Then & Now: Shining a light on the art world in Kelowna

For Tutt Street Gallery owner Martina Kral, art has offered a dream business opportunity.

Art work on display inside the Tutt Street Gallery.

Kelowna has a lot to offer when it comes to art in our city.

And for Martina Kral, art has offered what has become for her a dream business opportunity—an art gallery of her own.

Kral has been the owner of Tutt Street Gallery in the Lower Mission since 2009.

The gallery’s history dates back to 1984 at the same location, when it began as a gallery/framing shop owned by Judy Johnson.

Kral’s grandfather was an artist so she grew up around the world of art, and studied art history in university before going on to work in other career areas.

“Judy had sold the gallery and retired when she called me about an opportunity of the gallery being offered for sale. Within 10 days I had the keys to the gallery in my hand,” Kral recalls.

Johnson was a partner with Kral at the onset, “as she knew all the artists and the ins and outs of running a gallery, so she was a great mentor to me,” Kral says.

She got her initiation as an art gallery owner during a difficult time, in 2009, as an economic recession was about to hit country.

“For awhile there, I was asking myself the question, ‘What did I get myself into?’ But my whole working life prior had been in sales and management and I was successful for other people and I thought this was a great way to stand on my own, the successes and the failures would be all mine.

“I’m at the point now where I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Kral says. “I guess it is all happenstance. The pieces fall into place. I didn’t start out wanting to buy an art gallery. Even the recession was a good thing in that you appreciate the successes that much more.”

Kral had an established stable of artists when she acquired the gallery, and she has taken on new ones as some of that original group has moved on in the years since, as she tries to stay in tune with the changing trends in the art world.

Kral says art is a thriving cultural characteristic of Kelowna with plenty of art clubs in existence which regularly showcase their artists.

The growth of the winery industry has also offered a natural fit with the local art community.

“Usually people that appreciate a good glass of wine will also appreciate fine art so there is a lot of opportunity for cross-promotion between the two.”

Kral says the challenge for her art gallery moving forward is to bring that appreciation of art to a younger generation.

“When I bought the gallery I was fortunate to acquire a loyal clientele but it has also been important to welcome new patrons to the gallery. I am always grateful when someone says they have never been into the gallery before but are glad they stopped by.

Kral says the beauty of any art is always in the eye of the beholder, a bonding relationship between the art rendering and its owner.

“When you buy a piece by an artist, it is something personal and unique, a one-of in your home, “ she says.

“You fall in love with it. You are the only one who  owns it, it becomes part of your space.

“Paintings give off an energy, they bring light and colour and joy to a space that perhaps needs uplifting. It’s hard to put that experience into words, but it’s an emotional response that you get when you look at a painting.”