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New concept art gallery gets final touches

Hay River gallery owner promises a 'positive vibe' in gallery that will also hold classes

Natacha Kruger-Rewega knows exactly when and where she got the idea for her new art gallery and studio, which is nearing completion next her house in Old Town.

It was three years ago in Bella Coola, B.C.

"I saw this amazing little shop that this lady had right beside her house," said KrugerRewega. "All you had to do was ring the bell if you needed help."

The visiting Hay River artist was impressed when the woman came out of her house, completely relaxed, and ready and able to conduct business – including talking about all the artists in the area – while still living her life.

"I walked in and I'm like, 'I need to do this,'" said Kruger-Rewega.

So she did, and expects to open her new gallery – called Mama Bear – before the end of the summer.

The two-storey building will have its gallery on the main floor, and a studio and space for classes on the second floor.

The gallery will display Kruger-Rewega's own acrylic paintings and driftwood art, along with the work of artists from all over the North.

She has already lined up a dozen artists from places such as Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells.

"We need this," she said. "The vibe you're going to get when you go in there is positive. It's happy."

Listening to Kruger-Rewega, it is abundantly clear that she has created Mama Bear gallery first and foremost for the sake of art and as a way to connect with other artists.

"It's never going to have the feel of a store," she said. "I will make sure of it."

The gallery was built by Richard Bird of North Bird Construction.

"I would not have done it without him because him and his wife are very good friends of ours," said Kruger-Rewega, noting he is also artistic. "It was like a little piece of art that we created."

Even the outside entrance to the gallery is a work of art as it consists of a massive piece of driftwood art.

Kruger-Rewega has been adding finishing touches to the building with the help of her husband and their friends.

Over a recent weekend, the floors were being painted and some lighting added.

Kruger-Rewega also praised the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment for providing a business loan to help create the gallery.

"I can't rave enough about them. They're insanely amazing," she said of the department.

Kruger-Rewega said that a number of possible names for the gallery were considered before she settled on Mama Bear.

"It just felt right," she said, explaining it was inspired by wildlife officers searching the area for a bear and her cubs.

Kruger-Rewega has created art for about 16 years, and has been a full-time artist for about seven years.

In the past, she has displayed and sold paintings at She Takes the Cake coffee shop and the now-closed Woodshed, and on Facebook.

However, she wants the sale of her work to be a more personal experience and she would prefer to meet buyers.

"I can't just throw stuff out and say, 'Hey, I don't care who buys it,'" she said. "Obviously there's a connection. If my soul got splattered on a canvas, who's relating to that? I want to know."

The 36-year-old artist, who was born in Ontario and grew up in Quebec and the North, has lived in Hay River for close to 14 years.