Downtown Vancouver’s Angst Gallery will close July 31 after more than a decade of displaying emerging artists’ work.
Owner Leah Jackson said instead of committing to another five-year lease for the gallery, she will focus on her adjoining business, Niche Wine Bar. She said she made the decision before the coronavirus pandemic.
“The way I ran the gallery didn’t pay the bills. My focus was always on getting artists out of their basements and into the public eye,” Jackson said.
She estimates that 300 artists have shown work at Angst since she opened it at 1015 Main St. in 2008. The number of downtown venues has dwindled since then. Gallery 360 and North Bank Artists Gallery closed three years ago, while Aurora Gallery, Art at the Cave and Art on the Boulevard are among significant remaining venues.
About a year into running Angst Gallery, it occurred to Jackson that if she could sell wine and beer, she might actually make money. Then the space next door at 1013 Main St. became available. Inspired by wine bars she had visited around the world, she snapped up the storefront and opened a passage into the gallery.
“I love the coffee shop atmosphere in an evening setting with wine. I enjoy that sense of community,” Jackson said. “I have decided I should really focus on the wine bar and make it a priority, rather than giving 50 percent to each business.”
Niche will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October. Niche’s restroom, which Jackson calls The Loo-vre, will continue to feature a rotating roster of local artists. In August and September, The Loo-vre will feature the work of Serena Van Vranken.
Jackson began her transition out of the gallery business in January, when Mosaic Arts Alliance took over Angst’s day-to-day operations.
Jackson helped found Mosaic Arts Alliance, which opened its Sixth Street Gallery in 2005. (That gallery closed in 2010, reopened the next year as Gallery 360, and then closed in 2017.)
Although Niche displays local art, it’s not as big as Angst and isn’t suited to serve as a gallery, Jackson said. It’s not big enough to host the sorts of community events Angst did, such as live music or Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic.
Many local artists showed their work for the first time at Angst. “It’s a fantastic exhibition space with great natural lighting,” said Marc McVey, a Woodland photographer and Mosaic member. He first showed at Angst in 2016 and said he’s saddened to see it close.
“Angst was always inviting, always wide open,” McVey said. “It was at street level, with big open windows so even a casual passerby would see, ‘This is a gallery. Let’s go in.’ ”
Jackson took risks, he said, with shows on the male nude and other unconventional subjects.
“She wasn’t afraid,” McVey said. “Because of the nature of her call for artists, it really encouraged people just starting out. Yet she maintained high standards.”
In turning her attention to Niche, Jackson launched a podcast as well as a virtual happy hour, and is cultivating Niche’s social media feeds and YouTube channel.
“I feel like I have reinvented myself multiple times,” Jackson said. “We’re doubling down and really working on different aspects of the wine bar. We’re trying to find a way to be a virtual community.”
Niche has remained open during pandemic stay-home orders, shifting its offerings from takeout to dine-in as the county gradually reopens.