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Alumna Emily Falencki talks about fostering community at the Blue Building

Alumna Emily Falencki

2482 Maynard Street sits back from the street in full view of a construction site and in the shadow of another, an arts centre painted the colour of the sky on a late autumn afternoon. Its owner, Emily Falencki, is a New Yorker who came to Halifax “for love and NSCAD—that’s what makes people move, isn’t it?” she says. Half of the 10,000-square-foot space’s bottom floor is Falencki’s commercial gallery, The Blue Building Gallery—fresh off a group show featuring NSCAD Alumi, NSCAD staff and long-time NSCAD faculty members: Ursula Johnson, Melanie Colosimo, Sarah Maloney, Tim Brennan, Sheilah ReStack, Ryan Josey, Jenny Yujia Shi, William Robinson, Kayza DeGraff-Ford and many more. The other half houses the Wonder’neath Arts Society, which runs arts programs and outreach. Upstairs are artist studios (there’s a long waiting list of prospective tenants), a dark room, meeting spaces, and a communal kitchen. 2482 Maynard opened in October of 2020.

What made you want to create a space like this?

The whole idea came from living in the city for many years, being in the arts community, and seeing the need. One of the main needs was studio space—there is very little. A city of this size, a city bigger, a city smaller—they all support the arts and dedicate those kinds of spaces for making. And this city (surprising to no one who has lived here for a long time) does not.

The other thing was falling in love with—through my children and the work that they do—Wonder’neath. Wonder’neath had very precarious, not accessible housing for many years. I really didn’t want them to have to leave the neighbourhood, and they were facing that. The other thing I wanted to do for a very long time was open a commercial art gallery. This building allowed us to do it all.

Is there an existing space somewhere else that you modelled this on?

No, there are spaces—I’ve heard of them in other cities—but I think it’s quite different in terms of collaboration between private business and a non-profit. And in terms of the way we all operate separately, and do our own thing and our own programming.  But we are all committed to using the entire building to support the arts and Artists.

We could fill it five times over. It has proven how much the city does need space for Artists, and how much it brings to a neighbourhood, and how successful it can be. 

When you become involved in the business of art, does it take away from the practice of art?

That’s a very good question. The way that I present this commercial space and what I do here is very much artist-led. That’s my expertise, and that’s where I come at this from—even though I’m using a commercial model and what I’m trying to do is hustle and make money for artists. Does it take away the time? Always.