SAINT JOHN– Saint John artist Sarah Jones and her brother and business partner Caleb Jones were in Toronto last month for Art Toronto, an international art event where the who’s who of contemporary art in Canada converge.
“It’s the biggest Canadian Art fair. That’s where contemporary art happens in Canada. All of the museums for their collection there,” says Sarah. “The AGO [Art Gallery of Ontario] is there going ‘I’ll buy that one. I’ll buy that one. I’ll buy that one.’ That’s where it happens. Four days in the fall, art in Canada happens there.”
But amongst the huge amount of amazing art, one thing stood out to them.
“There was not a single New Brunswick gallery. There was no New Brunswick representation there. There was a gallery from Halifax and a gallery from St. John’s, but that’s it,” says Sarah.
“It’s a real gap. New Brunswick hasn’t been on a national stage in a long time in terms of art galleries participating in these national art fairs.”
Sarah and Caleb hope to help change that as their gallery, Jones Gallery, moves into their new, much bigger location next month, after years being based in a tiny house at 73 Duke Street in uptown Saint John.
The gallery’s new home will be on the ground floor of the recently renovated 1 Charlotte Street, also in the city’s uptown. The new location will not only bring more wall space but also more room to support other artists.
“We were planning it for a long time. It’s been a couple years really that we’ve been cooking this up. We just had to find the right space. The Duke Street location was fine for me when I had a solo studio gallery space,” says Sarah. “But then, Caleb came on board to run the gallery three or four years ago. We just realized that between the two of us, we have the capacity to do more than just manage my career.”
The new Jones Gallery will feature and manage a selected 10 to 12 artists from Atlantic Canada focusing on painting and sculpture.
“Our mandate is emerging to mid-career Atlantic Canadian artists. They’re artists where we’re excited about their careers and we want to be part of their careers and they’re going somewhere,” says Sarah. “It’s artists we would collect that we feel comfortable putting them forward to our clients.”
The artists on board so far include Kristina Søbstad, Jared Peters, Jimy Sloan, Emilie Grace Lavoie, and Mike Gough.
Each gallerist signed on will get to host their own solo exhibit. With the new space being 2,000 square feet, Caleb, who will be handling the sales side of the gallery, says this will provide a unique opportunity for their artists.
“I think it’s really refreshing to tell the artists … ‘this space is yours to do with what you will.’ You have your work, but if you want to have an installation or do something funky, something to help their career move forward [you can],” he says. “I think it’s just really refreshing to the artist to hear that. I think it will make for some really interesting shows because they have a rare opportunity to do something like that in a space.”
Sarah says the goal of the new gallery is to provide more than just a wall for artists to hang their work on. They want to help give them opportunities to advance their careers.
“That’s the role I think of a good gallerist too. It’s not just our job to put stuff on the walls and then that’s it. A good gallerist is there to move forward the artist’s career,” she says. “We need to allow them to have solo shows that will produce a catalog that they can then use when they apply to Canada Council [of the Arts] or they are applying for larger public exhibitions elsewhere.”
That’s the reason why they plan to limit the number of artists they represent to between 10 and 12.
“We can have a more direct impact on their career. We can feasibly handle 10 to 12 artists and help move their careers forward. It’s not helping the artists much in their career just to take a half dozen pieces of their work and put them on the wall and if they sell, great and if they don’t, whatever,” says Sarah.
“That’s not moving their career forward. That’s just sales. We do want to take more of an active management role in their career and help use this space to them into public galleries and into other shows and get bigger grants.”
By doing this, they hope to help get more New Brunswick artists seen and recognized nationally at events like Art Toronto.
“We’re good enough to be there. It’s not like our art is subpar. It’s just that it takes time and dedication and organization and sales strategy. It takes a huge amount of work to go and commit,” says Sarah. “That’s something that’s really important to us, to make sure our artists are seen on a national stage as well.”
Jones Gallery’s new location will be open December 7th.