Saint John is getting a new art gallery to add to its already gallery-studded uptown landscape. Peter Buckland and Shannon Merrifield will be launching the Buckland Merrifield gallery this Friday, December 4th.
Peter has been a long-time feature in the bedrock of Saint John’s art community. He opened his first gallery thirty-four years ago in 1981. His locations on Prince William Street, and then Duke Street have long been bastions of art, not to mention occasions of wine and cheese.“ I was lucky, because without a lot of background and technical training I learned fairly quickly that I had a pretty good eye for good artwork, and I had a sense about which artists were doing important work.” He was also lucky to start off on the right foot, handling artists who at the time were just emerging, but would become major talents: Paul Mathieson, Suzanne Hill, James Wilson, Herzl Kashetsky, Romeo Savoie, and Stephen Scott.
Prior to their decision to collaborate, Peter had been at his current location on Duke Street for three years, and Shannon had previously run Handworks Gallery on King Street for twelve years. Peter explains the partnership will be split along the lines of fine art and craft, “We began looking for two spaces, because I want to continue working with the fine art but I think there’s an awful lot to be said about artists that fall into that realm of what we call craft. I’ve always believed the line of distinction between fine art and craft is somewhat nebulous, but never-the-less we do make that distinction. I thought what if she were to operate a gallery and I had a gallery next door we could support one another. It seemed to be a really good idea.”
Ultimately though, the discovery of the perfect location at the former Canterbury Street car park resulted in a singular gallery. The car park, now being referred to as ‘Park Place’ has been under renovation by Keith Brideau of Historica, with the façade being designed by Saint John architects Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp of The Acre. The building will also house a new Picaroons Brewtique, Real Food Connections, and apartments on the upper floors. “I think it probably took Shannon and I all of about five seconds to realise this is where we need to be. This is it. We immediately said to Keith, ‘This is our space. We’re moving in.’”
Peter and Shannon will continue representing a number of their long established artists such as Suzanne Hill, Paul Mathieson, Herzl Katchesky, Toby Graser, Cliff Turner, and John Pottle, along with several younger talents: Elizabeth Grant, Amber Young, Marie Fox, Andrea Brewer, Ryan Livingstone, Deanna Musgrave, and Phil Savage. Peter explains, “When I look for an artist, I look for an artist that is competent in working with their chosen media, but I’m also looking for an artist that have something valuable to say with their work. I think if you’re going to have a great gallery you need to set high standards, and that comes down to who you represent. And once you decide to represent them, you have to represent them well. It’s about really setting your standards, and choosing your artists carefully.”
“It’s just a good time for Saint John, and none of us are waiting around for the next big project. We’re just going to do it because we want to make Saint John a great place to live work and play, and that’s exactly where I live, work and play.”
Buckland Merrifield Gallery will be hosting their grand-opening Friday, December 4th at 38 Canterbury Street, Saint John. For more information visit www.bucklandmerrifield.com.