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

(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

Visual Arts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Michael Demers, performing here as a member of The Lonely, died May 1 after a year-long battle with leukemia. (Photo by Benji Duke)
Victoria music community mourning Michael Demers

Veteran singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Lonely dies at 63 due to leukemia

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Musqueam and Qualicum First Nations artist, Mathew Andreatta, next to several of his ongoing projects, including carvings and illustrations. (Submitted photo)
Island artist considers art a means to reconnect with his Indigenous identity

Andreatta thought of TOSH as a space of learning and creation

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong are presenting an online reading on May 9. (Photos courtesy Joni Marcolin/Heather Armstrong)
Nanaimo playwrights present online Mother’s Day script readings

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong to read from in-progress plays

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.
Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Most Read