The Sooke Arts Council gallery must close by the end of the month after receiving an eviction notice.
Eviction and closure follow the sale of the building, which resulted in a more than twofold increase in rent, said president Tanya Darling.
“We were prepared to sign a one-year lease (even with the rent increase). We even spent more than $2,000 renovating the gallery over Christmas,” she added. “Without any warning, we received an eviction notice giving us 30 days. We are in shock.”
It is the first gallery that the council opened since its founding in 1987. At the corner of Church Road and Highway 14, the property was intended as a temporary space from the get-go as it was known the landlords had plans to sell the building.
Over the past 18 months, the gallery has enjoyed success – selling more than $27,000 in merchandise. However, the council is now looking for new space.
Darling said space for a gallery, gift shop and office would be ideal, but at this point, even a simple office space would be beneficial as the council will have to return to holding meetings in members’ homes.
“There is very little out there, or they are asking high rents like $8,000 a month,” she said. “But it is important to stress Sooke Arts Council is not closing. We are still going to give opportunities for artists to display and sell their work in different venues like festivals, restaurants and coffee shops like we have in the past.”
But while the group will still be able to carry out its mission of promoting the arts, Darling said the gallery’s closure will “create a big hole.”
She said the space provided an opportunity for emerging artists especially to showcase and sell their work, which is often a daunting task otherwise. Perhaps more importantly, it provided a social space where local artists could come together and bounce ideas off each other.
“Friendships have developed. Sometimes being an artist can be a very lonely pursuit,” said Darling.
The group is now turning to its members and the broader community to suggest potential locations or ideas for new gallery space. Those suggestions can be made by emailing email@example.com.
Artists whose work is currently on display in the gallery or gift shop will be contacted by the council to arrange to collect their work before the gallery closes on Feb. 19.