Sabrina Storey, a radio broadcaster turned dressmaker, has transformed the old bank vault at the Langley Arts Council building into a showroom for Travelling Treasures Boutique Children’s Apparel. With help from a group of dedicated moms, Storey creates and sells unique hand-made children’s clothing. For more information, visit Below: Judy Vanderveen paints inside her studio at the recently reopened gallery.

Arts, culture & community combine

Langley Arts Council gallery re-opens on Fraser Highway one-way

Members of the Langley Arts Council are back in their old new home.

And if all goes as planned, they’ll be there for a while.

LAC returned to the former Coast Capital building on Fraser Highway in January after vacating the property last October to make way for the Langley Christmas Bureau’s seasonal activities.

The council spent last summer in the prominent downtown space — time they used to draw attention to local artists and their work. And then in January, they signed a one-year lease with an option to buy the 10,500 square foot building, explained Don Shilton, executive director of LAC.

Their hope is to make the building their permanent home — something they say the community desperately needs.

“There’s a crisis for arts and culture spaces throughout Langley,” said Shilton. “Research told us, ‘if you build it, they will come.’”

But it’s about far more than just wall space, he added.

“We consider out cultural space uses to be places for exchange of ideas, learning, socializing and community space for entertainment and fun.”

Shilton estimated the gallery is getting about two dozen visitors each day. During what he refers to as the LAC’s 12-week pilot project last summer, Shilton said roughly 3,000 visitors came through to watch painters, sculptors, writers and jewelry makers at work and to visit with the artists.

With “Home of Arts and Culture” painted on the window, the the gallery — which has expanded to take in the building’s second storey — now boasts 30 studios and three galleries as well as small performance space in the main room.

Among the 20-plus artists who have already rented out studios are returning painters and jewelry makers. They’re joined by a few new artists — including clothing designers, and a music therapist.

The tenants have been given free reign to design and decorate their small studios and, already, the result has been an eclectic mix of materials and themes.

Sabrina Storey, owner of Travelling Treasures, has rented space inside the former bank vault to display handmade children’s apparel.

Surrounded by concrete walls, Storey’s options were limited, so she covered one wall with a bold, black-and-white design and placed several mismatched pieces of furniture inside the confined space, where she displays brightly coloured children’s clothing, knitted hats and bags.

Upstairs, the gallery’s resident music therapist has taken a cozy, homey approach, bringing in a comfy armchair and covering the walls with colourful paintings in her small room which is filled with a range of  handheld musical instruments.

It’s exactly the type of ownership Arts Council president Rosemary Wallace hoped the artists would take — making each space a unique oasis for visitors and offering a glimpse into their personalities.

“What I love about this space is the collectiveness, the inclusiveness. Our community can feel connected — coming in, taking in art and performances.”

It’s a place to talk about art and watch it being created.

Everyone is welcome to come in and appreciate their surroundings, regardless of whether they can afford to make a purchase, Wallace added.

They’re noticing a lot of grandparents bringing in their grandchildren in to stroll around and enjoy colourful artwork. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a number of colourful, life-sized equine sculptures from the Horsing Around Langley project scattered throughout the main gallery to draw in younger visitors, noted Wallace.

Plans are in the works to bring in guest speakers, art talks, lessons and workshops from high-profile artists.

“We’re looking at community partnerships, trying to integrate health and wellness. We’re taking a holistic approach,” said Wallace.

Her goal is to engage the community at large and create an appreciation for the visual and performing fine arts that rivals her own.

Of course, that will be no small task.

“I love this,” said Wallace, gesturing around the gallery. “This is my life.”

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