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Downtown galleries get hoppin’

Every now and again, you’ve got to class it up.

As part of the Fredericton FROSTival, I attended the Downtown Gallery Hop and got a taste of the local art scene.

Bowtie tied as neatly as I could manage, I ventured out into the bitterly cold night in search of art – and as many free hors d’oeuvres as I could get.

First stop was the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, a multi-use building that immediately reminds me of UNB’s own Memorial Hall in its jumble of disciplines – a ballet practice was in session as I sauntered up the stairs to the exhibition. It turns out that the staircase was, in fact, the exhibition space, with the works of local artist Allison Green adorning the walls.

Green’s exhibit, Consume, is running until March 3. Consume features mixed-media portraits of substance abusers, portrayed in their drug of choice. From a piece made entirely of cigarettes stood on end, to one with shot glasses full of coloured wax, nearly every vice you can think of is represented.

“I didn’t want [the models’] identities to be obvious – I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable. But I did want it to be genuine,” said Green of the project that took her nearly two years to complete.

The Charlotte Street Arts Centre has been supportive despite the unflinching subject matter of her show, she said.

While I loved Green’s thought-provoking pieces, there was no other art on display that I could find, so I moved on to downtown’s Gallery 78.
The gallery is perched on the corner of Queen Street, directly opposite the cenotaph. This spot was bustling, with easily 50 people crammed into the stately vintage home. With the atmosphere of a family cocktail party, and free cookies, the owners succeeded in bringing attention to their gallery of regional art.

“I’ve talked to I-don’t-know-how-many people tonight who have never been here before. It’s nice, we’re getting a new crowd who don’t know what we do here,” said employee Kim Bent.

Gallery 78 features over 80 artists, largely from Atlantic Canada. Bleak winter landscapes share wall space with quirky nudes and pieces like Margot Cormier Splane’s Nature Abhors a Vacuum, which features a wolf relieving himself on a Dyson.

As I said earlier, it’s all about keeping it classy.

Speaking with various gallery patrons over the evening, it’s clear that the Gallery Hop was a success. While a misleading website blurb led me to believe the Beaverbrook Gallery would also be open – it wasn’t – the event certainly succeeded in getting people into galleries they might not have explored otherwise.

Fredericton’s got a bustling artistic community – it’s just a matter of getting off your butt to see it.

And free cookies always help.

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