This fall, as its four-year lease expires, Gabriola Island’s Hive Emporium is closing its doors for the last time.
The art gallery, store, café, performance venue and meeting place occupies the building in Folklife Village plaza that housed Gabriola Artworks from 1996 to 2014, and its closure means the end for a space devoted to arts and culture for more than 20 years.
“The hole and the sadness in the community is that this marks the end of an era,” said Mark Parlett, who runs the Hive with partners Yarrow Koontz and DB Boyko.
For Nanaimo this is the second gallery closure since March, when the Nanaimo Arts Council left its headquarters at 78 Wharf St. In an Aug. 5 Facebook post the Hive team announced that the venue will close on Labour Day weekend.
Koontz said the last four years have been bittersweet.
“It’s been great in terms of all the artists and all the visual shows and music shows, the community,but the reality is brick and mortar shops are just suffering all over the place…” she said. “When there are opportunities for communities to support spaces like this it’s really important that they do because they’re disappearing.”
In anticipation of closing down, the Hive has been selling off its art and store fixtures. Its final exhibition, a pottery show by the Tozan Cultural Society, is underway and on Aug. 24 the Hive is holding its farewell party.
Parlett said many factors led to the closure the Hive. Among them are the challenges of competing with digital retailers and insufficient support from a community that can spend time and money elsewhere.
Parlett said in the face of “swipe culture” and the quick gratification of the internet age, “the battleground is consciousness.”
“What do we do? What do we value? How do we want to move? How do we want to be in the world? What gives our lives meaning?” he asked. “Without sounding elitist, often art.”
He said it can be a challenge to confront people to re-evaluate their priorities and become more culturally engaged. The Hive attempted that by being a gathering place for all forms of expression.
“I think the most important thing that we’ve done is created a space, an inclusive space, where people can come here and meet other artists, meet other musicians and meet other people,” Koontz said.
“I think that’s going to be actually the biggest hole in the community is that connection. Where people can just come and not be so isolated,” Boyko said.
She said a solution to the challenges facing cultural spaces will come from the grass roots. She said artists themselves have a responsibility to better articulate what they’re doing to attract an audience and they must more strategically co-ordinate their efforts.
“Something will have to replace what we’ve left behind,” Boyko said. “And we’ve put that back out there to the community when we sent out our [Facebook] message that hopefully there will be some other reincarnation of that.”
WHAT’S ON … Hive Emporium farewell party at the Hive, 9-575 North Rd., on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 8 p.m. to midnight.