Vaelei Walken-Brown

Vaelei Walken-Brown

Artist Block reaching out in hopes of perseverence

The owner of a new art gallery in downtown Penticton continues to adapt her creative haven to fit needs of the community

Through growing pains, the owner of a new art gallery in downtown Penticton continues to adapt her creative haven to fit needs of the community.

Since the beginning of July, the small gallery has been operating out of the tucked away, upstairs studio on the 200 Block of Main Street. Owner Vaelei Walken-Brown launched the space as a platform for emerging artists of many artistic disciplines — paintings, photography and mixed media cover the walls. The space is laid out around sculptures, jewellery, clothing and antiques, with space for performing artists.

“It has an urban, big city sort of underground element to it where a lot of people don’t really know about it,” she said. “Most people stumble upon it by chance or word-of-mouth — or just wandering around on an adventure.”

While it’s called the 557 Artist Block, the unit is located at 262 Main St. on the east side, and is marked by a wooden crate which has been covered with spray paint art from a feature artist.

“People who come in say that it’s totally different than anything Penticton’s ever had before or has now. It’s much more of a contemporary gallery with abstract and conceptual work — which has a lot to do with how  I’m working with younger artists for the most part.”

Outside of regular operating hours, the doors are often open late and early for special events.

“Yoga in here is bringing people through, and that kind of healing element is what I wanted to bring into the shop,” she said. “There’s this beautiful energy that comes through which it keeps the space clear and uplifted, and I want people to feel that when they come in.”

With vast experience in hospitality, Walken-Brown is looking to add café-style products to the inventory.

“I’m hoping to offer local, healthy food — whether I prepare it or work with another cafe in the beginning, I’m aiming for healthy, simple food that’s tasty and has cool presentation.”

She’s not just looking to connect with culinary artists though — Walken-Brown is stilling recruiting more artists of all disciplines, as well as event planners.

“It’s become this little family of creative people that are excited to share their work with the world.”

Although there’s a rich sense of community at the gallery, its longevity is in jeopardy.

“I am worried about the ability to stay open because right now there aren’t enough sales to keep the business afloat,”

Walken-Brown will be launching an Kickstarter campaign, which she’ll be launching on Oct. 9 during a Pecha Kucha event; a Japanese-style architectural show featuring several artists and designers who share 20 slides of their work, and then speak about each one for 20 seconds.

There will be live music from the Van Horne Trio, as well as Scott Hamilton from Cougars in America.

Tickets for the event cost $15 at the door and $10 in advance through the shop.

“It’s really beautiful and there’s a lot of community support, so I believe I will find success in a Kickstarter campaign.”