Studio 204 mounts a unique retrospective for its final hurrah (for now)

Scott Price is a pack rat. For the past 45 years the Whitehorse sculptor has kept every scrap of paper he’s doodled on — no matter…

Scott Price is a pack rat.

For the past 45 years the Whitehorse sculptor has kept every scrap of paper he’s doodled on — no matter whether it was during a university drawing course or a late night phone call to a friend.

And now, that extraordinary hoarding has paid off.

Price’s scribbles, sketches and high school math homework (each equation and diagram decorated with a doodle) are tacked side-by-side on the gallery walls in Studio 204 using 700 pushpins.

“To be able to put it all in one space was very important to me,” he said.

The exhibition chronicles Price’s artistic life.

From a six-year-old finger-painter, it shows how he grew into a rabid teenage doodler, and then into a more refined artist in adulthood.

It’s not easy for an artist to expose those less-than-perfect doodles and it wasn’t easy for Price to be in the room during the show’s opening last Friday while friends and strangers poked through his secrets and sketchbooks.

“I felt naked,” he said. “I totally felt exposed.”

But he didn’t have any second thoughts about putting the intimate drawings and doodles on display.

Price’s unique retrospective marks a turning point for him, and for Studio 204.

It’s the final show the artist collective will mount in its cozy space in the alley behind Main Street in downtown Whitehorse.

Studio 204 has been renting the space for the past two and a half years, and now it’s getting the boot, literally, so the shoe shop on Main Street can expand its storage facility.

Although the collective is losing its space, the group of 10 artists plans to keep on kicking. They have spent the past few weeks formulating their next move.

“We’re homeless, but we’re not dead,” said member Mario Villeneuve. “We’ve been kicked while we were down before, it’s not an issue — I know Studio 204 will bounce back.

“But as we get squeezed out, where do we go?”

The artists have been scouting other locations in Whitehorse, but so far, they have been put off by high rental prices.

The collective does not pull any government funding.

All of its initiatives — monthly rent, repairs, supplies, and food and wine for the show openings — are funded out-of-pocket by the members.

It’s been a crazy ride keeping the doors open, said Villeneuve.

“There were months when looking at the bank account was a little scary, but it always worked out.

“One thing we’ve realized is that if you believe in it, you can make pretty much anything with just a little bit.

Despite the problems, the collective is optimistic about finding a new place to set up shop.

“If someone wants to give us a space, we’ll move in tomorrow,” said Villeneuve. “But realistically, it will take six or eight months.”

It is important for the collective and other arts groups to keep pushing for more art spaces in the downtown core.

“I think it’s about investing in social capital, and we’re starting to see it with businesses like the Hougen Group and Kobayashi and Zedda,” said Villeneuve.

“As developers they’re seeing the advantage.

“Essentially, Main Street after 6 p.m. is a few restaurants and then people coming out of bars. Let creative people take a few spaces over and you’ll see that the whole downtown core would be different.”

The studio was a place for the artists to make and show their work, but it was also a way for them to give back to the community.

Villeneuve estimates the collective has pumped between $25,000 and $30,000 into the space and its surrounding businesses each year.

“Having art in a community or a society means that it’s healthy,” he said.

“The studio has been a place to hang out and discuss things for our little group and for the people who have been coming.”

It’s also had significance for some people who didn’t bother to poke their heads in the door.

“I always see people with their faces pressed up against the window, looking at the art,” said Price.

The studio has been a springboard for emerging artists in the community. It’s given some a chance to mount their first solo show.

“It’s like a laboratory,” said Price. “You can work on something, or show your art, or just come to talk.”

It’s fitting that Price’s exhibition will be the last to hang on the tiny studio’s white walls. He’s been talking about putting the show together since the collective began nearly three years ago.

Studio 204’s initial opening, which happened in the spring of 2005, drew more than 200 people, who filled up the tiny gallery space and spilled out into the alley.

“At first we didn’t know if anybody would show up,” said Villeneuve.

“But they just kept coming and coming, and that was the biggest seal of approval from the community.”

Since then attendance at gallery openings has dropped to about 50 committed individuals.

“Overall, the Whitehorse public has been amazingly supportive,” said Villeneuve.

Losing the studio space has also pushed the collective to be more creative, said Price.

It has been devising ways its artists can take their work to the streets.

“We’re homeless, so what better place to go than the streets,” said Villeneuve. “It’s a way to keep our doors open, without actually having a door.”

Price’s exhibition 700 Pins and 45 Years of Drawing will be on exhibit until November 17.

Studio 204 will be open this Saturday afternoon, or by appointment, or luck.

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