Early in 2004, local potter Muiriel Checkeris was approached by Jane Cameron, the owner of Sudbury Paint and Custom Framing, to look at an empty shop on Elgin Street.
Cameron offered to rent the space to the members of Northern Artists Gallery, a group of visual artists and craftspeople, to display and sell their creations.
This sort of space had been lacking since the closure of The Attic gift shop in the downtown mall four years earlier.
That was the beginning of Artists on Elgin
, which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.
“I'm very, very pleased about that,” said Checkeris, chair of the Northern Artists Gallery. “I think it's a success story. When you start something like this, you're never sure how it's going to work out.”The gallery is staffed by volunteers, and would not have survived without the "wonderful artists and volunteers" that work so tirelessly with great dedication,” Checkeris said, in a press release.
The 10th anniversary is “a landmark for us,” added Ellen Gorecki, a watercolour artist and member of Northern Artist Gallery's board of directors.
“Ten years doesn't seem like a lot of time, but in this kind of business we're in, being in the north with a limited market, it is,” she said.
“It's a great thing that we're still here and functioning and people are still interested in coming in.”
While Artists on Elgin started out with 20 artists, it now has 53 members from Sudbury, Manitoulin Island and Sault Ste. Marie who display creations including smocked dresses, hand-made teddy bears, pottery, paintings and jewellery.
The gallery also holds monthly art shows at the back of its Elgin Street location for artists who may or may not be members. This month, potter Paula Walsh's work is on display.
To some extent, Artists on Elgin has been a victim of its own success, as it's hard to find enough space to display the work of all of its members.
That's why the Northern Artists Gallery has displays at various locations throughout the city, including the mayor's office at Tom Davies Square and Science North.
In the last seven years, the Northern Artists Gallery, with the support of Northern Life, has sponsored the Picture our Lakes photograph competition. Winning entries are featured in a calendar, which is a major fundraiser for Artists on Elgin.
The organization has been supported in its work by many government agencies, including the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, which has paid for an intern employee each year.
To celebrate Artists on Elgin's 10th anniversary, the gallery is holding a special exhibit at the front of the shop during the month of May. All of the member artists were invited to contribute one piece of work for the exhibit.
Artists on Elgin is located at 168 Elgin St., and is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.artistsonelgin.ca.