Heather Marvell has had a passion for the London arts scene since 1983, the year she was introduced to the “remarkable talent” local artists — of all fashions — were capable of sharing.
She took that passion and used it to craft a downtown arts festival a couple of years ago before following that up with a four-day fest this past spring that was held at Westmount Mall.
That passion flourishes in her latest venture, an artisans centre called For The Love of Art, which she plans on operating at least through the end of the year and possibly into the spring. But even that could just be the pre-cursor to something even bigger.
“I was thinking, why not create a place where artists can actually have a centre. So I had a conversation with the shopping centre officials, they were like I had just fallen from the sky,” Marvell said. “They had been hoping somebody in the arts community would approach them. So it was kind of a moment of serendipity.”
That conversation led to that four-day show back in May, one Marvell said went over “extremely well.”
In fact, the only downside to it was people were immediately asking when she was going to do it again.
Back in September, Marvell again spoke with officials at Westmount Mall, this time committing to a space that had contained the former Smart Set store. Marvell jokes it was something of “a perfect space” for this new venture as you can't spell Smart Set without the word art.
So, Marvell opened the doors on For The Love of Art on Oct. 27.
“I wanted not only the community to have access to more art, but to have artists benefit directly,” Marvell said. “We are a community who wants artists to donate their time, show their art, but there isn’t an avenue for them to make a good living. So, I thought this was my way of giving back.”
For The Love of Art — which the takes no commission from the sale of the artists’ work — is essentially a co-op that already has 30 artists taking part. There is a turnover of artists each week, as they have to make a minimum seven-day commitment to the centre
Each artist has a section, they hang their art, work with the centre on the hanging, creation of a bio, and other various marketing necessities. Each artist also has to agree to volunteer for a minimum of four hours during his or her seven-day commitment.
Helping out with art hanging or working the cash register aren’t the artists only commitment to making the centre a unique experience.
The expectation is, Marvell said, is the artists will engage with the public around what they do. As Marvell says, if they are a painter, she wants them on-site painting; if they make models, they are expected to be at the centre building models.
The reason for that interaction is to help the public understand the amount of work that goes into art — something most people have no concept of.
Of course, there are other benefits too.
“There is the goal of helping London realize the tangible commodity we have here. Everyone says London is the Forest City; I want London to be recognized as the Talent City,” Marvell said. “That, to me, is the best thing I can give back to this community. There is living, breathing, and wonderful talent here in London. We are giving exposure to art in every aspect.”
Linda Rempel is one of the artists benefiting from Marvell’s artist passions.
In September, Marvell called Rempel with her new idea about opening up the centre.
Needless to say, she loved the idea.
Rempel said Marvell’s idea “is a really important thing,” as she believes the average person can find the “traditional gallery” somewhat intimidating.
“How many people really go into a gallery? So I think this space, in this shopping mall, is exposing this kind of experience to people who would never walk into a traditional gallery,” Rempel said. “The flip side is it is allow artists who would never have thought of hanging their work in a traditional gallery, to share their work.”
Even while For The Love of Art continues to find success, Marvell is working on “a bigger adventure” for London.
Marvell says it has been “a 10-year dream” to create one of the very first artisan villages for the city. She is actually “in the process” of negotiating for a very large piece of land, with buildings on it, to create that village.
The location in Westmount Mall essentially has become “an incubator” for that larger project — something Marvell said would be her “legacy” and a place to benefit both artists and the broader community.
“London is very locked into its head about where art should be. London needs to recognize that every community deserves an arts centre,” Marvell said. “If we only had one swimming pool we would all be crammed in trying to have a swim. Art centres should be available to everyone.”