NEWTON â€” One manâ€™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 â€“ all there for the viewing as part of â€œGross Density Parcel,â€ an exhibit pulled together with great speed for the opening of AgentC Gallery Thursday evening (July 23).
The new â€œpop-upâ€ gallery is devoted to the kind of contemporary art that excites some and may puzzle others.
â€œThis is exactly what weâ€™ve wanted to see in Newton for a very long time,â€ said Jude Hannah, a founder of the community group ReNewton, as she took in the galleryâ€™s opening exhibit.
â€œThis street has such potential, and this is just fabulous â€“ a wonderful art space, some amazing art.â€
For â€œGross Density Parcel,â€ 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.
â€œI spent a lot of days at the site and became quite attached to it,â€ she said. â€œIt was like an archeological dig trying to find out about this one manâ€™s life, and it kept raising more questions. Like, what happened here? Why is this manâ€™s passport and cancelled cheques in the ground? Why are the (photographic) slides of his children buried in the earth? It was quite exciting.â€
Vancouver-based artist Carlyn Yandle made a giant â€œCharm Braceletâ€ from rusted bed springs and assorted old tools, including a machete, saw, grinder and wood plane.
In her final days, Yandleâ€™s crafty Grandma Flo lived in a trailer park once located near the current AgentC Gallery site.
â€œShe made bracelets and all sorts of things, and I adopted that interest myself, so I was pretty emotional about it,â€ said Yandle.
â€œThis is like a weight of memory, which is not always positive. Sometimes memories weigh heavy.â€
The exhibit curators first met with City of Surrey officials about six weeks ago.
â€œIt was all kind of a perfect storm, with the support of the city, a great group of artists, the curators,â€ 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, Surreyâ€™s manager of arts services, with additional funding possible in the next budget.
â€œThe city,â€ added Tuepah, â€œhas been open-minded enough and forward-thinking enough to understand what kind of impact culture has on a community â€“ 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.â€
In a related project, as part of Surreyâ€™s â€œcultural corridorâ€ concept, nearby storefront windows will soon be transformed with art installations, Coun. Judy Villeneuve told the Now.
â€œIâ€™m very thrilled about it because these are all local artists with a gallery to now call their own,â€ Villeneuve said.
â€œItâ€™s experimental,â€ she added. â€œWeâ€™ll see how well it holds its own, and I think itâ€™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.â€
On view at AgentC Gallery until Oct. 1, â€œGross Density Parcelâ€ 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.