Canada’s ‘only art gallery for young audiences’ ready to open in North Vancouver

Artists for Kids director Yolande Martinello in the new Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art opening this weekend in North Vancouver.  - Rob Newell photo
Artists for Kids director Yolande Martinello in the new Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art opening this weekend in North Vancouver.
— image credit: Rob Newell photo

Calling itself “the first gallery in the country dedicated to young audiences,” the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art wants to go beyond the cutting edge of the art world when it opens its doors Saturday in North Vancouver.

And it has the support of some of Canada’s most forward-thinking artists to do so.

When patrons visit the gallery for the first time this weekend — through doors carved by internationally recognized Squamish carver, Xwalacktun — they’ll see new works from Maritime painter David Blackwood, photos by Ontario landscape artist Edward Burtynsky and a sculpture by the North Shore’s own Douglas Coupland.

While many of the works were bought by the gallery, many more were donated by the artists themselves.

“It’s a teaching collection,” said Daylen Luchsinger, the program facilitator for gallery operator Artists for Kids. “When artworks are acquired, part of our mandate is we acquire based on not just what’s going on in the art world but also what we can teach with them.”

Existing on the North Shore for more than two decades, the non-profit Artists for Kids will have its first permanent and fully public gallery when the new exhibition space in the North Vancouver School District building at 2121 Lonsdale Ave. opens this weekend.

“We’re different from the Vancouver Art Gallery who just try to stay on the cutting edge,” Luchsinger said. “We do that too while trying to cater to the K-12 age group.”

Named for West Vancouver visual artist Gordon A. Smith, whose donations of time and money to Artists for Kids have in part made the program possible, the new gallery will seek to connect with kids through its collection without dumbing down the works of serious “grown-up” artists.

One example of this is Coupland’s life-sized sculpture of a green army man toy called Green Soldier No. 1. The piece explores themes of war, mass-production and fractured emotions, while remaining accessible to those kids and young adults who grew up playing with plastic army men or watching them in the Toy Story movies, Luchsinger says.

The gallery opening runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m with some artists in attendance. Following the opening, the gallery will be open to the public by donation from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

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