By Richard White, February 16, 2014
Just when you thought Ramsay couldn’t get more funky, it did! Just this past week “Passage,” a quirky new contemporary art gallery opened.
While still lamenting the loss of Dennis Oppenheim’s upside down church “Device to Root out Evil,” I am excited by the creation of a new FFQ (fun, funky and quirky) art gallery space in the Dominion Bridge building on 24th Avenue S.E.
The space is a narrow (20 feet at most?) “passage way,” part outdoor and part indoors, making for a very dramatic and inviting entrance to the offices that call the Dominion Bridge site home.
The current exhibition, “IN DUST: REAL” which opened February 13, 2014 and is curated (this is not just a lets hang some art and call it a gallery project) by Colleen Sharpe a former Glenbow art curator features works by Aran McCormick and Joanne MacDonald. I love the way the exhibition reflects the space with numerous references to industrial artifacts.
But Passage is not the only radical thing to happen to Ramsay recently. Have you heard of or been to Salvage? It is located at the east end of 24th Avenue just down the road from Passage. You go past the Burns Visual Arts Society (named after the Burns building in downtown Calgary where the society was first formed) veer left into the junkyard and there you will discover a huge warehouse full of FFQ things to look at, or purchase. It is like a scene out of Canadian Pickers.
Calgary interior designer Alykhan Velji along with Kelly Kask owner of Reclaimed Trading Company have a passion for salvaging and reclaiming materials from “off the beaten path” sources - cedar doors from Calgary’s old courthouse, old growth fir from a cannery in BC to name a few.
They, along with their colleagues, then either rework them into home décor items or make them available to artists and scavengers to work their magic. Never before has the old adage “one person’s junk is another’s treasure” rang so true.
Last spring, while in Portland, we fell in love with the “The Good Mod” and its amazing collection of reclaimed industrial products. Our immediate reaction was “Why can’t Calgary have a place like this?” Now we do!
Calgary’s Industrial District
While Beltline, Bridgeland, East Village, Inglewood and Kensington seem to get all the media’s attention as Calgary’s hipster communities, Ramsay is just quietly evolving into Calgary’s funky and quirky industrial district.
Caffé Rosso has, for a long time, been the funky foodie hangout in Ramsay. However, it now has competition with the opening of Red’s in Ramsay at 1101 8th Street SE.
If New Urban Developments (Dan Van Leeuwen, President and CEO founded New Urban in 2008 as real estate development firm focused on inner city urban revitalization projects) can pull off the transformation of the 11-acre Dominion Bridge site into an industrial village (needs to retain a unique sense of place and design that “shouts out “industrial, not just another bunch of generic condos that look like they could be anywhere) for artists and artist wannabees, Ramsay could be the “sleeper” in Calgary’s quest to become a hipster haven.
In the 20th century the creative types converted warehouse streets into hip new communities. It looks like in the 21st century the "creative class" which includes developers is discovering old industrial sites and bringing them back to life.
I encourage you to grab a coffee at Caffé Rosso and take a walk around Ramsay; it is a very interesting place to explore for anyone interesting in Calgary's history and our sense of place, or in treasure hunting and flaneuring.
I encourage everyone to be an everyday tourist in your city or town. Get out and walk a different neighbourhood with the curiosity of a tourist.