All About Community

You'll do well at The Well

Hopeton Anderson is looking to create a culturally oriented space at The Well

You’ll do well at The Well

While combining a cafe, bookstore, grocery store, art gallery, clothing store, performance space, and most recently, writing school, into one space may seem rather chaotic, proprietor Hopeton Anderson sees the mix as perfect ingredients for indulging creativity.Located at 821 Fort Street, The Well is at once a unique cultural space and arts marketplace, but above all else, it’s a community gathering spot that’s open to everyone. “I thought that Victoria needed a culturally oriented space because the city has such a high number of creative people per capita,” says Anderson. “We’re trying to create an inclusive, intergenerational environment. The focus is on responding to the needs of the community, and on building relationships with our local talent.”The Well already has a regular entertainment calendar lined up with all evening events starting at 7 p.m. and offered for free (though donations to the artists are encouraged). Tuesday nights are open stage, Wednesdays are open mic poetry, and Thursdays and Saturdays will feature musicians. Sundays will alternate between puppetry shows for children and an Author Breakfast Brunch featuring Vancouver Island authors. While Mondays and Fridays are still open, Anderson has lots of ideas.“Ultimately, we plan on having events every night of the week … We’re planning a lecture series that would serve to bring the conversation that normally takes place at the university into the city.”Anderson always thought he’d come back to Victoria to open a space like The Well, but he didn’t envision it taking quite so long. Born in Jamaica and raised in Montreal, he lived in Victoria managing bookstores throughout the early ’80s. Though he loved the city, Anderson detoured down south when he got a job at Florida Memorial University. The job turned into a career, and 25 years later, he finally made it back to Victoria. Last March, Anderson scouted out and purchased the Fort Street building, and by August he’d moved north and started renovations. “I want to give people inspiration to look at the world in a different way. It begins with conversation, and through that conversation, most peoples’ minds become a lot more open … And I also thought that it would be a good adventure.”The ground level of the building is an open concept space, loosely divided into sections for cafe tables, the stage, healthy groceries, and new and used clothing made from natural fibers. Local artwork is interspersed throughout, with the current exhibit called All Creatures Big and Small. Featuring paintings from many local artists, all proceeds from the show will go towards saving rabbits at UVic.The rear section of the first floor features the cozy bookstore nook filled with all sorts of treasures; The Well has also developed a relationship with the local Ekstasis Editions publishing house and will be featuring many of their books in the future.Another similarly creative relationship is just starting to bud. As of March 1, the Victoria College of Art will be taking up half of the building’s second floor to accommodate their creative writing program. Linda Rogers, Victoria’s Poet Laureate, will teach the school’s first evening poetry course, which starts on Feb. 24, and runs for six weeks.The second floor also provides studio space for rent. Artist Alina Smolyansky, originally from Kiev, specializes in Eastern Orthodox iconography and already has many pieces on display in her beautifully restored suite. Petronilo Palara, who does large scale art installations, will also be moving into a space once renovations have been completed. MCheck out what’s happening at The Well at thewellvictoria.com

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