RACHEL STERN / The News Bulletin                                Nicholas McMaster and Kara Harrison invite people to visit Golden Otter Gallery, which they founded with Agnes Gnutek. The gallery is located on the ground floor of Nanaimo Fire Hall No. 2 on Nicol Street.

RACHEL STERN / The News Bulletin Nicholas McMaster and Kara Harrison invite people to visit Golden Otter Gallery, which they founded with Agnes Gnutek. The gallery is located on the ground floor of Nanaimo Fire Hall No. 2 on Nicol Street.

VIDEO: Golden Otter Gallery is the newest addition to Nanaimo’s downtown arts scene

Gallery currently accepting submissions for Vancouver Island Vignettes exhibit

Golden Otter Gallery is Nanaimo’s newest addition to the city’s downtown arts scene.

The small gallery, nestled on the ground floor of the Nanaimo Fire Hall No. 2 on Nicol Street, was founded by artists Nicholas McMaster, Kara Harrison and Agnes Gnutek.

McMaster said the space is different than traditional galleries where maybe four pieces are displayed on a wall with space in between.

“We’re packed with art. We want to have people be immersed in the art, rather than have two or three pieces on the gallery wall and the rest is white walls,” he said, adding he finds the traditional spacing of gallery artwork an “unnatural space to look at.”

Golden Otter Gallery is a “little bit more homey and little bit more accessible,” said McMaster.

Inside the small space, paintings and pieces cover the walls and are lighted by lamps as well as overhead lighting. McMaster said they chose to have the more casual lighting so people could have a better sense of what pieces would look like in their homes.

Another reason the three created the gallery was to connect with other artists on Vancouver Island.

“We really wanted to make it a place where we could collaborate with really cool artists and give people a place, a little sense of community, for artists to come and be a part of something,” said Harrison, adding they want to have events and invite other artists to take part. “We want to try to involve people from all over the Island and meet new artists and be able to network and connect with different people that way.”

A fourth artist recently joined the gallery. Cody Desorcy, a wildlife and nature photographer, will also have his work displayed.

McMaster, Harrison and Gnutek each have an area at the back of the gallery to work. Harrison said even though it can get “hectic and busy” at the gallery it’s nice to have set hours.

“Sometimes you come and sit down and know you won’t be inspired at that moment, but having that specific time set aside for it allows you to just gather up your creativity and be ready to go when you get here,” she said. “I find I am very productive when I am here.”

Harrison creates collage pieces and paintings, focusing on animals. She originally wanted to become a marine biologist, but made a shift to art in her early 20s.

“I was always interested in art when I was younger, but I don’t think I got really excited about it until the end of high school,” she said.

McMaster’s work is inspired by nature. His pieces are an “exploration” of how his brain interprets the world, said McMaster. He describes himself as a night owl.

“If I have an idea I run with it until I can’t be awake anymore,” he said. “I kind of just like working in the middle of the night.”

Gnutek works with insects and bones she displays in glass frames and globes.

Golden Otter Gallery is currently seeking submissions for the Vancouver Island Vignettes exhibit. It will be the gallery’s first exhibit. Artists from across Vancouver Island are invited to apply before May 31 by e-mailing info@goldenottergallery.com. Each participant will receive a wooden cutout of Vancouver Island to create a piece that reflects the region.

The gallery is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, please visit www.goldenottergallery.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com