Artist Block planning month-long launch

Progress continues on 557 Artist Block which is set to open soon

The 557 Artist Block is still in its infancy, and before it moves into its title location, it’s going to incubate in a scaled-down retail space.

The business is still aiming to move into the location on 557 Main Street, but will make its operational debut as a pop-up shop from the top level of 262 Main Street. The shop will eventually be open year-round from its primary location, but will make its first impression on the community through a month-long operation in July.

The concept came from Vaelei Walkden-Brown, who came across a similar idea while working as a designer in Perth, Australia.

After the closure of a multilevelled department store in Perth, two architects saw potential in the building, and found a way to connect artists in need with the empty space. One floor is used to sell creative retail and the other floor to produce it. The project was only due to last for a few months, but was extended indefinitely upon its success.

“I took inspiration from that on this project, just on a smaller scale,” she said. “It allows people to come and not just buy stuff, but they can come to hang out, look at art, and meet the people who make it.”

In Penticton, Walkden-Brown was approached by Dennis Chaykowski of C-Me Live events, who was looking to rebrand an arts and crafts show he’d hosted early last winter.  She suggested the similar project she learned about in Perth. While Chaykowski later withdrew from the project, Walkden-Brown decided to carry it forward on her own.

In addition to running as a retail gallery, the 557 Artist Block also offer lessons for an array of artistic endeavours and also host special events for creative minds.

The first special event she’s hoping to celebrate in tandem with her opening weekend, which will be a Pecha Kucha presentation. Pecha Kucha events were adopted from Japanese architects in 2003, and minimizes the chance of boring an audience with a constantly advancing slideshow of one artists’ work. Each presentation features 20 slides which are displayed for 20 seconds each, with the artist sharing micro descriptions of each piece.

“There are a ton of great artists in the Okanagan Valley, but not necessarily a whole lot of places for them to show their work.”

Because the pop-up location of the 557 Artist Block will be located on the second-level of the retail space, Walkden-Brown said it will require “some nicely designed, pretty clever signage down on the ground floor.”

She’ll also be engaging the public through a flyer campaign, she said, finding face-to-face communication as the best way to promote the concept.

“Plus I love to get outside and talk to people.”

The 557 Artist Block will be open every Wednesday through Sunday in July, with regular hours from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and extended hours on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Walkden-Brown said there are still a few spaces left for interested artists looking for a platform, though she’s seeking more functional art than decorative at this point. Having work displayed is subject to approval, and can be arranged by contacting her at vaelei@hapticdesign.com.au. Since moving back to Penticton last year after 20 years abroad, Walkden-Brown has been able to connect with local artists through Instagram. She can be found under the username _haptic_. She’ll begin revealing the artists through the 557 Artist Block Facebook page on June 15.

Some of the details about the 557 Artist Block have to remain secret before the opening, but Walkden-Brown says it’s going to be full of passionate and beautiful creative expression.