By Daisy Oliver
(Art for AIDS volunteer coordinator)
It’ s hard to believe, that only one year ago, the gallery and venue of Art for Aids International, was nothing but a frumpy storage space. Now, as witnessed on its successful October 1, 2009 First Anniversary Opening, the space beautifully boasts the original and diverse artwork of the ever evolving Art for AIDS organization.
There is extraordinary power in a creative act that can transform something ugly into a thing of beauty. Art for AIDS International has been built upon this philosophical cornerstone.
One of its defining qualities is its ability to transform the political and moral ugliness of the AIDS pandemic into artistic statements of beauty and hope as represented in its Kids for Kids collage prints. It is, therefore, somehow fitting that the same philosophy was used in finding a physical space for our organization.
Art for AIDS International opened its new gallery in the lower level at 242 Dundas Street at the end of September 2008. The opening on Sept 26th was the culmination of a long tedious process of reclaiming a derelict and very ugly space and changing it into an oasis of serenity and beauty.
The new gallery represents a stunning achievement of creative transformation on the part of Hendrikus Bervoets, CEO of the organization and his son Jean Paul Bervoets.
Hendrikus and Jp had been searching for some time for a potential space into which Art for AIDS could move. Its ever expanding inventory of Kids for Kids prints had outgrown the basement office in the Bervoets’ home. Art for AIDS needed a larger space but the cost was a critical factor since the organization is non-profit. This meant looking at places others would consider unrentable. Consequently, it also meant copious amounts of searching.
In the late winter and early spring of 2008, the Bervoets’ found a place in the basement of a building on Dundas Street, in London, Ontario, that held promise. The site had not been used for anything other than storage in decades. It was dank, dark, and stank from mold and damp. There were no lights and no plumbing. But Hendrikus, with his refined artist’s eye, saw the latent potential of the place beyond the refuse and the rubble. It just needed some work to fix it up.
There then began a 6 month joint renovation project between the landlord, his contractors, and Hendrikus himself and whatever volunteers he could muster up to help. Ceiling tiles were taken down and hundreds of clumps of glue individually chipped off, marble floors scrapped clean of old paint, new wiring and plumbing installed, everything painted from top to bottom, new shelving and fixtures installed, new doors added. Hendrikus did much of the grunt work himself always fuelled by an inner vision of what could be. Turning something ugly into something beautiful often involves just a lot of plain old-fashioned hard, dirty work and a dream.
When you come into the Gallery now, you will see white walls highlighting the Art for AIDS prints that are softly lit with track lighting. You will see our beautiful marble floors polished to a soft gleam. At the end of the Gallery, set against a bright red wall, is a handmade receptionist’s desk over which hangs a stained glass representation of the Art for AIDS International logo.
Since its opening, the Gallery has been used for board meetings, for student events, for art workshops, for corporate luncheons and even concerts. It has become a downtown oasis for creative activity and a fun place to come visit.
The Gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 6 pm and on Saturdays, noon to 4 pm. We welcome visitors to come and see our wonderful space and browse our art collection. Don’t take my word on it; experience the radical transformation for yourself!