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August 23, 2019

Here’s the Deal with the Art Gallery in the Basement of LESS17

Formerly a storage space for The Source, Secret Eight is an unorthodox art gallery in LESS17 that showcases work by high-profile artists.

LESS17, owned by The Source Skateboards and Snowboards, is a trendy space with funky attire, but it also has a tiny, contemporary art gallery in its basement. Enter the industrial doorway or look through the internal bay window and you’ll see an ever-changing space; sometimes it’s a workspace, sometimes art hangs from the ceiling and sometimes televisions play music videos.

Austin Taylor is one of the managers at LESS17. He’s also a curator and the brains behind Calgary’s coolest art gallery. Secret Eight – named because of the eight steps in the gallery space and the fact that it’s hidden in the annex of a clothing store – first opened last summer. Since its opening, Taylor has curated six exhibitions here.

How the gallery was created

Taylor has been curating events and one-night shows for the last three years. When the space was being renovated and transformed from The Source into LESS17, he saw the room and thought it could be used for more than just storage.

“We figured that it was a really unique space that could be used for different art-based projects,” says Taylor. “I gutted the space and added the window so that when artists come in, they can transform the space however they want to.”

Every two months, the space changes. In the past year, the gallery has hosted contemporary work by artists from Calgary, BC and Saskatchewan, as well as international artists. Secret Eight has shown work by high-profile artists such as Raymond Boisjoly and Andrew Dadson. Right now, the gallery is showing “Carnival, Jazz, Rave and Kinks” by Dick Jewell who is a well-known British photographer and filmmaker.

The goal of the gallery

Taylor’s goal was to form a gallery that was entirely non-commercial and a space for artists and curators to just create artwork. It’s intended to be an experimental space without a commercial agenda.

Secret Eight was better received than Taylor expected. “When the gallery first opened, we had a couple people coming through the gallery every few days,” says Taylor. “Now we have people coming through every day.”

The gallery is also recognized internationally. Secret Eight has received press from magazines in England, Italy and Germany. “I think people are so interested because it’s so experimental,” says Taylor. “It’s not a typical gallery. Each project showcased here is created for art’s sake.”

What’s next for Secret Eight

Taylor has no plans to slow down. In the next year, Secret Eight will be planning off-site events, showcasing work by even more established artists and in-depth projects, and possibly even setting up an online marketplace to sell the untitled publication that accompanies each exhibition. At the end of August, Secret Eight is celebrating its one-year anniversary with its biggest exhibition yet. Taylor says the anniversary exhibition is showcasing a well-known international artist, but other than that, Calgarians will need to flock to LESS17’s basement after August 27 to see whose work is on display.

Secret Eight is located in the basement of LESS17 and is open to the public seven days a week. 930 17 Ave. S.W., 403-228-9199, secreteight.ca

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