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Richard Bell ready to lead Peace Gallery North into post-pandemic future

When Richard Bell moved to Fort St. John in April of 2020, he never imagined he'd be running an art gallery less than a year later.

When Richard Bell moved to Fort St. John in April of 2020, he never imagined he'd be running an art gallery less than a year later.

Now, he is the gallery coordinator for Peace Gallery North, and couldn't be more excited about the opportunity, and his chance to leave his mark on the local art scene. 

"It's funny, I don't think I ever once displayed my work in a gallery, not even in college," said Bell, who will be showing his work in a gallery for the first time in January 2022. " I have a lot of work to do to get ready for that," he joked.

Being in the gallery everyday, Bell has a lot more time to work on his art, as well as his vision for the gallery. 

"I want to really have the space be more active with people creating art here, and sharing their expertise. I want it to be much more of a hub for artists in the community," said Bell.

"There really isn't anything for people after high school that shows them how to take your art seriously, and what's needed, before taking that step and going to college."

Bell got a sense of the art scene in the community in the fall, before he was named the new co-ordinator and before the public health orders restricted those events from happening. He taught acrylic, watercolour, and drawing workshops at the gallery, as well as pumpkin painting and superhero drawing for kids. 

"We had a great response for those workshops. But once we're allowed to have them again I really want to see the workshops grow," said Bell.

Bell has worked in graphic design since he graduated from what is now called the Alberta University of the Arts. Though he majored in illustration, graphic design is where he found himself getting the most work. 

Recently, he worked for Hockey Canada as a freelance artist, and was involved in designing posters and promotional materials for some of the events that were held in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, including the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. 

As the pandemic set in, graphic design work dried up, and Bell found himself focusing more on his illustrations. He loves drawing sci-fi and fantasy-based pieces. 

He also loves the freedom that working at the gallery provides him. He spent a number of years working on the corporate side of things and found that sapped the fun out of design work. 

"Being at the gallery is amazing, if there's something I want to try I can go for it and not be burned out when I go home," Bell said. 

On the gallery side of things, Bell has been blown away by what he's seen from local artists.

"I've been absolutely amazed at how much skill there is locally. With the current show ['She said, He said, She said'] their stuff is gorgeous, they have mastered their craft with their years of experience and what they're trying to do," said Bell. 

He even found the quilting show held in December to be eye-opening, as he never realized the amount of detail and effort that went into making quilts. 

"I find that fascinating, it's been really interesting, and I'm being exposed to a lot of work I wouldn’t see otherwise," he said. "The local crafts that people have been showing me is unreal too, there is so much skill from all ages."

Bell wants there to be new pieces of art work in the gallery every time someone visits, and he wants people to visit often.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca