'Life on the Rock' celebrated at opening reception
Crystal Beshara, local artist and owner of The Studio Café, unveiled her solo show, 'Life on the Rock' this week. Soon after the pieces come off the walls, though, this unique gallery-coffee shop hybrid in Hintonburg will close its doors.
Beshara, 39, opened The Studio Café in May 2014.
“The concept behind it was to create a community space for artists, and beyond that just regular folks who were just looking for a sanctuary, to come and hang out," Beshara said. "Not the loud, buzzy, clanky space of a traditional coffee shop, but more of a coffee house experience. Also creating a gallery where the space felt accessible, not sterile and intimidating like the typical gallery space.”
Beshara said the concept will likely move online in the future, keeping people connected.
“I developed a really strong following after a short period of time, a good dedicated support system of people who love the concept. Unfortunately the reality of the space was not viable at this time, at this scale. So I think I might end up scaling back a little bit,” she said.
"I think people need to be reminded that small businesses need people to make it run. It’s not enough to just like it from a far, but to actually show up and show your support in a physical presence sort of way."
Though the idea behind The Studio Café will live on, “Life on the Rock” is a way for patrons to say goodbye to the space.
In the past, other artists have covered the walls with their collections. This is Beshara’s first solo show at the café.
“It’s bittersweet for sure. It’s nice that it’s my show. It makes perfect sense. I didn’t time it as such but that’s the way it has ended up,” she said.
Gathering inspiration: An East Coast adventure
“Life on the Rock” is a collection of oil and watercolour paintings based on a trip to Newfoundland that Beshara took last fall.
In Sept. 2013, with a group of 14 art students, Beshara travelled for the first time to Newfoundland, teaching, finding inspiration and snapping thousands of photographs.
“I was just struck by the power of Newfoundland. Even flying in. We flew in mid-afternoon and it was clear, clear, clear and you could see the rock and… there aren’t really any words to describe it,” Beshara said.
Beshara returned to Ottawa with over 3,000 photographs. From that, she created a collection of 15 pieces.
“It’s hard not to do something with all of that eye candy when you get back," she said. "You want to keep reliving it and painting for me is a way to relive an experience and be reminded about what was resonating with me in the first place.”
For Beshara, the collection is all about transporting people to that place. “Really, I want people to be sort of carried away and feel inspired and feel like they can look at a piece and go somewhere.”
“I stood in the middle of the room today because I had moved all the furniture out and so I had an opportunity to kind of look around and I was like, 'Oh I really do feel like I’m in Newfoundland.' It’s kind of neat to be transported that way.”
Lynn Andrews attended the east coast trip and said the collection takes her back.
“I think it’s really reflective of the way it was there. The sky changes constantly. The view around you changes every hour and I think this captures that…it’s really beautiful,” she said.
Andrews’ sister, Margaret Lee, has been on multiple painting trips with Beshara.
“She’s an amazing teacher. She’s been teaching me for many years and she’s fantastic,” Lee said.
As a long-time student of Beshara’s, Lee said she is “very sad” the studio is closing.
“I’m really sorry that she has to move out from here. She gave it her best shot and you know it didn’t work out but I’ll be back with her in her classes, in her studio at her home,” Lee said.
The exhibit runs until Nov. 25, but Beshara said she isn’t focusing on the finale. “It’s not the right vibe to be thinking about the end at the start of a show, that’s for sure.”
To find out more about the show and The Studio Café take a look at this Storify.