For Eyelevel Gallery, it’s now all about the destination—screw the journey. Officially opening this week in its new, hopefully permanent space at 2482 Maynard Street, the gallery ends a seven-year run of constantly scratching out and re-writing its postal code, trying to find its place in the north end’s booming real estate market.
That journey started in 2014, with Eyelevel giving up its gallery and acting as a nearly spaceless entity (a small office on Cornwallis Street that mostly hosted offsite, pop-up events), then moving into a larger footprint on Cornwallis (an office and what Eyelevel’s artistic director, Sally Wolchyn-Raab, describes as “a little bookshelf, literally just a bookcase” of works for display and sale).
Then, in early 2020, there was what Wolchyn-Raab describes as the “emergency move” to 2177 Gottingen Street, with Eyelevel becoming the tenant and upstairs neighbours of Radstorm, a DIY art, music and activism space. “Towards the end when it rained, it rained in my office,” Wolchyn-Raab told The Coast in January 2020 about the decision to go from Cornwallis Street to Gottingen Street.
“We were excited to be sharing a space with Radstorm and to have a space on Gottingen, and be back so presently in the north end and have that street-level access,” Wolchyn-Raab says now, speaking by phone from Eyelevel’s newest (and, she hopes, final) HQ, tucked inside the multi-use arts hub known as the 2482 Maynard project. But upstairs on Gottingen Street did “have some barriers that we knew that we couldn't contend with in the long term: It’s not even remotely wheelchair accessible and there’s no way to make it wheelchair accessible.”
The Gottingen Street location will continue to house Eyelevel’s rentable studio spaces for artists, but the centre’s on-site programming, its office and its trademark bookstore (which Eyelevel describes as showcasing “artists' books, multiples, sound works and publications from national and international artists and organizations”) will now be held at 2482 Maynard, the project launched last summer by artist Emily Falencki and Wonder'neath Art Society co-founders Heather Wilkinson and Melissa Marr.
“It's also a space that takes accessibility into consideration beyond just mobility access,” Wolchyn-Raab says of the new digs on Maynard. Eyelevel’s in-house neighbour Wonder’neath, she adds, is “really great at doing that, so we've been learning a lot from them too: About having decompression spaces and a quiet room and just making things plain language and low stimulus. So it's really quite magical to be in a multi-tenant art space where everybody is thinking about these things, collectively.”
Eyelevel is a nonprofit organization, “a smaller nonprofit that has been at the whim of north end gentrification for a long time,” Wolchyn-Raab adds, “getting priced out of spaces over and over again.” Ending that routine is a welcome change. “Now we're able to build a longlasting relationship with the people that are renting to us,” she says.
“It's really exciting for us to be in a spot that has so many other things going on; so many people coming into the space—like people within the arts community, people that are aspiring artists. And there's also just huge breadth of people that are accessing the space, and I think that's only going to grow as Wonder’neath and the 2482 Maynard community as a whole starts opening up again.”