You have to take your hat off to anyone audacious enough to start a new business during a pandemic. So, today, my hat is off to Mark and Blake Fletcher, a father-son duo who have teamed up to open downtown Orillia’s latest art gallery, Cloud Gallery.
Mark’s name should be known to anyone in the arts scene in Orillia, as a huge promoter of art and artists. Every spring and fall for years, Mark has offered his Severn Township property, Rancho Relaxo, to local artists as a retreat, also hosting bonfire nights and bbqs as his way to support local creatives.
Mark has numerous pieces of local art in his collections and likes nothing better than to drop in to local galleries to talk with artists and buy their work.
Several months ago, Mark’s son Blake, a software engineer and marketing consultant, approached Mark with an idea: teaming up to start some kind of business together.
“I said, absolutely," said Mark. "But it has to be something that will be fun for both of us, and something that will make money. Because we’re in business, that’s what we do.
“I come up with crazy ideas on a regular basis, sometimes three or four a week, so this wasn’t too much for me to handle," he explained.
Blake put his thinking cap on, and came back to Mark with the idea of an online art gallery, which then morphed into a hybrid online/in-person gallery. Mark has always wanted to own a gallery. And thus, Cloud Gallery was born.
Cloud Gallery is located at 23 Mississaga St. W., in the Creative Nomad Studios building. It has two galleries on the main floor, one large and one smaller; and a gallery on the second floor with an exposed brick wall.
“We met with (owner) Anitta (Hamming) early on, once we decided we needed a physical space as well. Her space is gorgeous, and that block is a really happening, up-and-coming spot in Orillia, so we are excited to be a part of it,” said Mark.
The online part of Cloud Gallery is at www.cloudgallery.ca and has full colour photos of all the artists’ works, artists’ bios and pictures, an easy-to-use search bar, a free art advisory service, a 100% art buy guarantee, and a monthly payment option. There are also plans in the works for an artist’s blog, workshops, artist’s talks, and a podcast.
Cloud Gallery is currently representing 25 Ontario artists, from Windsor, Kingston, Killarney and, of course, the Orillia area. The gallery focuses on work that showcases original art inspired by Ontario’s natural beauty.
Mark and Blake searched for artists who had a significant following - for their work and on social media.
Muskoka painter Melody Madden has several pieces in Cloud Gallery.
“I am so honoured to be one of the 25 artists represented by Cloud Gallery. The gallery will be an exciting addition to Orillia’s incredible art community. The space has such creative energy.”
Local artist Craig Mainprize was also selected by Mark and Blake to be in the gallery.
“I’m very excited to be working with Cloud Gallery,” said Mainprize. “There are so many talented artists on this roster, from all across Ontario. Like myself, many of the artists are location-based landscape painters and it’s amazing to see how each artist approaches their inspiration. Cloud has a great online and in-gallery model that is unique in the gallery world.”
Washago landscape painter Liz Schamehorn, also a Cloud Gallery artist, is equally enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“I am honoured to be a part of this exciting new art space in Orillia. It will give me the opportunity to present my visions of my own corner of Ontario, in the company of other like-minded artists," said Schamehorn.
Several pieces have been sold already, through Instagram and the online shop, and the duo even have a Facetime virtual tour of the space booked with a potential buyer as well.
“I’m so excited about the buzz that is happening about it already, it’s such a great start,” enthused Mark. “It’s happening very quickly, but that’s all good. We like to do things quickly.”
Cloud Gallery’s in-person space is opening April 1 for an all day COVID-friendly drop-in opening, and, post-Easter weekend, pandemic permitting, will be open Tuesday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The pandemic has brought unexpected positives, and I think one has been a newfound appreciation for what art means…it’s a good way to spend your money and enjoy it,” mused Mark.
Cloud Gallery is a new way to see and appreciate art too, for art lovers nearby and around the world. Enjoy it today.
In other local arts and entertainment news, downtown Orillia’s Easter Egg Hunt is virtual once again this year, thanks to the pandemic. The pandemic version of the hunt is a scavenger hunt, with questions to be uploaded to the Downtown Orillia Facebook page here Saturday, April 3 at 9:30 a.m.
The questions will all be about downtown Orillia stores and services, so you will need your tablet or computer ready to go! The first 10 people to submit their scavenger hunt sheets on April 3 with the correct answers will receive a prize of Downtown Dollars and some sweet treats donated by Apple Annie's Café. You can submit your answer sheet via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a Facebook message. Good luck!
Creative Nomad Studios is cautiously dipping a toe into small group in-person workshops, with a Modern Weaving for Beginners workshop on April 10 at 1 p.m. Materials are supplied, and the class is taught by Steph Whalen, local artist and CNS Community Program Manager. The cost is $58 and you can learn more and sign up, here.
The Orillia Scottish Festival is going with an online Tartan Day experience fundraiser, featuring beer tasting and food pairings with Couchiching Craft Brewery, safely at home of course. There will be facts and trivia, beer history, tartan talk and lots more, all for just $45. The event runs on Tartan Day, April 6 as well as April 9, comes with beer and food, and you can find out lots more and register, here.
Lots more fun coming next week! Have a wonderful and safe Easter weekend.
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