From The Forks of the Thames, by Alice Gibb. Originally published November 12, 1975.
Art galleries, with their high ceilings, walls covered with masterpieces and uniformed security guards can be rather awe-inspiring places. But Forest City Gallery, 432 Richmond St., never over-awes me and the exhibitions are always unique.
Forest City Gallery sprouted in December 1973, after two younger London artists, Dave Gordon and Jamelie Hassan, decided that London needed a showplace for the works of local artists and contemporary artist from around the country.
With the help of other artists in the community, and funding from Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and John Labatt Ltd., Forest City Gallery has been in existence ever since.
Forest City Gallery itself, is anything but gallery-like. Instead of the usual formal atmosphere of a gallery, this looks more like an artist’s studio. The walls are plain white brick, there are old grey wooden floors and a comfortable old-fashioned stuffed couch sits in one corner. While the gallery both displays and sells works of art, you never see a price tag anywhere. As Goldie Rans, gallery co-ordinator points out, “a price tag makes you think who the beck does he think he is?” instead of enjoying the piece of art for its own sake.
While the works displayed are usually in the field of visual arts, the Gallery is really a mixed-media place. My own introduction to Forest City came last year when poet Margaret Atwood dropped in to read selections from her work. This year, a number of poetry readings are being held and the public is invited to drop up. On Nov. 20, at 8 p.m., Frank Davey will read selections from his latest work.
Another visual and musical event at the gallery is the Monday evening jam session with Greg Curnoe, UWO artist-in-residence, and other members of the Nihilist Spasm Band. This is an event to be heard, rather than described.
Goldie Rans hopes to see more groups making use of the gallery in the future. ”We regard this as space open to the public,” she says and invites drama, dance or theatre groups to use the gallery for their performances.
In the new year, Forest City Gallery will be experimenting with another media – videotape. Monitors will be installed by January and international, national and local video works will be shown. The program will run on Sunday afternoons and people are invited to bring in their own video films to view and compare with national and international efforts.
Right now, the gallery is featuring Richard Reitzenstein’s photographic exhibition of events. On opening night, more than 100 people dropped by to meet the artist and view the exhibit. On an ordinary day, 15 to 20 people drop in – many of the visitors are students from the three art schools in the city.
The artists themselves arrange and hang their own shows, as well as designing the unique postcards mailed out to advertise the shows. A committee of three people decides while artists will be invited to exhibit, and if an artist is turned down one year, he can re-apply to a new committee the next year.
In the meantime, drop into the gallery – it’s open from 10 a.am. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons.
As well as being an artists’ place, Forest City Gallery is generally a nice place to visit, and an easy way to keep up with the work of some of Canada’s younger career artists.