Creative new digs 

Artist opens doors of new working gallery to colleagues and community groups

Monica Geniele is the owner and operator of Whistler’s newest art gallery. Simply named, the Geniele Gallery is a modest space in the Westin Resort, but it’s evident that a lot of thought has gone into ensuring every square inch is well used.

Geniele is an artist herself, and she knows all too well how hard it is to find a space to work in, or a place to exhibit a finished piece. Originally from Montreal, she has lived and worked in Whistler off and on for many years. She attended the Vancouver Art Institute, majoring in ceramics, but eventually found her most natural form of artistic expression was through painting.

Last year, she spent time working and studying in France. While she was there, she had a huge studio space at her disposal, and took full advantage of the massive area, working on enormous canvases. So when she returned to Whistler, Geniele knew she needed a proper studio space outside of her living area to work.

“It was a turning point actually, for wanting to move forward and do something more like this,” she explained, gesturing around the new gallery.

Initially, she looked for a more isolated studio space in Function Junction, just a place for her to create, but didn’t have any luck. She eventually stumbled across the storefront for lease in the Westin, and decided to look into it a bit further.

“I never expected to be in here, and I thought, ‘wow, a public place, I wasn’t counting on this,’” said Geniele.

She quickly decided to use the space not only as a gallery, but also as her own working studio. She’s also offering other local artists who may need space, and who are comfortable working under the public eye, an opportunity to set up shop in her new gallery.

Geniele said the decision to make the space available to other artists was easy.

“I just want everyone to have what they want, because there are so many artists out there who are so gifted and all they need is just the right timing, the right place,” she said, adding that by working in a public space, artists can also gain a bit of public exposure, and maybe even have an opportunity to sell their work.

So far, she has been approached by two artists who are interested in taking advantage of her offer, and she’s hoping more come forward as they learn of the new gallery.

The artwork on display in the Geniele Gallery leans towards contemporary abstract, but the pieces are quite varied in size, scope and style.

Though it just opened earlier this month, Geniele is already exhibiting work by at least six other artists alongside her own paintings.

Abstract artwork isn’t exactly commonplace in most of the other galleries in town — Geniele points out that a lot of local venues focus on more realistic works and landscapes, which have proven to be commercially successful in this mountain town.

She hopes that by focusing on something a bit different she can encourage artists to become more free and expressive, while allowing art lovers to expand their depth of appreciation.

“What I wanted was contemporary work verging on abstract leanings,” she explained. “Still a little bit representational, some of it, just because I feel that to have all abstract might be a little challenging for some people.”

She finds that a lot of people need that mix of representational, identifiable work thrown in for simple comfort.

“I guess the realistic is the more intellectual hook, and the abstract gets you in the gut, so the two together are very effective, I think,” she mused.

“I’m trying to see if I can do it a little differently, possibly. Mind you, if someone came to me with a bear painting that was totally abstract…” she adds with a grin.

It’s clear that she’s passionate about her own art, but what is even more interesting to learn is that she seems equally concerned about ensuring the community benefits from her new endeavour. Not only is she offering up the space to her fellow artists, she hopes to help local non-profit groups, perhaps by allowing them to hold events in her new space.

Her inclusive approach to Whistler’s artistic community has been reciprocal — her new gallery has already been included in the Whistler Art Council’s annual Art Walk event, which should be a great way to introduce visitors and locals alike to the abstract leanings of the Geniele Gallery.

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