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(Posted 8:30 a.m., Sept. 29)
Visual arts centre reopens its doors after five-month hiatus
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

VACO chair Steve Noble (left) and cultural program manager Louis Trejo have teamed up to transfrom the visual arts centre into a hipper, more contemporary gallery. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The Visual Arts Centre Orléans, better know as VACO by the local arts community, reopend its doors last Thursday after a five- month hiatus during which they went through a period of transition.

The arts centre, which is located on the main floor of the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex on Youville Dr., closed its doors in early April mired in a dispute with the city over future rental fees in the new Shenkman Arts Centre and internal issues over staffing and programming.

After a period of reorganization, the non-profit gallery is back, although it's future still remains uncertain.

VACO board chair Steve Noble says the centre is hoping to work out a deal with the city to move into the new arts centre. At issue right now is the future rental arrangement. The city has told VACO they will pay the same rent during the first year as they're paying now, even though they will have three times as much space as they currently have. What the city hasn't told VACO is how much the rent will go up in the second and third year.

"We have worked really hard in getting rid of our debt, so we 're being very careful in how we move forward," says Noble. "We don't know what the rent will be after the first year and we don't know what sort of caveats will come with the lease."

The visual arts centre has streamlined its art courses which will focus on beginner and intermediate classes in the areas of drawing, watercolour and painting under the guidance of Louis Guillermo Trejo who was recently hired as the centre's new cultural program manager.

Trejo has a background in youth and children's art education, an area he plans to focus special attention on. For instance, he plans to organize workshops for youth rather than weekly courses. For one, the workshops are cheaper, and for another, they don't require the same sort of time commitment.

"It's hard to get some kids to come to a course every week. They're more interested in coming for one day and doing something," says Trejo who hopes to kick things off with a comic illustration workshop.

One of the changes most people will notice if they plan to visit the gallery is their hours of operation. The gallery used to only be open during the day. It's now open Thursday and Friday evenings and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Trejo says he wants to bring more contemporary exhibits to the gallery in the same vein as the SAW Gallery and Studio 101 downtown, beginning with his own one-man show which is a series of ink drawings using images and headlines from daily newspapers as inspiration.

"We don't have anything like that in the east end," says Trejo. "The Cumberland Gallery and the Gloucester Gallery focus on more traditional art shows. I won't to offer people something a little different. Something they haven't seen before."

Art enthusiasts can support VACO by purchasing a subscription to the arts centre which entitles them to discounts on art courses and educational programs, borrowing privileges from VACO's library, voting privileges at the annual general meeting and a discount on room rental.

To find out more about the subscription program, the art courses being offered or other future plans visit VACO's new website at www.vaco-online.ca where you can download course descriptions and register online.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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