Taking a first step beyond the Bright Blue Door at 142 Waterloo St., you enter a well-lit art gallery with studio space decked out with easels, workstations and the night I visited, almost a dozen people, making art and talking about art amongst gallery walls filled with art. This is the Bright Blue Door (BBD) creative tank – where artists rent small workspaces and get creative near each other, while BBD helps to share their work with the world.
Aaron Lundrigan and Nancy Barbosa Alaimo are the creators behind this concept. Aaron is the “doormaster” who acts as the artist advocate, taking care of the business side of things, while Nancy, an artist, is the “keymaster,” who runs the creative side of their enterprise.
BBD first opened its blue doors last November, rented their first artist spaces in January, celebrated their grand opening in April and just this month, launched their online store, to compliment their physical gallery. The online store features the work of artists who work in their space as well as those from the community who are looking for another way to share their work.
Based on a social enterprise model, this for-profit business is structured to be a “community mover of the arts.” We are socialists at heart,” says Nancy. “We want to be able to help people be creative though the creative tank and offer affordable artist promotion through our marketing hub.”
Aaron, who is a former corporate litigation lawyer, has always been a supporter of the arts, and through the BBD, develops marketing solutions to help artists take their work to the public. “Following an advocacy model, I look for opportunities for artists to get commissioned work, show at events or find places for them to teach, to increase their profile and move their career’s forward,” he says.
All Waterloo Region artists, whether they are part of the BBD or not, can have up to five professional photos of their work taken monthly, to be hosted on the BBD online store or for their own use, all for free. They call this a #payitforward activity. Nancy, who is a painter and photographer, knows that you can be riddled with self-doubt about your work, and taking those first steps to sharing it publicly can be hard. And that’s part of the reason she wanted to start the BBD.
“In my home studio, I painted two pieces a year,” says Nancy. “Once I moved into BBD, I created four paintings in four weeks – I feel tremendously inspired here, and I can’t stop working.” She wants to offer that creative space and inspirational work environment to help other artists.
“We welcome people at all levels to share the space, experiment with their work, participate in shows, take feedback, learn from other artists and continue to enjoy and grow their work.” BBD has artists who are just exploring their craft; artists like Nancy who have several years experience but are still refining their style and technique; and flagship artists such as Ros Ramsay and Shelia Deimert who are experienced artists with a serious back catalogue of work.
Their plan is to take the artists’ work out to the community, offering pop-up art galleries at local festivals and events, ensuring the region starts to develop a real sense for the creativity and talent within its borders. And this is just the beginning. Nancy and Aaron have a big vision to expand to other cities – Waterloo or Cambridge; train other advocates; and offer a similar creative launch pad for tattoo artists.
Bright Blue Door creators see themselves as a radical model to support individual artists, ensuring that artists have the freedom to show their work anywhere and make money doing it.