New building in Fleetwood would honour late artist's legacy

New building in Fleetwood would honour late artist’s legacy

FLEETWOOD — A new development proposal on the corner of 84th Avenue and Fraser Highway is one that local artists — both new and established — could soon find themselves celebrating.

Vancouver-based development company Thomas Properties has proposed a three-storey concrete office and retail building that would bring both commerce and a sense of art to the area.

Slated to be named after the late local icon, Arnold Mikelson, a well-known artist who emigrated from Eastern Europe with his wife decades ago, the building would include many other tributes to the artist and his work.

Mary Mikelson, the widow of Arnold and owner of South Surrey’s Mind Over Matter Gallery, gave Thomas Properties the green light to name the proposed real estate development after her late husband.

“(The Thomas family) said they wanted to do the development and name it after an artist that has been in the community for a long time and has contributed a great deal to the culture of Surrey,” Mary told the Now, noting the developers were pleased to have her permission to pay homage to the iconic artist.

“It was my late husband who actually pioneered arts in the community because when we came here with nothing, and (we) built a gallery and they said ‘Well, who would come?’ and actually, everybody did come. Then, as he got famous, artists started to move into the community because they realized you can make a living at your art.”

The Arnold Mikelson building is to include a statue of Arnold on the property, as well as carved medallions on the north and south sides of building that reflect some of Arnold’s more iconic pieces like “The Chelsea Bird” and “Ogo Pogo”.

As well, John and Laura Gilroy of Gilroy Glass have designed a stained glass window for the building’s foyer — an image of Arnold Mikelson working in his art studio.

"Our window will provide both beauty and an educational component as we will be providing visual storytelling of Arnold Mikelson’s life’s work and re-enforcing the ethos behind the chosen naming of the building,” said Laura Gilroy of her contribution to the proposed property.

“We depicted Arnold in the process of sculpting, using his favoured tools, and we illustrate both the physical and creative elements that were necessary to bring his art to life. We also show his gallery-workshop nestled in the wooded area of his property, illustrating his life with his wife and family and his involvement with the community."

Thomas Properties also consulted with the Fleetwood Community Association’s Rick Hart and Gordon Anderson “to ensure that the Thomas Family… met the need of Fleetwood.”

The development proposal first went public during the inaugural 84th Avenue Café StreetFEST on Sunday, Aug. 3, which Rick Hart and the FCA spearheaded to bring culture to the streets of Fleetwood.

“It was well received by the general public and some of the artists that were actually there, they knew Mary and they thought it was just a great thing,” Hart said.

As for Mary herself, the gallery owner and veteran in the arts community is pleased to see culture brought to the forefront in the neighbourhood.

“It’s very exciting for the community because Fleetwood is quite an artist’s community and this fits perfectly and I’m sure that the community will embrace it,” she said.

Thomas Properties is also looking to build 43 townhomes that will have an entrance off of 83rd Avenue, in conjunction with the retail and office concrete building, called the Mikelson Mews.

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