Updated: Jan 24
As I continue to write about my journey as an artist, gallery owner, art consultant and art instructor, I am recognizing how far I have become as a person and as a professional. I never knew what I wanted to do in my life until I stumbled on ‘what made sense’ each step a long the way. I am not a writer by any means but I felt that it was time to tell my story, to help people understand why I do what I do. This might be full of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, I’m writing it as it flows from me, i’m not editing!
As for my career choice, I am not in this for the money. Let’s get that clear. I survive from my work in the art industry but I have given up so much to be here. Some gains, some losses. If you are an artist reading this, always remember to respect your gallery’s commission even if an art piece is sold after an exhibition but seen at the gallery. I will tell you why in another post. I can speak for most gallery owners, we are paying the money, we aren’t making the money. If you used to love being a part of a gallery and were sad to see it close, it was likely due to money.
I’m a little foggy on date but i know it was summer before we signed the next lease for Outworks, I think in June of 2006 when I gave my departing Outworks speech to those who were at the board meeting. Its far too much work to find the exact info at this time so if anyone knows the exact time, I’d love to know!
Shawn Berard saw the work I was doing at Outworks, he saw my passion for the arts community and he saw me working hard as a volunteer to run a collective. At the time he was looking for a building for the former “Colours Framing and Art Supply” store which he was Manager of at the time. We saw a building in May 2006, it was honestly full of old machinery, dust bunnies, saw dust, old cardboard boxes, broken furniture, and mystery parts. No power was on, no lights throughout the entire floor. It was squatter’s paradise.
It all became real one summer afternoon on Corydon Avenue at the Second Cup (which is no longer there) when I signed a deposit chq for around 3G and handed it over to Lorne Wiese, the building realtor. Mid dollar amount, I paused, looked at Lorne and said, “this is the biggest chq I have ever written.” His words that followed spoke the truth. “Jordan, this is only the beginning of writing bigger cheques.” He was dead on correct. The amounts that followed and the amounts that added up have put me too high to count every month.
As I write this-know this-I have been the owner of cre8ery for almost 10 years with volunteers and no employees. I have never written myself a big chq like that one for the deposit. I’m not sure I ever will! cre8ery is a weight of 8,800 square feet of studio/gallery/office/classroom/events If its not full, it can’t survive.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but sometimes I really don’t like what I do! It can be stressful and it can be discouraging but it can also be positive and joyful. I love it when artists squeal when they make their first sale. I love turning on the lights when the exhibition opens and I get to see the expression on the artists face. Joyful moments, nobody knows, nobody experiences. I have been that artist. I have been that gallery owner, and I have been the adviser and consultant for those artist careers. I have learned so much.
sorry. I went on a rant again.
After signing a large lease with large extensive terms we received our keys on November 4, 2006. We moved furniture from Colours into what is now known as The Main Gallery. Shawn was busy moving Colours from Graham Avenue to a new location on Adelaide, behind RRC. It was a crazy time in our life and many things happened, both good and bad. I have to say that the terms that Shawn had in our lease were somewhat amazing. We had a building 2 month clause where it was rent free and we only had to pay the utilities bill. There was a broken window in the back which the owner said he’d replace right away. He did. With a shitty single pane window that didn’t open and it took from October to February to have it replaced. Because of this, the hydro bill was really insanely high.
My first task of cre8ery was to sweep the floors and clean out all the junk out of each room. I met a man who worked for the owner named Kenny. Kenny was a plumber from the Gimli area. He also was a scrap metal recycle. He wanted every scrap piece in the building, including the old boiler pipes and the old warehouse machinery. It took him a few months to remove and move everything. I remember being thankful yet frustrated by his tardiness! He also taught me how to read the meters, not get ripped off, and a few things about business and the building i would not have considered.
Soon after each room was cleaned up (to an extent) we laid tape down on the floor where the walls and the doors would go.
In the first 3 days of being in the building, we had our first potential tenant come see the space. His name is Tim Wiese. We still joke about the tape on the floor, the walls that didn’t exist. He agreed to take his studio space and paid his deposit. We used his deposit money to buy the materials for the walls, figuring we’d one day make his money back to pay him back. Everything was a risk, i had no savings and no money and signed a 5 year lease. I took a risk for my community.
We showed the space to other curious people who had found my ads online for studio space or my posters that were sprinkled around the community. Some were skeptical. They moved on. Before people came into the building we told them how rough it was, that we were building one room at a time until it was done. I asked the people to put their vision goggles on. I described my concept and some of them fell in love.
We built a studio near the back for Norma Jones next which she occupied next. It was mostly to support us in the start up phase as she never used it. Norma Jones is a Reading Clinician and my mother.
Once her studio was done, a Musician named Derek Cundy moved in. He was with us for the first year (if I remember correctly) and ended up occupying two studio spaces, one where he could make guitars and harps and another where he could play music. He ended up sharing with Jonah O’Neil and Mike McMullan. When Derek moved out, the photographers moved to the front half, where the photography studio currently is.
There are many stories I can tell here but I will save the stories for future posts. I will never forget those who were there for me, for us, in the beginning.
Relatives came down to help. Many were skeptical that i could do this. It was good that I had their confidence.
Day by day I would spend the time putting drywall, running lines of tape down the walls while Shawn was at work. Each night we had to get enough done for the frame work so I could do the drywall by myself the next day. Weekend after weekend all we did was patch, sand, paint, build.
In May 2007 the studios were all occupied except for the shared studio at the back and we had our grand opening celebration. By July, 2007, we were full! People began booking shows at the gallery through word of mouth. I spent my days building up the email list, building new business contacts.
Each year, each time there is a little extra money left over at the end of the day, the money earned goes back into fixing cre8ery. Since 2007 we have dry walled and insulated most of the exterior walls, put in a new blower furnace, new track lights (2016), new washroom sinks, replaced two toilets, bought new couches, replaced the couches with a bunch, repainted the entire place multiple times (even if it was one spot at a time), renovated the bar area.
Over the years many people have assumed that cre8ery is a collective. A collective and how cre8ery is managed are two entirely different concepts. I’ll write about this next along with how the name ‘cre8ery’ came to be and the more elaborate ‘what is cre8ery’ description. I do have to say that cre8ery is a great opportunity for artists to grow. This is never going to be easy as an industry and it does take a lot of work to make it ‘happen’.
I’m proud that I have built it-with my community being the reason why I’m still here. We all have to work together to make this concept work. I know I say it often but thank you Winnipeg for believing in me and my crazy ideas to make Winnipeg a better place-with no government funding and no sponsors?! Shocking.
With art love, please comment below on my blog generally, or in regards to this post. I hope you enjoy reading some of my real life stories.