Alex Browne, contributed photos Departing White Rock city cultural development manager Claire Halpern stands in the new Pop-Uptown Gallery just before the load-in of the Crossroads show by multi-media group 4X4 Artists Collective.

Crossroads opening a bittersweet milestone

New White Rock Pop-Uptown gallery is farewell project for cultural development manager

The opening of the City of White Rock’s new arts display space – the Landmark Pop-Uptown Gallery at Central Plaza – next Thursday (Sept. 6) will be a bittersweet moment for cultural development manager Claire Halpern.

The show Crossroads, by the 4X4 Artists Collective, is the first to take advantage of the gallery, which Halpern acknowledged will provide a ‘blank canvas’ for artists in a wide range of disciplines.

The show will feature exciting new work by multi-media artist Elizabeth Carefoot and potter-clay sculptor Don Hutchinson, along with abstract-expressionist paintings by Tom Douglas and large-scale portrait drawings, paintings and photography by Scarlet Black.

“Elizabeth and Don are great, well-known local artists,” Halpern enthused. “It’s a great fit for the space – four different types of artwork and four very different types of people.”

But the event also represents a crossroads of sorts for Halpern.

The day after the opening, she’ll be off to Halifax, N.S. to begin a new life with husband Jesse Joice and their year-old son Frankie.

“I grew up here (in Greater Vancouver) but both Jesse’s sister and my sister live out there,” Halpern told Peace Arch News this week. “It’ll be great for Frankie to grow up with his cousins.”

Halpern, whose master’s degree is in cultural tourism, came to White Rock after stints with VANOC (the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics organizing committee) and the Burnaby and North Vancouver arts councils.

“It’ll be five years, almost to the day since I came here,” she said.

“One of the great things about working for a small city is that you get to do a bit of everything – since I’ve been here I’ve been involved in marketing, curating, administration and staff management,” she added (recent projects she has worked on include the first White Rock Buskers Festival, the first entirely city-organized Sea Festival and the TD Concerts at the Pier series).

“I’ve had some great co-workers and I’m also going to really miss the artists in this community,” she said.

Noting that they’re moving so that Joice, a financial data analyst and forecaster specializing in health-care planning, can take a new opportunity in that field, Halpern said she hopes to eventually dive back into arts administration in the culturally lively Halifax area, possibly working for a non-profit organization.

“Among the things I’m most proud of in White Rock are the Pop-Uptown space and something that has been less well-known – a grants program we started, in which individuals and organizations can apply for up to $5,000 to fund arts events in the community.

“People can apply for a grant in the winter, and they don’t have to be organizations, provided there are two artists who can sign for the event. And while we’ve funded the Paint The Town event each year, there is also a preference for new events. I think this is the first year all the money has been handed out, so people are definitely finding out about it.”

Halpern said the Pop-Uptown Gallery very much represents what she wanted to achieve in her time in White Rock, noting the backing of staff, council and, in particular, Coun. Lynne Sinclair of the cultural advisory committee, who has been a strong advocate for and supporter of the concept.

The first two years of the project – located in store space on Johnston Road that is now part of the Miramar phase two construction – proved to be a success with artists and the public alike.

“It’s worked so smoothly – it’s been an amazing project,” Halpern said. “By the end of last year, it seemed like there wasn’t a day that went by that there wasn’t some kind of positive feedback for it.”

The new space, at 15140 North Bluff Rd. – which acknowledges the co-operation of Landmark Properties in securing a two-year lease – will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for a variety of artist-driven shows, including exhibits of work for sale, arts classes or the production of creative projects.

Provided free for a one-month pop-up to successful applicants – along with some logistical and promotional support from the city – it works best for collaborative shows of at least four or five artists willing to share in the city requirement that it be staffed at least four days a week, Halpern suggested.

“It’s a very challenging, tough time commitment for just one person,” she said.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much a win-win, she said.

“Space to show work is always hard to find for artists and this takes some of the pressure off them – and hopefully that allows them to become even more creative,” she said.

“Artists tend to work off by themselves. This gets them talking to people, talking to other artists and sharing ideas creatively and collaboratively, which I think is really important.

“The other plus is that the community gets to see a huge variety of work. And in Central Plaza there’ll be a lot of traffic – and people can get a coffee and something to eat close by. It all helps build community – and the arts community in particular.”

While the new Pop-Uptown appears small from the storefront entrance, that’s deceptive, Halpern said – the long room is almost all gallery, apart from the two fully-accessible washrooms the city has installed.

“There’s actually more wall space for artists than the old gallery – one side of that was pretty much all windows, which led to lighting problems, and the back wall was broken up into different areas.”

And the city has been listening to artists’ feedback from the last two years – including making sure there are two Wi-Fi connections in the gallery, all-important in doing business as an artist in this day and age.

Since the request for applications was issued, the calendar has been filling up with artists and groups who want to take advantage of the new space for pop-up shows, Halpern said.

But there’s still time available in January, February and March, she added.

“Those are usually slow months – they’re not people’s top choices, although I’m sure, now that we’re putting out another call for artists, that they will soon be filled up,” she said.

Coming up this October will be a first for the Pop-Uptown Gallery – a stone-sculpture month, featuring sculptors and educators Bruce Kleeberger of Surrey and Oliver Harwood and Jocelyn Dodier of Vancouver in a show and sale and also demonstrations of techniques.

Following that, the next scheduled show will be a special two-month showcase, organized by Semiahmoo Arts, for November and December, Halpern said.

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Contributed photo Don Hutchinson’s Bird will be among plinth-mounted ceramic pieces in the Crossroads exhibit.

Contributed photo Elizabeth Carefoot’s multi-media piece, Everything, is typical of the work she will display as part of the 4X4 Artists Collective show Crossroads.

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