten show and tell.”

Like Nel, Marjo and her sister Annette — who also worked many years at the gallery — are artists themselves. Nel said they grew up watching her paint.

“We are both artists, all our staff our artists. Kelly and Jerrilee both paint as well,” said Marjo. “It’s in our blood, we love to promote other people’s art, we love to paint.”

Marjo describes the gallery as a community, both supporting and receiving support from the artists.

“It’s a group effort, we promote them and they help keep us strong as a gallery. And the community has to be thanked, because without the buying crowd we wouldn’t survive at all. We really appreciate everyone’s interest in art.”

The history of the Lloyd Gallery actually traces back more than 30 years. Founder Shirley Lloyd opened the Main Street location in 1979, five years before Nel and Alphons purchased it from her.

“I sold my paintings there. We had an orchard before, but we wanted to do something different,” said Nel. The couple operated the gallery successfully for many years, enlarging it three times so that by 2002, it had over 4,000 square feet.

But tragedy struck in June 2007, when an explosion and fire destroyed the building. It wasn’t long, though, before Nel and Alphons found a new location, reopening the Lloyd Gallery five months later in the former Empress Theatre next to the town’s art supply store, The Dragon’s Den.

That opening was in November, and Marjo said the gallery’s artists — many of whom lost works in the fire — had worked hard to prepare new works for the opening of the new location.

“We were so overwhelmed. It was so beautiful what we were able to hang up here for the show,” said Marjo.

“What kept us going is the love for art and the people, the community, but especially the artists,” said Nel. “Every time one sells, they have the inspiration to paint more.”

That experience is sure to be repeated at the 30th anniversary show. The artists are each supplying two or three new works for a massive group show — Nel expects more than 80 pieces from over 30 of their artists.

Come celebrate this amazing gallery community. The opening reception takes place on July 23 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and the works will hang for three weeks. hangs for 3 weeks —  the art can also be previewed at www.lloydgallery.com for anyone unable to come in person.