Natalie Brekkaas named new art gallery co-ordinator

There's another artist taking over the helm of Peace Gallery North.

Natalie Brekkaas takes on the role of gallery co-ordinator April 10. Catherine Ruddell, who took on the role at the start of 2018, is moving to southeast B.C. with her partner for opportunities with his work.

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"The artists involved with the gallery are a wonderful group, a wonderful community to step back into," Ruddell said. "To assume a role at the gallery and be trusted was wonderful."

Brekkaas, a ceramic artist, has been working part-time as the gallery's assistant since last summer, and said she's excited by the new opportunity.

"This has been one of the most satisfying jobs I've had as an adult," Brekkaas said. "I'm definitely an artist, and this feeds me in a different way."

Before moving back home from Prince George at the end of 2017, Ruddell had been focusing on her art practice while working at the city's Two Rivers art gallery. 

She said her biggest lesson was learning the history of how the Peace Gallery North came to be established in Fort St. John through the late 1980s and early 1990s — and how exhibits used to be displayed at Totem Mall before a gallery was built in the North Peace Cultural Centre. 

The biggest accomplishment during her short time back home, Ruddell said, was helping the gallery and Peace Arts Gallery Society standardize its policies and procedures. The society is looking at new ways of engaging the community, from establishing membership to opening up more opportunities for emerging artists to become involved in the gallery and hone their skills, she said. 

"Having come from Prince George, seeing how other galleries do it helps put Peace Gallery North on even footing with other small galleries," Ruddell said. 

Brekkaas plans to pick up on that work to help build the gallery's diversity — from its artist base to the types of mediums and works it puts up for display and sale. 

"We have a really strong but somewhat aging artist population in the gallery," Brekkaas said.

"We need to start engaging young people, different types of artwork, and bring diversity to what has already been happening over the last few years."

Patrons continue to remark the gallery remains a hidden jewel, Brekkaas said, with many locals still unaware the city is home to an art gallery. 

"It's one of the best art galleries in the north," Brekkaas said. "I want more people to realize that."

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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