(From left) Kit Warren, Robin Unger and Richard Matois are photographed inside the 1620 Gallery a new inclusive gallery. Anna James/VICTORIA NEWS

Director of new gallery looks to make art accessible to all

Dowtown Victoria gallery promotes Indigenous and local artists

Health, wellness and inclusion are three concepts not often associated with the art world, but Robin Unger, director of the new 1620 Gallery, is changing that.

“This space is about bringing people together – well-known artists and people who are just starting out,” he says.

The gallery is an urban jungle with wall-to-wall cedar slabs, where the air emanates strong essential oils and the wood – salvaged from across Vancouver Island by designer Kit Warren – contains healing properties.

Elder Go Tseeyeh Cho is working to bring Indigenous artists into the space, including Tim Alfred, whose work been shown in the Royal British Columbia Museum.

“We’re interested in unearthing new, raw talent,” Unger says. “Our artists come from all different backgrounds, many with limitations.”

Unger has been making art since age 3, when his mother enrolled him into a painting class, but in 2007, tragedy struck. Unger broke his neck in a diving accident on Okanagan Lake, and he now uses a wheelchair.

“I moved to the Island in 2009 and met people who were like me – disabled and artistically inclined,” he explains.

He reached out to CanAssist, an organization based out of the University of Victoria, that improves the quality of life for people with different abilities.

Through CanAssist, Unger connected with other artists who worked from their chairs like Garry Curry and Alistair Green. It was during this experience that Unger developed the idea of a live gallery, where artists could share artmaking practices and also display their work.

In February 2018, he found a space on one of the busiest stretches of downtown, a perfect location for vehicle and foot traffic. Unger now mans the gallery five days a week and welcomes on-the-spot submissions.

“Walk-ins are encouraged, and wheelchairs, too,” he says. “It’s about making art accessible to all. Art is art.”

The 1620 Gallery (1620 Blanshard St.) hosts its grand opening, Friday April 6, at 5 p.m.

anna.james@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Life ain’t a drag for RuPaul stars

Victoria to play host to two of Drag Race reality show’s biggest personalities

REVIEW: Anna doesn’t quite know what it wants to be

Monday film reviewer Robert Moyes not impressed with the latest Russian femme fatale flick

BEHIND BARS: Learning about the versatility and nuanced flavours of sake

Discover new flavours with sake sommelier Anton Ihl at E:Né Raw Food and Sake Bar

Speaking out: Pride in the Word a major part of Pride Week

Billeh Nickerson returns to host an all-new group of writers for popular literary event

TESS ON TOUR: Festivals and attractions make it Vibrant Vancouver

Monday columnist Tess Van Straaten crosses the water to check out what’s hot in the big city

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Many food options at the Gorge Canada Day Picnic

A multitude of food trucks on hand, but pancake breakfast among the most popular choices

Feed your hunger for Canucks hockey in Victoria this September

NHL team to host camp at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, exhibition vs. Calgary set for Sept. 16

Taylor Swift’s new music video features Ellen, Ryan Reynolds, RuPaul and more

Cast of Queer Eye and Katy Perry make appearances too on “You Need to Calm Down” video

COLUMN: Revisiting a decade ago as Victoria celebrates 20 years of Ska

4 million tourists visit Greater Victoria each year and there’s a reason we remain despite them

Rick Mercer-led comedy team in for second Just for Laughs show at UVic

Comedy company will stage two shows Nov. 16 at Farquhar Auditorium

Most Read