Artrepreneur: Bike Shop Makes Room for ‘The Gritty Gallery’

There’s a new gallery in town … but only for a little while.

Five artists will display their artwork in Philippe’s Bicycle Repair during the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

Photographer Mario Villeneuve, painter Nicole Bauberger (ahem, me), assemblage artist Scott Price and metal sculptors Katherine Alexander and Philippe LeBlond met in LeBlond’s bike shop Nov. 24 to hash out details of the impromptu gallery.

At that time, they were hoping to attract a couple of more artists to widen out the mix and defray costs.

The bikes have been stored out in LeBlond’s bus in the back yard of the Wood Street shop and the team has scrubbed and rolled LeBlond’s walls a little more white. It’s the Gritty Gallery, after all.

The wood stove flickers, throwing out radiant heat. LeBlond’s dog, Malice, works the crowd. Artwork hangs on the walls and also on LeBlond’s rolling racks that pull out to display bike accessories in the summer.

Katherine Alexander’s mobile metal lion fish sculpture perches on top of a 1950s refrigerator covered with magnetic beetles made of old forks. The fish moves when you hand crank it.

She also has plans to fabricate bras and underwear of sheet metal and display them on a laundry line. She might make some belt buckles if she finds the time.

She says she “digs the space and the chance to show off my work with the veteran metal geeks in town.”

Mario Villeneuve will show little contact prints, matted and shrink-wrapped, ready to frame. Contact prints are made without an enlarger, by placing the negatives right on the paper.

Villeneuve has shot his images on a variety of large format film, two and a quarter inches square, six by nine centimetres, six by twelve centimetres and the largest at four by five inches. “People are running out of room on their walls,” Villeneuve explains, figuring that small art is easier to buy.

Because the images are contact printed from the negatives, the imagery will be lush with detail and in black and white. If Villeneuve has time he will add some albumen prints and cyanotypes to the mix.

Bauberger will show various paintings as well as some new experiments with gold and metal leaf. At the very least she plans to gild some bike gears. She’s also painted a large raven in acrylic for the show.

A week before the opening, Scott Price was working on five miniature assemblages, about 1½ by three inches each. He began with coats of gesso and paint to “get his mind going.” Then he adds metal, wood, bits of tar paper, “you name it.”

Price’s studio and shop building are still an unheated shell. He put his tubs in a shed to clear space to insulate it. He pulled a couple into the house and started picking through getting inspiration from the “bits and pieces, old reading glasses, wine corks” and so on.

LeBlond has fabricated dragonflies from bicycle chain and shifter cable. He will also have many of the crafts he’s been known for over the years: sheet metal ravens, clocks and weather vanes. He has a mysterious “larger idea” he’s hoping to finish and some candle lantern designs he’s hoping to refine.

Over the three weeks that it’s open, more work will intermittently arrive.

“It’s good to get back with some artists and that exchange about artwork,” says Villeneuve. He notes that he’s not shown in town that much anymore.

That’s why he decided to take part despite it being “bad timing”. He just got back from CARFAC meetings in Ottawa and, after wandering the market there and finding 10 galleries in a small area, thinks that Whitehorse really needs another little place downtown where people can come and see art.

LeBlond sees this as “Year 0” of the gallery. It’s a bit of an experiment, to see whether it would be a good complement to his busy summer bicycle business. For now, he’s excited to use the space doing something new and the opportunity to work with other local artists.

The artists see the gallery as a chance not only to leap into the pre-Christmas marketing fray but also to play. Three out of five of them are original Studio 204 members and have a history of inspiring each other to experiment with their art.

The bicycle business is still open Fridays and Saturdays for repairs or purchases, though you might have to go out to the bus to check out the stock.

The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 3 to 7 p.m., from now until Christmas. It opened for the first time Dec. 5.

Anytime the gallery is open you will meet one of the showing artists working their shift.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top