New art gallery brings life to Newton street (photos)

NEWTON — One man’s detritus fills a storefront space on 137th Street, and people are pretty excited about it.

Dirt-stained passports, rusted tools, a battered real estate sign, an embalmed deer head – all there for the viewing as part of “Gross Density Parcel,” an exhibit pulled together with great speed for the opening of AgentC Gallery Thursday evening (July 23).

The new “pop-up” gallery is devoted to the kind of contemporary art that excites some and may puzzle others.

“This is exactly what we’ve wanted to see in Newton for a very long time,” said Jude Hannah, a founder of the community group ReNewton, as she took in the gallery’s opening exhibit.

“This street has such potential, and this is just fabulous – a wonderful art space, some amazing art.”

For “Gross Density Parcel,” 10 artists sifted through a small mountain of debris at a vacant lot in White Rock, resulting in an intriguing mix of sculptures, films, photographs and multi-media works curated by Debbie Westergaard Tuepah and Rhys Edwards, the AgentC Projects leads.

The artists began visiting the site back in March, said Polly Gibbons, a South Surrey-based artist.

“I spent a lot of days at the site and became quite attached to it,” she said. “It was like an archeological dig trying to find out about this one man’s life, and it kept raising more questions. Like, what happened here? Why is this man’s passport and cancelled cheques in the ground? Why are the (photographic) slides of his children buried in the earth? It was quite exciting.”

Vancouver-based artist Carlyn Yandle made a giant “Charm Bracelet” from rusted bed springs and assorted old tools, including a machete, saw, grinder and wood plane.

In her final days, Yandle’s crafty Grandma Flo lived in a trailer park once located near the current AgentC Gallery site.

“She made bracelets and all sorts of things, and I adopted that interest myself, so I was pretty emotional about it,” said Yandle.

“This is like a weight of memory, which is not always positive. Sometimes memories weigh heavy.”

The exhibit curators first met with City of Surrey officials about six weeks ago.

“It was all kind of a perfect storm, with the support of the city, a great group of artists, the curators,” Tuepah said.

The city will pay close to $11,000 for the lease, insurance and marketing of the gallery space over the next six months, according to Sheila McKinnon, Surrey’s manager of arts services, with additional funding possible in the next budget.

“The city,” added Tuepah, “has been open-minded enough and forward-thinking enough to understand what kind of impact culture has on a community – particularly a community like this that has had some negative things happen over the past year or so. I think culture really has the ability to transform an area like this.”

In a related project, as part of Surrey’s “cultural corridor” concept, nearby storefront windows will soon be transformed with art installations, Coun. Judy Villeneuve told the Now.

“I’m very thrilled about it because these are all local artists with a gallery to now call their own,” Villeneuve said.

“It’s experimental,” she added. “We’ll see how well it holds its own, and I think it’s going to explode with popularity because this city is home to so many artistic people who have been waiting for a space like this.”

On view at AgentC Gallery until Oct. 1, “Gross Density Parcel” also features works by artists Roxanne Charles, Cora Li-Leger, Don Li-Leger, Aaron S. Moran, Helma Sawatzky, Paul Bucci, Andrew Keech and Rosemary Burden. The gallery is located on 137th Street just south of 72A Avenue, behind the Save-On store. More details can be found at Agentcprojects.com.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com 

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