The Gallery That Birthed an Art Store: Art Placement

The Gallery / Art Placement Inc. located in downtown Saskatoon, Canada is a commercial fine art gallery established in 1978. It is now the longest operating commercial art gallery in the city, exhibiting contemporary, modern and historical fine art by mid-career and established Saskatchewan and Western Canadian artists. They focus primarily on painters as well as local artists throughout the region and host year-round solo and group exhibitions. Manager and co-owner Levi Nicholat and I discussed how the two departments—the gallery and the art supply store—have complemented one another since their inception.

“The spaces work well together,” Levi says. “The original founders wanted an exhibition gallery in the city, which didn’t really have many options at the time. The gallery has been going ever since.”

Grassroots Growth

The gallery nurtured a community of artists in need of art supplies and expertise. One of the partners who ran the gallery was an artist as well as a teacher and he started stocking art supplies that his students needed. “We live in a small community and when the store started the city didn’t have all the amenities. You have to take initiative and provide those amenities yourself.” And so a gallery with a shelf of paint grew into the largest art supply in the province.

The entrance to the store is around the back of the gallery in what is called the Traveler’s Block Annex. The oldest structure of its kind in the city, the stand-alone building connects to the street-front via an enclosed pedestrian bridge on the second floor.

The spaces complement one another in both form and function. The gallery shows off products in action; sometimes the customers who see what people are doing with certain materials in the gallery will decide to try those products for the first time. And while the gallery as a source of income can be erratic, the art supply store is a steady revenue stream that provides stability.

Their small size allows them to be responsive to individual needs, acting as sounding boards for the community. Paint is still a major part of what Art Placement does, but now they hit most of the major categories including drawing, graphic supplies and paper.

Inspiring Visitors

The gallery at Art Placement is a well established, commercial gallery. Their relationships with the artists have been in place for a very long time. They work with the estates of artists who are now deceased, as well as senior artists, mid-career artists represented by various galleries across the country and a few emerging artists. “The roster does ebb and flow a little bit,” Levi adds. “When my partner and I took ownership a few years ago, we did bring in some new people.”

Levi emphasizes that there is a little bit of separation between the gallery and the store. “The gallery is a little bit exclusive,” he explains. “Audience-wise, it’s open to the public, but we are not able to make exhibition opportunities for everyone. In the store, it’s incredibly important to maintain an ‘art is for everyone’ attitude and philosophy because, of course, it is.”

Jonathan working in the gallery, circa early 90s; his work in a solo show nearly thirty years later!

Recent Exhibits

Art Placement hosted a solo show of new paintings by Jonathan Forrest this spring; Jonathan was the general manager of Art Placement for 31 years before he “retired” to paint full time in 2013. He returns to Saskatchewan every spring and summer, to paint in his studio, an old deconsecrated church in a rural community just outside of Saskatoon. “The new large scale works marked a new direction in his work. It was nice to unveil the new series,” Levi says.

Greg Hardy, another senior artist that they have worked with for many years, also presented a stellar, well-attended solo show this fall full of impressive, large scale landscape paintings.

The current show features a group show of new works by the faculty members in the department of art and art history at the University of Saskatchewan, located in Saskatoon, just across the river. Art Placement has always maintained a strong relationship with the university, stocking supplies for their painting, drawing, and printmaking classes. They hold the faculty show on a biannual basis, connecting the academic community with the larger artistic community of the city.

Utilizing Space

On a weekend, a day the gallery is closed or a period between shows, Art Placement often utilizes the gallery as a multi-purpose space. Throughout the year they run workshops. This year the lineup included 11th annual bookmaking workshop, which was completely booked within 24 hours. Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, the Golden Working Artist for their territory came through on Saturday, October 5th and ran three lecture demos with 40 participants in each! The staff at Art Placement try to coordinate workshops and related promotions. For instance, during a canvas sale in March, they ran a stretcher building and canvas stretching workshop. 

Up Next: Back to the States!

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our Canadian tour and the Art Dog digital caravan is headed stateside, just past Vancouver to the seaside town of Bellingham. After a seventeen hour drive over mountains, through forests and across rivers, we’ll be ready to stretch our legs and stroll through their First Friday happenings. Dakota Art Supply, here we come!

Does your store have a gallery? It’s not too late to get on our virtual itinerary! Email us at artdogblog (@)

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