A year after Natacha Kruger-Rewega quit her job to focus on painting full time, she’s taking her passion one step further.
Last week, she began construction on a building next to her own home in Old Town to house Mama Bear Arts, a gallery and studio she hopes to share with artists from all over the NWT, but especially Hay River. While she had announced the project a few weeks ago using the name Starboard, she joked than anyone who knows her will not be surprised she changed the name at the last minute.
“It’s just so meant to be, for myself, for my family, and for Hay River,” she told The Hub last week as construction equipment clanked and clattered outside. “We need something positive in this town, something to show that we are moving forward, that there is beauty all around us where we live.”
The two-storey building will house a gallery on the first floor, with a workspace on the second. The upstairs work area will eventually be used to host self-directed painting workshops while Kruger-Rewega hopes to house some of the best art in the territory on the first.
“I would tell artists, I would rather have one piece that is amazing than five trinkets,” she said. “This is not a souvenir shop. That one or two pieces that you’re really proud of, that’s what I want to showcase.”
While the art in the gallery will be for sale, the last thing she wants is to have it feel like a store.
Kruger-Rewega said she knows such a space is any artist’s dream, but that it’s also a lot of work. Since last summer, she had been planning an addition to her already largely expanded house, but then, all of a sudden, she decided she wanted a gallery next door instead. She turned to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and got a business loan.
“This is a loan, not a grant,” she emphasized. “Construction will start in two weeks and it should all be finished before winter.”
Cash Rewega, Kruger-Rewega’s son, said he’s excited to see the gallery completed and that he will have his own space for homeschooling on the second floor.
“It’s awesome,” he said.
While Kruger-Rewega expects the building to be complete before winter, she said there is no real deadline. The building itself will be rustic, with exposed log walls and driftwood incorporated into the structure.
“Of course, I have to start paying back that loan,” she said. “But there’s no rush. It has to just be done well. There’s a lot of craftsmanship involved.”
As for contributors, Kruger-Rewega said she hasn’t reached out to too many people yet, but would love to hear from artists who want to participate in her project. She hopes to have enough pieces by this fall.
“This will be a place for people to visit when they come to town, one more thing to do in Hay River,” she said. “But this isn’t just for us, I want to go to all the regions in the North and see them represented here.”