Former RRC student opens art space
ALANNA YUEN, CONTRIBUTOR
You don’t have to go away to find great art, and one former RRC student is making sure you don’t have to empty your pockets either.
Joey Visser, a former Creative Communications student, and local entrepreneur Chris Watchorn have created the FH&A Community Gallery. The pop-up shop on Vaughn Street houses Visser’s community-based photography business called From Here & Away (FH&A) and Watchorn’s Olé Denim and Oak + Oar clothing brands.
“Chris quit his day job to pursue his brands full-time and got everything in motion. He knows the logistical side of things and is very creative,” said Visser.
Visser, 21, started his business after he self-published his photo book of the same name in summer 2014. During his year at RRC, Visser created the three aspects of his business: programming, community and artist support.
“Artist support is why I’m doing From Here & Away,” said Visser. “It costs a lot of money to be an artist. I wanted to find some way of being self-sustaining but also sustain other people and hopefully encourage them to pursue their creative impulses without financial fear.”
Visser chose to quit school when Watchorn suggested the two collaborate to create an arts space in downtown Winnipeg. The pair’s business is helped out by CentreVenture Development Corporation, an organization that offers small businesses and entrepreneurs short-term leases.
“[Watchorn] was the one who applied to CentreVenture and presented the idea of being the third partner in the shop,” said Visser.
But not all artists can afford to rent a space or even participate in art classes, something that drove Visser to think of ways to give back to artists financially.
Visser gives 25% from his business’s net profit to the From Here & Away Fund. He set up the fund to help reduce the cost of his programming, making it accessible to as many people as possible. Eventually, Visser said he wants to have group art shows at no cost to the artist and would like to buy equipment for communities that don’t have access to photography materials or training.
Visser has also created an online community. In January, he curated the hashtag #fromhereandaway on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The hashtag has over 16,500 posts on Instagram alone.
Visser said he encourages people to hashtag any photos with the hashtag with the hope of sharing worldviews and starting a global conversation about interconnectedness through art.
The FH&A Community Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, until Dec. 31.