Mark Ashby

Mark Ashby

Art designed to draw visitors to downtown Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Storefronts Project aims to draw prospective owners into empty retail spaces in downtown Nanaimo.

The Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association and Nanaimo Design Nerds are hoping art can draw prospective business owners into empty retail spaces downtown.

The two organizations launched the Storefronts Project, which saw the association contracting Design Nerds to approach artists in the community, who created art installations that now grace a number of vacant downtown businesses. The art is not only intended to attract potential owners but also to add appeal to streets as well.

Corry Hostetter, executive director of the business association, said input from various people was used during the creation process.

“We went to the leasing agents and the property owners and asked, ‘What’s your vision for the area?’ They told us … and we asked, ‘Could we animate those storefronts by using artists’ interpretation of your vision?’ And that’s what we did,” said Hostetter.

She said the art installations will remain until the businesses are rented. People can take a walking tour to view the art.

Monica Shore, Nanaimo Design Nerds facilitator and Storefronts Project manager, was complimentary of the artists, who had 10 days to create the installations from scratch.

“They were the positive force throughout all this,” said Shore. “They dealt with all the unexpected – the location changes and all the different coordination chaos that happens in projects that bring together lots of different partners.”

Yvonne Vander Kooi, who created installations at spaces on Wharf and Bastion streets, said the art adds an esthetic appeal.

“It’s the first time we’ve done it in this town. It’s done in lots of big cities and I think it’s a really interesting and innovative way to animate space downtown and make it interesting and involve the local art community … it makes our downtown more interesting for sure,” Vander Kooi said.

For more information and a map of the installations, please go to