The Enthusiast! A Guide to Breaking into Stuff That’s Niche

People say that, in St. John’s, all socializing is built around going to the bar. But there’s actually tons of stuff on the go, all the time. In this series, we will take advice from an expert, and help you take your first step into a brand new scene.

You’ve got your smock, and your beret, and your easel. You’re an artist. Now what?

If you’re been dabbling with your watercolours or fiddling with your photography for a while, you’ve probably daydreamed a little about showing your stuff in public.

When you’re ready to get your light out from under that bushel, there’s plenty of places to start.

“Volunteering is key!” says Kym Greeley, St. John’s-based artist. Her work has been exhibited in commercial, artist-run, and publicly-funded galleries, and her contemporary painting work is currently on display at The Rooms (All Day Within the Dreamy House, closing April 10).

“[Eastern Edge Gallery is an] excellent way to meet other artists, get your foot in the arts community, and learn about other opportunities to show work,” says Kym. Fees are $25 for any individual or organization, and $15 for students.

However, all memberships are also available in exchange for just five hours of volunteer work at the gallery or with their summer festival, HOLD FAST (formerly known as the 24-Hour Art Marathon). HOLD FAST includes installation, performance, screenings, artist talks, community events, and workshops for people of all ages.

Next to EE is another outstanding artist hub of St. John’s, St. Michael’s Printshop. You can take classes there, and if you make enough work at the print shop you might be able to have a show in their gallery space. “If they don’t have enough work now, they could try and do a group exhibition with friends,” says Kym.

There’s also the life drawing class at the Arts and Culture Centre ($5 drop-in fee; 4th floor Rehearsal Room, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10). “If you attend that for a while, you can add it to your CV and it looks good,” says Kym.

Also, Kym’s own work has been available on t-shirts available through Living Planet. Artists can send designs to Living Planet (, and if they like your stuff, they’ll sell it at Johnny Ruth. Artists keep their copyright, and they receive a royalty from any shirts sold in store or online.

Finally, if you’re feeling competitive and productive, you can apply for arts grants through Arts NL (deadlines March 15 and September 15), or the Arts and Letters Awards (usually late in the year).

“Most importantly, make art!” says Kym. “If you make enough, you’ll find ways to show it.”

But what about showing your stuff in coffee shops and restaurants? It may not be a gallery, but as far as cultivating an audience goes, it counts. Julia Bloomquist (formerly of The Sprout) has long been a supporter of the arts, and many local artists have a stint at The Sprout on their CV.

“I certainly believe that the arts community is the heartbeat of this city, and I have always been passionate about creating a space for artists to show their work,” says Julia.  New owners Elizabeth Mysyk and Greg Dunn (of late-night POYO fame) are hoping to continue the tradition.

Since showing art in a coffee shop is often an unpaid gig (aside from the opportunity to sell something), newbie artists should have a good long think about the risks involved before hanging a masterpiece at their favourite lunch spot. Always ask what happens if the artwork gets damaged or snatched by a thieving patron.

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