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Painter Crystal Beshara raising funds for new art studio and cafe

By Adria May on March 20, 2014

Ottawa artist Crystal Beshara has always dreamed of opening a common space where artists could congregate, and share their talents and skills with others. The dream is about to become a reality as Crystal is planning on opening The Studio café, gallery and workshop.  It combines a gallery, as well as studio and workshop space for artists and art instructors right in Hintonburg.  It’s a one-stop shop where artists can learn, teach, display, sell and share their talent. It will also become a place to hang out and chat about art all while grabbing a delicious cup of java, provided by Ottawa coffee aficionados Happy Goat Coffee.

When it launches on May 1st, studio spaces will be available for rent as well as the smaller spaces for short term art shows. Hand crafted harvest tables in the café area can be reserved by groups who wish to have an informal gathering place to chat, and sketch out creative projects. The space is inspired by cooperative spaces found in other major cities like  New York, Toronto, St. John’s, and Montreal.

A fundraiser for the new space will be held on March 21st, where you can get a first peek ahead of the opening and help raise funds for shelving, utility sinks, tables, and knocking down walls, among other things, to help get the space up and running. It’s an art show featuring local artists such as Andrea Stokes, Daniel Martelock, Carrie Colton, Anne Tessier, Andrea Sutton, Heidi Conrod, Erin Robertson, David Lidbetter, Leeca St. Aubin, Eryn O’Neill, and Jenny McMaster. Their works will be for sale, with the proceeds being split between the needs of this new community space and the artists themselves.

Crystal is a very talented painter and instructor who herself will offer classes. When she was 23 she had been the youngest elected fellow of the Ottawa watercolour society. Now in her thirties, she has gone on to win several awards and is indeed an impressive realist painter. In fact, one of her paintings will be the prize of a 50/50 draw at the fundraiser. I caught up with Crystal who told me about her vision for The Studio.

 Why did you decide to open a studio/cafe?

Crystal Beshara and self portrait

Crystal Beshara and self portrait. Photo credit: Ben Welland.

I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for over a decade. As an art instructor I always struggled with finding an affordable community space where I could teach seminars and workshop and know there’s a real need for it in this city, Additionally I was so inspired by talking to my artist friends over the years about how amazing it would be to open our own gallery… I decided it was about time to do just that! Almost every major city has a multi- disciplinary /collective space – why not Ottawa with it’s huge vibrant arts community?! It’s a way to showcase the talent of our leaders in the industry, as teachers and artists and creators of all type and invite the public in to be privy to all that magnificent energy.

What is your vision for the studio?

The front space is a bright, inviting gallery. A friendly, warm environment- different from the intimidating austere vibe that one typically associates with a gallery space. The café adds to that environment. The back area behind the café is a collection of spaces, two rental/workshop spaces and one main classroom space. Below there is a lower level for more studio/workshop space and drying racks, tubs and general mess area for printmakers, oil painters…or anyone who needs to spread out and build stuff.

Crystal's Watercolour painting 'Alarm'Who do you hope will come?

In the classroom, Teachers who want to share their skills via seminars and workshops. Students who want to take regular weekly classes in everything from mixed media or textiles, to oil painting and pencil drawing. There will also be pop up workshops on evenings and weekends. Summer camps for kids and I’m working on an after school program. In the café I want to see people using the communal seating area; poetry groups, knitting circles, animated discussion about art, drawing papers spread out on the harvest tables…

What are you most excited about?

At the moment I am thrilled to see how easily everything is coming together People are coming to me, asking me how they can help. Complete strangers, heavy hitters in the arts scene, contractors, friends and acquaintances. People are coming out of the woodwork to make this thing happen. Their enthusiasm really reassures me that we need this and I’m doing the right thing! Although it’s been invigorating, it has taken an incredible amount of time and effort to get this all together in such a short period…a café designed and furnished, a gallery set up, teachers hired and programs set up…all within a month and a half… Soooooo I’m excited to sleep … but with all that delicious coffee – I may never need to!

Check out more of Crystal’s beautiful work on her website.

The fundraiser for The Studio takes place Friday, March 21 from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m at 1089 Somerset West. No cover.  For more information, visit The Studio’s  new website and you can check out the event on Facebook.