Artists, musicians and therapeutic professionals on-site at River Station Arts
By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly
It’s been said many times throughout history that “a work of art isn’t always what it appears to be”. This phrase can be used to describe the blue-metal building found at the corner of Fraser Avenue and King Street.
On the outside at dusk, a rainbow of lights surround the rooftop. By day, guests surprisingly venture into a large labyrinth full of artistic minds and studios.
The 8130 Fraser Avenue location is home to the newly-established River Station Arts facility. Its name was inspired by the lower town site it sits on, which was once a connection railway to Fort McMurray’s shipyard.
Currently hosting six local artists and counting – Anastasia Meicholas, Joanna Torguson, Aileen Park, Reinalie Jorolan, Ruth Perry and Sue Fraser; the facility functions as an arts incubator. It includes nine studios, a community room, a boardroom, classrooms, an art supplies shop, a reception area and the Meicho Gallery. The facility is funded under the non-profit corporation: Meicholas Art Foundation Ltd., which is self-titled by the women who put it all together.
“This is a dream project for me that happened because of all these artists,” said Meicholas, founder of River Station Arts. “This idea started in a basement… we wouldn’t be able to afford this without the support of Bill de Silva,” she said.
de Silva is the founder of LIAM Construction Ltd. and River Station – the latest downtown project located along the Clearwater River, and known as the new Waterfront Business District. The arts facility is another completed piece of this District’s project.
First launched in 2013, the District will eventually include several residential and commercial businesses to create an urban centre hub in railway-style buildings and setting. Townhall Public House, Eat Clean Healthy Grill & Juice Bar, China Bistro Dim Sum and Project Clothing are already among some of the housed-commercial spaces open to the public (Learn more at www.liamfirst.com).
The artists and organizers hosted a sneak peek of the River Station Arts for the community at their April 1st No Joke Soiree event. As they continue preparing for their official grand opening (to be announced), the owner and tenants wanted to give the public a chance to have a look at how they have developed a way to bring people together through the arts.
They say it takes “a village to make art,” and the talent found at River Station Arts are demonstrating this by working together. The new arts hub will give the community opportunities to learn how to create masterpieces of their own, taught by the masters themselves.
Inside the Studios
A glimpse into River Station Arts
ANASTASIA MEICHOLAS – MIXED MEDIA
Anastasia Meicholas is the owner of Wee Bounce Art Supplies, which was first launched in 2014 to give artists a place to shop for supplies locally. She has been versatile with her many artistic creations and has collaborated with many people in the arts community.
The result has lead her into the position of being the brainchild and founder of River Station Arts. She’s the glue that has bonded it all together and worked with Bill de Silva of Liam Construction Ltd. to design the space.
“I never thought this would happen and always worked out of my house to bring everyone together,” Meicholas said on her dreams becoming a reality. “What I’m trying to do is something different. Everyone has a different discipline. This is something for all age demographics.”
Within the facility, Meicholas will be operating her art supplies store, hosting workshops, creating masterpieces and facilitating the Meicholas Art Foundation Ltd.
“We all work together quite nicely, in all certain ways. We have a great group and keep adding to it,” she said.
JOANNA TORGUSON – GRAPHIC DESIGN & MUSIC
Joanna Torguson is the creator and president of Fort Mac Hand Crafted Market. First founded in 2014, Torguson built a foundation to host local vendors together once a month to help them establish their deserved success.
Torguson is the business manager of River Station Arts and continues to be a strong advocate in the handmade crafts scene. She will be offering her wide range of talents from piano classes to adult colouring.
“This is the permanent fix to the transit arts community,” said Torguson on the now-operating facility.
She explained the facility will have in-house and by-appointment artists available, and there’s no end to the passion and talent from the team.
“We are all professionals, but we are more about having fun doing it,” she said.
RUTH PERRY – MIXED MEDIA
Ruth Perry is a visual artist. She focuses on abstract and fine art, which she said is “widely misunderstood.” Perry’s versatility of art includes welding, woodwork, painting and murals.
Perry will be providing painting and mixed media workshops. She describes her studio as a place where people should feel welcomed to be involved.
“I think it’s important that there are artists in town people can connect to,” Perry said. “This is a place I can share my talents. Mentoring for me is a big focus, as I like to have youth involved and show them how to get involved.”
REINALIE JOROLAN – HEALING ARTS
Reinalie Jorolan is painter, creator, and collaborator. She’s been actively involved in the arts community for many years and is homing her business Zentouch Spa into her space. By utilizing her healing arts profession, she describes her area as a “holistic space” where she can bring wellness and art together.
Jorolan will have workshops to teach nail art, educate how to use therapeutic essential oils, and have a private room to provide professional massage therapy.
“We are always saying we are stressed and talking about how busy we are… that there’s no relaxation in our lives,” she said. “I took that as an opportunity to create something for you to get inspired by. A place where you can find your Zen and get in touch with your artistic side.”
SUE FRASER – ALTERED AND SCRAPBOOK ART
Sue Fraser, owner of Frames by Fraser, had been a well-established local business owner in Fort McMurray since 1981, after closing down her shop on Franklin Avenue, she expressed how she’s happy to be back from a three year break.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this,” said Fraser, also an instructor of fine art. “I was closed for a couple of years and met Anastasia last fall. I told her I really missed picture framing and I’m really glad to be back doing what I do… and these ladies are awesome.”
AILEEN PARK – WIRE AND GLASS
From copper metal to stones and glass, Aileen Park (also known as the Pocket Heart Lady) is an artist who works with the elements to create jewellery and keepsakes.
Many of Park’s handmade heart treasures have made their way into people’s pockets throughout the years. Since she started making them, Park has created 2,202 – 6oo to 700 which have been crafted in Fort McMurray. The purpose of the hearts is to pass them on.
“My request to you is to place your heart in your pocket, until you find the person you choose to pass it on to, then ask them to do the same,” Park explained.
Inside her studio, plenty of treasure boxes showcase her creations. She describes it as a space where people can come to create or purchase a variety of tiny treasures.
“My space is like an old fashioned candy store where you can sample one of each,” said Park. “It’s a place to give back because the best way to learn is to teach.”’
All available classes and workshops by the River Station Arts will be posted on Eventbrite.ca on a regular basis. The next studio to open will feature the River Station By’s (Boys), who build furniture by reclaiming wood, possibly even the kitchen sink.
The Station welcomes new instructors, local talent, and everyone living in the region to come check them out. Go to www.riverstationarts.net to learn more and explore. River Station Arts is also on Facebook and Twitter @RiverStnArts.