A new home for the arts 

Local artists team up to create Up Stares Gallery in downtown Squamish


The 1,000 square foot unit just upstairs from H&R Block on 37991 Cleveland Avenue has been used as an office, a private home, and now the space is being reincarnated as a new artistic hub for the community.

"Actually, it's one of our heritage buildings. It's old - it's been in the flood, razed," said Judy McQuinn, one of the proprietors of the new business. "That's what makes it so interesting, because it's almost like a maze - it's got seven rooms! So that gives us lots of wall space."

McQuinn, a stained glass artist, recently teamed up with acrylic painter Linda Bachman and photographer Michael Kanka to open a new art gallery, Up Stares Gallery, which they hope will enable local artists to exhibit their work to the public at reasonable rates.

McQuinn first developed an interest in stained glass artwork while living in a logging camp in Port McNeill.

"Learning to do those things was a rare opportunity," she recalled.

Enthralled by the use of colour and light in stained glass pieces, McQuinn jumped at the chance to participate in a course at the North Islands College.

"I took the course and I thought my stuff was absolutely wonderful," she recalled, "Of course, it weighed about 100 pounds with all the lead."

McQuinn enjoyed the course so much, in fact, that she managed to convince the instructor to hold another class. She was hooked.

Today, after almost 30 years of trial and error, McQuinn's passion and hobby has evolved and taken on a life of its own.

"Its one of those things - I never would have thought of myself as artistic, but the more I did the better I got," she said.

She creates original commissioned pieces for clients, and most recently was hired to create a five-foot by five-foot glass piece for the Whistler Housing Authority's building at the Athletes' Village.

McQuinn moved to Squamish about 14 years ago and over that time she has watched the artistic community blossom, as avid, closeted artists have emerged to share their work with others.

"It's really coming forth," she said, adding that she has curated the Wild At Art visual arts gallery for three years, and even in that time has noticed a serious change in the quality of work.

"It's just amazing!" she said, adding that the talent continues to grow. "They're getting more adventurous with their designs and what they're producing."

While Squamish's pool of artistic talent runs deep, McQuinn and many other local artists have noticed a real lack of gallery space in the community. Currently, the Foyer Gallery and Brackendale Art Gallery are the only spaces in Squamish.

"My vision is to see Squamish as almost an art destination; like people are always going to Salt Spring and going on about what's going on there. Well, we have as much, if not more, except it's a lot quieter so we just need to promote it."

So, they're opening Up Stares, planning to feature work by local artists and even offer some space for the occasional workshop, all in an upscale, professional environment.

"Every time we do (an exhibit) it's not really a permanent display... if you want to sell things, you have to have people there," she explained, "you can't just set up somewhere and walk away."

"If we want to sell - which we have to in order to survive - then it's best to go into a gallery," she added.

The three artists hope that Up Stares will become something of an informal gathering place for other artists within the community, a place for people to come and share their ideas, creativity and knowledge.

Kanka will also be using one of the rooms in the gallery as a studio, holding portrait sessions and product shooting for advertising and web use, and displaying his work in other parts of the gallery as well, while McQuinn will be using the gallery mainly for exhibition space but also plans to host some stained glass workshops in the future.

"I'll be focusing on keeping the gallery supplied with my work - I don't have any big stockpile," she said, "so it'll make me focus on getting my art out there, and the more focused and pressure I have, for some weird reason, makes me better!"

They hope to open Up Stares to the public on July 1. So far, other local artists seem excited at the prospect of having a new art-specific venue in which to showcase their work, with many approaching the co-owners of Up Stares already.

Though the artistic threesome first saw the space just earlier this month, they're already in the midst of some major renovations like painting, installing new lighting, and more.

"We all just jumped in and now we've got to sort out a lot of things, but it's moving along quite quickly."



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