Empty walls weren’t what Kim Fjordbotten had in mind for the launch of a new exhibit at her art supply store.
But that’s exactly what was displayed in the Naess Gallery at The Paint Spot last week during the opening of The Work: Street Art by DP, an urban art show held as a fundraiser for Kids with Cancer.
Two hours before the launch June 14, six police officers came in to the supply store just off Whyte Avenue, said Fjordbotten.
“They positioned themselves at the exits and told my staff to step away from the computers,” she said. “And they issued me with a search warrant to seize everything related to the artist DP.”
According to Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Noreen Remtulla, a search warrant was executed.
“Several art pieces were seized as evidence, and they’re viewed as part of an ongoing graffiti-related investigation,” she said, noting that charges are pending.
The staff did all they could do get the word out about the empty gallery – but people still showed, and they have been ever since.
“There’s been a lot of people come by dropping off work in support,” said Fjordbotten. “So we have stickers and stencil work and canvases … The gallery is full of street art again.”
Because of that, as well as the fact another artist, Bandit, has works on display as well, approximately $800 has been raised for Kids with Cancer.
Despite that and the fact what happened as led to “some really good conversations,” the incident left Fjordbotten upset.
And she’s not the only one.
DP issued a statement that is posted at the art studio.
“If the city of Edmonton or the EPS wanted to talk to us before, during or after the show we would have co-operated fully,” it reads. “There was no need to raid the art show/fundraiser.”
In the statement, the artist writes that a legitimate art show was part of a positive transition, but “now I fear other artists will be reluctant to do so for fear of being prosecuted.”
The artist’s suggested solution? A freewall, particularly on the southside of the High Level Bridge.
“Giving people a space to paint is like giving skateboarders a skate park to ride in,” reads the statement. “I know I would (use it), if it were in a safe environment.”
Whether or not such a thing will ever happen remains to be seen, but in the meantime urban art is growing, said Fjordbotten.
“There’s a lot of people coming to me and asking me to hook them up with these street artists because they want to include them in mural projects or they want a graffiti style something done,” she said. “And I haven’t been able to put them in touch with anybody because I didn’t know them.
“So this is a process s of me understanding the culture and who’s involved, and when you see artists brave enough to have an exhibition, it was important for me to show that street art is valid on things like canvas and transparencies and wood pieces.”
Perhaps because of that, Fjordbotten has received some flak for allegedly supporting graffiti, but she notes that is not the case.
“It if is artwork or anything done on a business without approval, that is vandalism,” she said “And that has to be cleaned up.”
The show, which still features work by Bandit, as well as an array of donated works, is on until the end of the month.
The Paint Spot is located at 10032 81 Avenue. Visit paintspot.ca for more information.