Oak Bay gallery owners roll out the red carpet

Seven art gallery owners along Oak Bay Avenue are banding together to promote Oak Bay

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Imagine strolling along Oak Bay Avenue on a sunny afternoon, searching through local art galleries for unique crafts and gifts, grabbing a coffee or perhaps a snack at the neighbourhood cafe, and then browsing shops unique to Oak Bay.

That’s the vision a group of local business owners want to see come true.

Seven art gallery owners along Oak Bay Avenue are banding together to promote Oak Bay Village and its local businesses as a destination for both locals and tourists alike.

“We want people to be aware that there’s seven different galleries (in the Village),” said Bobb Hamilton, director at Red Art Gallery. “There’s a complete variety of works carried in all the galleries, so you’ve got this wide range of choices.”

Oak Bay has the highest concentration of art galleries in Greater Victoria and they’re all located on the same street, Hamilton said.

Many of the art studios feature works of Canadian artists. The work available ranges from unique paintings to locally made crafts and artisan jewelry.

“We’ve tried to make our gallery (Red Art), in particular, a very, very welcoming, embracing type of gallery where you walk in and you feel more like you’re coming into somebody’s living room versus walking into a large commercial gallery,” Hamilton said.

That “small village feeling” is what the gallery owners want to get across to visitors, Hamilton said.

Nigel Hayes is the owner of Side Street Studio. The studio showcases pottery, glasswork and jewelry made by B.C. artists.

“People look at the galleries and think, ‘oh, it’s a business,’ but actually the art is the business,” he said.

The artists rely on the income from the galleries to survive, he explained.

Hayes wants people to acknowledge that Oak Bay has evolved in recent years and developed into “a very young and vibrant community,” he said.

There’s a good collection of privately-owned businesses in Oak Bay with products exclusive to the Island, Hayes added. But what’s unique is the business’ focus on customer service and serving the community.

“It hasn’t lost its old world charm,” Hayes said.

The group has started distributing rack cards with a map showing the location of all the Oak Bay galleries to places such as the Victoria International Airport and in the departure lounge of the Clipper in Seattle.

The galleries include Ted Harrison Studio, Red Art Gallery, Eclectic Gallery, The Avenue Gallery, The Gallery In Oak Bay Village, Side Street Studio, and Winchester Galleries.

Hamilton and Hayes attended a Gold Card Concierge meeting Tuesday (March 27) along with Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, to present Oak Bay as a tourist spot and encourage hotel concierges to recommend guests visit Oak Bay Village.

“They were very, very receptive and certainly encouraged us to bring a supply of rack cards to each hotel,” Hamilton said.

It was nice to see the front desk workers of all the major hotels in Victoria realize how important this collective approach is in order to be informed about what they can offer their guests, he added.

“We’re trying to make people realize that Oak Bay has a lot to offer and, I think, the thrust that the galleries are kicking this off with is to not only promote the galleries but to also make people realize there’s a wide selection (of activities in Oak Bay),” Hamilton said.