Bear Lind, left, Frank George and April McCarthy sit in the Bear Arts Club building on Bute Street. Lind wants to offer the community around Fourth Avenue and Bute a place to come and create. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Alberni man opens arts club for underprivileged

Bear Lind hopes centre will give kids, adults supplies and a place to create art

A new creative space is evolving in a building on Bute Street, in the heart of a neighbourhood that has gained attention in Port Alberni due to the number of street people who call it home.

Bear Lind and April McCarthy are friends who rent rooms above the space. They came up with the concept for the art co-op and their landlord has given them two months’ free rent for the Bear Arts Club. After that, they are hoping memberships will sustain the studio.

The Bear Arts Club, in Lind’s words, “is a co-op art space for people to be creative in art, drama, music.”

“Our main (reason) is street people have nothing to do and we’re giving them something to do,” he says. “I’ve met so many First Nations artists on the street that have no supplies.”

The arts club will have a First Nations focus, and will also cater to youth programs like art classes, drama, open mic day, Facebook Live shows on First Nations rights, homelessness and poverty.

“A lot of people don’t know how many youth are in this area,” adds Lind, who has both lived on the street and helped set up other community centres in the Lower Mainland. “There’s some really cool kids in this neighbourhood.”

Lind, who moved to Port Alberni a few years ago to be with family after losing everything in an apartment fire in Port Hardy, knows what it’s like to have little. That has never been a barrier for his previous community work, he says, and it isn’t now.

“Our club is starting with three people on welfare who just want to help people be creative.”

The third person in their trio is Frank George, a First Nations carver who spends time at Victoria Quay and Harbour Quay carving outside in the good weather.

Lind, George and McCarthy will officially open the Bear Arts Club at 4824 Bute St. on Saturday, Oct. 13.

The event will feature a debate among mayoral candidates at 2 p.m. that Lind hopes to broadcast on Facebook Live so people can ask questions. He has reached out to all the mayoral candidates, he said.

Lind has a growing number of people who have purchased memberships—they cost $2 per month or $20 per year. Several people have purchased multiple memberships to be shared with people who cannot afford them, but who really want to create art.

They also plan on setting up an art supply store in the back of the studio space to help with funding.

A Port Alberni-based artist donated some artwork so the co-op can sell it and raise startup funds.

Lind is heartened by the community involvement so far. “This program isn’t going to work unless the community gets involved in it.”

Because the space will be a co-op, Lind is looking for donations of art supplies, carving tools, folding tables and chairs, a public address system and possibly a video camera for film or drama classes. The ultimate dream is to acquire a van to be able to transport co-op members off-site for different programs.

If the arts club and community gathering centre thrive, Lind has plans for more. He would like to create a list of “labour-ready” people who are living on the streets but capable of working. “There’s a lot of street people that are very healthy and looking for work,” says Lind.

For more information on the Bear Arts Club, contact Lind by phone at 250-730-0385, by e-mail at bearlind@gmail.com or visit the Facebook page (The Bear Arts Club) to see the list of equipment and supplies they are looking for.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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