Kyle Gonzales and Delfina Villacorta take in the work of Dave More in a new gallery space attached to Sunworks on Ross Street in Red Deer on Monday.

Commercial gallery launched downtown

Paul Harris often pondered how a city of nearly 100,000 people could not have a commercial art gallery. Well now Red Deer does.

Paul Harris often pondered how a city of nearly 100,000 people could not have a commercial art gallery.

Well now Red Deer does.

Harris and his partner Terry Warke are turning the retail space they own beside their Sunworks store on Ross Street into a new centre for art sales.

The 700-square-foot storefront used to house the Petit Jaune Fleur florist before it moved to Alexander Way. It was transformed last week into a gallery with hardwood floors and white walls.

The space opened on the weekend with an exhibit of 17 forest and garden paintings by artist David More. The Benalto painter is also showing more of his oil paintings of skyscapes in the Coconut Room Cafe, upstairs at Sunworks. Both exhibits will run to early January.

Harris said he’d been wondering what to do with the empty retail space just west of Sunworks, when the subject of Red Deer having no commercial art galleries came up. Suddenly, he knew exactly what to do with the storefront.

Harris made the decision to open the art space, knowing that it’s been hard for commercial galleries to make a go of it.

“I know they’ve struggled to keep the lights on and staff them.”

Red Deer’s last commercial gallery, bilton contemporary art, closed in 2010. And the Gallery IS, on Alexander Way, was turned into art studio space, although it still opens to the public for special shows.

But Harris believes the benefits of having a new gallery operating with access through Sunworks is that his current store staff can also staff and curate it. “We already have lights and staff, so it’s natural to extend into that space.

“Now people have just got to buy some art. …”

The business owner and Red Deer city councillor still has lots of details to work out — including the gallery’s name and the kind of art it will sell. Portfolios from accomplished, established artists will be considered.

Harris believes this will differentiate the new gallery from the smaller non-profit Harris-Warke gallery, which will continue to operate upstairs at Sunworks and shows more experimental works.

“We still need to discuss what does it mean to run a (commercial) gallery? ” said Harris, who isn’t afraid to move into new terrain.

He believes having a commercial art gallery on Ross Street will be a great fit with Sunworks, which already sells artistic ceramics, glass and jewelry.

Harris also believes it will be a good mix with surrounding businesses — including a new cocktail bar and smoked meat restaurant, existing eateries and gift stores.

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