By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer and Gem Yelin Lee, Copy Editor
Arrieta Art Studio celebrated the grand opening of their New Westminster brick-and-mortar space on September 3. Located on historic Front Street, home to some of the locals’ favourite coffee shops, the studio welcomes you in with a colourful mural by Mishel Arrieta herself: the owner and manager of the studio.
The day before the grand opening event, The Peak interviewed Arrieta to learn more about the studio.
“For the grand opening, I wanted to build off what I already do, which is giving this — the studio — to the artists,” said Arrieta. “I’m trying to get all the things I want the studio to be and put it all in one day.”
The grand opening featured artist Caleb O’Brien, poet Naaz Sidhu, and Astra Not. To incorporate an engaging art project at the event, visitors were encouraged to paint collaboratively on a large shared canvas. This canvas now resides in the teaching space in the studio, continually revised with leftover paint from the workshops.
Arrieta is the co-curator of the annual pop-up art show in New Westminster called APT POP. One of the first things you see when you walk in is a wall fixture for APT POP where the featured solo exhibitions are displayed, along with a lounge area and the artists’ merchandise for sale.
Over the past several years, APT POP grew beyond the scope of where it started in co-curator Ben Pilger’s apartment. Each year, Arrieta and Pilger found themselves scrambling to temporarily find or rent a space that would fulfill the project’s needs. Being an artist and educator herself, Arrieta had been searching for a new personal studio space since leaving her old one. Armed with a passionate vision, Arrieta took the lead in searching for a permanent art space.
Arrieta hoped to reopen her studio and find space for art exhibitions and other creative projects. She found a versatile space in a great location; one that would be able to serve her personal studio needs like teaching art and become the new home base of APT POP.
This was just the beginning of a new chapter for the artist — owning a business in a new location meant a new stream of ideas and new responsibilities.
She explained an important goal for the grand opening celebration was to build connections within the local community. Up to this point, she had mostly taught art one-on-one to children with disabilities and worked alone in her own studio. Through connecting more with the locals of New Westminster, she’s seeing the arts services and opportunities needed by the community and treading new ground — from working in her own bubble to working with all sorts of groups in the community.
“Now I am branching out and I am finding that there are so many groups of people who want to learn art,” said Arrieta. “Sometimes they want it to be in their own group; for example, there are some people who are retired and would like to have an only-retirees group, there’s some others who want to have a mom and baby [group].
“There’s a lot of requests, and I think there’s a lot of need.”
She said a growing pain from this transition was finding a balance between fulfilling community needs, and what she personally wants for the space.
In addition to fulfilling some of these specific community requests, she plans to have ongoing events such as hosting workshops, solo artist exhibitions, and artist talks.
The warm and eclectic front area which highlights artists and their work, extends into the back, where there is a fairly unexpectedly large space — perfect to hold workshops, teach classes, and hold group events. The large open room in the back will be where the annual APT POP exhibition will take place.
“People come in and ask if I am new, which I am, but I feel like I have been here for so long,” she said.
September 8 marked two months since the studio’s soft opening, but the space is already the physical representation of Arrieta’s commitment to community and art.
To learn more about Arrieta Art Studios, shop from local artists, or to sign up for a class, visit them in-person at 707 Front Street, New Westminster or online through their website.