It’s Actually Good To Be Here

by Kimberley Jev

In 2006, the economic boom of Calgary, Alberta was well on it’s way. The city was full of eager cheque book holders reaping the benefits of the oil rich land. At the time, the city had the highest GDP per capita in the country, i.e.$52.386 billion.

While building barrens were plotting and marking their grounds, in the art world, artists were visually representing and notable magazines had began to take an interest in the scene, “Canadian Art devoted their winter 2005 issue to Calgary’s visual arts scene, suggesting the city’s new money could engender arts patronage to rival that of Montreal in the 19th and early 20th centuries.”


Today the city is at somewhat of a steady pace as construction continues to spread while Calgary receives more and more and more national press, however, it is best to be honest, Calgary has not been exempt from the current state of the economy.

Independent galleries are still facing the same problems. There is always such serious talk about art and artists in the city as if magic could happen overnight, while it is true that funding of the arts must be discussed more light must be shed on artists using other avenues to promote and sell work. Compared to our recent history, people are spending less, retail stores are shutting down…even the Calgary Stampede has taken a little bit of a blow.

It’s all bad news really for any one these days and even though they say the unemployment rates in Calgary are dropping, the turning point is still far from home.


Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. This recent tussle about a possible tax increase was enough to give anybody a headache. So, wandering down the streets, it catches the eye when you come across one of the stenciled “Good To Be Here” slogans spray painted in an obvious but discreet part of a building in the downtown core. Lately, the slogans have been popping up everywhere, on side walls in alleys, tree stumps in parks, all in vibrant colors.

The other day while smiling at a tree trunk with the slogan on 17th Avenue, a conversation unfolded between a small multi cultural group of people gathered around a stump with the same slogan but in pink and an interesting thing happened, talk was light, conversation was positive, it seemed like it really was good to be there, as if the slogan had sort of said, stop, take a look around you forget about you’re worries, stop for a second and think about what actually makes the city of Calgary home, even amongst the tourists covered in cowboy boots and hats.

So where is all this coming from?

A recent art opening has sparked a mini culture of positivity onto the independent art scene. Curtis Sorensen, who works under the name Van Charles is a graduate of ACAD and has been delivering good news via his Good To Be Here installation at The Gallery Life and Styles, a new hot spot for any up and coming artists in the city. Since it’s opening in October 2008, “The Gallery” as it is referred to by patrons of the street wear style store and gallery has held a series of shows that allow each artist to take over the walls. Artists are given a wide range with 2 blank white walls and a space dedicated to murals painted over each time a new artist takes residence.


The Good To Be Here art show opened on the 26th of June 2009 and as if to show that even among the bad times it’s important to remember it’s “Good To Here,” the DJ for the night paid respect to the late Michael Jackson via a 45 minute set.

The conversation with Van Charles however was filled with positivity, happiness and a genuine appreciation of life.

In December last year, Van Charles was the winner of the PF Flyer Art and Sole Contest. The competition had 25 artists cover a pair of canvas shoes in their own designs and were auctioned off for the month, proceeds from that show went towards the Urban Youth Worx Project. Van Charles’ creation titled Hey Love was the winning pair of shoes which gave the artist the chance to display his own art work in his very own solo show at The Gallery Life and Styles.

In his second solo show only, Van Charles took over the Gallery with his slogan Good To Be Here, “As an artist I want people to feel what I’m feeling as I create. I want people to feel the exact feeling which is it’s Good To Be Here, it’s good to be alive. It’s as simple as that.”

The show is a mixture of all things Van Charles, from hot beach girls painted on the walls with feel good slogans to old Pepsi crates lined up against the shelves.

The Good To Be Here show is one of many shows sponsored by The Gallery. The Gallery has quickly become the hot spot for up and coming artists and graphic designers in the city to shine their light.

Since it’s opening in October, The Gallery has since been a residence for artists such as Darcy Obakata, Shane Haltman, Calgary’s leading man of graffiti inspired art David (The Kid Belo) Brunning and illustrator and visual artist Aimee Qiu.

  • It’s Actually Good To Be Here
  • by Kimberley Jev
  • Published on July 15th, 2009
The Gallery Street Life & Styles
113-1013 17th Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta
Kimberley Jev

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