The Grey-Bruce area of southern Ontario is home to hundreds of artists, a fact little known outside the area. Attracted by the rugged but pastoral beauty of the escarpment region and the company of other artists, the numbers grow each year. In the summer of 1994, a large group of area artists got together an identified a need to have a gallery/retail space of their own. It was a highly diverse group, with a broad range of skills. They wanted an outlet for their work in which they would have control of the finances, display and promotion. The group as a whole had a great deal of experience with running businesses and as artists they had lots of ideas about display. On September 20, 1994 the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-operative was incorporated and officially launched.
For the first three years of our operation, the Artists’ Co-operative store was located at the Heritage Place Mall on the east side of Owen Sound. In 1997 we moved the store to the Grey County Mall on the west side of the city. An exciting new phase began in May 2001 when we moved the store to its present location in the downtown of Owen Sound at 279 10th St. East.
The operation of the Co-op is based on a constitution, by-laws and written policies and procedures. Decisions and planning for the Co-op are handled by a nine member Board of Directors elected from the membership. Each Co-op member is responsible for helping out with the operations of the store. From day one, the Artists’ Co-op has operated on principles of courtesy, respect and support for the artists in the group. A community of artists and friends has grown around the focus of the store. The strength of this community has helped the Co-op to meet the many challenges that have come its way.
The day to day business management of the Artists’ Co-op has been overseen by our Manager. Our manager’s dedication and attention to detail are key factors in the success of our co-operative.
The original mission of the Artists’ Co-op was “To promote and facilitate the exhibition and sale of art work by members.” This is still an important mandate, but over the years, the Co-op has become much more in addition to a retail outlet. The Co-op also serves as an information, promotion, referral and education resource for the visual arts and craft community.
It has provided free workshops and area student artists displays. The cost of these services has been borne by the Co-op members. Limited resources have limited the organization’s ability to promote area artists as fully as they deserve. The Artists’ Co-op was awarded an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and this helped the organization to work with other artists and artists groups in the community to increase the awareness of the artistic riches of the area.
2016 sees a completely new phase for the Artists’ Co-op. We will be relocating to 2nd Avenue East, into the historic McKay building at 942/945. This a major move, not taken lightly, but our members saw the advantages of more space and a central location. It will be exciting to watch our membership breathe and expand with new life, opportunities and energy. Watch and see what happens next!
What has been accomplished with the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-operative is truly remarkable. The Co-op has shown that 40 highly original, independent thinkers can not only get along, but can thrive on the experience of each others differences. In the future the Artists’ Co-op will be working hard to increase the promotion and activities of artists and craftpersons in the Grey-Bruce area and strengthen the operations and community services of this not for profit, volunteer operated organization.