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Squamish's Brackendale Art Gallery bought by local supporters of arts and culture

Iconic BAG to undergo renovations to expand on history as community hub.

The Brackendale Art Gallery has new owners. 

The iconic five-decade-old institution, which was built board-by-board, artist by artist and musician by musician by the late Thor Froslev and his wife Dorte Froslev, has been sold.

The deal, which was in the works before Thor's passing in September, will be official in April. 

The proud new owners are likely familiar to most locals — the Zephyr Cafe's Adrian Blachut and Jessica Rigg. The pair were two of several co-owners involved in opening Ground Up Climbing Centre in 2015. 

For Dorte, the fact the takeover is by younger folks who want to maintain the essence of the BAG is a dream come true.

"I take it to be a major miracle that they kind of dropped out of the sky," Dorte told The Squamish Chief. 

"It's been a real comfort."

She said that while there will undoubtedly have to be changes to the BAG under new owners, the place has always been evolving since Thor first dreamed it.

"It started out as just that one barn-shaped building. And then it popped out here, and it popped out there — and it popped up there. He was never averse to knocking out a wall here and putting a door over there instead. And so the stuff Jess and Adrian have to do is just a natural continuation of that," she said. 

The BAG celebrated its 50th anniversary with a month-long series of concerts in November

"I couldn't have imagined a better scenario for the BAG, and I hope the community will stand behind the new owners as they have with us for all these years," Dorte said. "Adrian and Jess are just a gift."

As for what is next for her, Dorte said she and Thor had previously bought a little rancher in the neighbourhood. She will be renovating it.

Back to the future

For Blachut, being co-owner of the BAG is an extension of what he has always looked for in a business venture — investing in places where locals can hang out. 

"Throughout my business career — I own Zephyr and the gelato shop beside it, 2 Chill Gelato, and I'm one of the founders of Ground-Up, the climbing gym, as well as a couple of other little businesses — my business goal is always to be part of the places where people go to hang out, look each other in the eye and spend time," he said. "That has been increasingly difficult in Squamish ... I think that our society needs a little bit more space to relate and, so, the Brackendale Art Gallery seems like a perfect space where we can have a big open area where people can do it .... Myself and many others moved here for the natural gifts and outdoor recreation, [and] as we grow and develop, we need a little bit more cultural space and more space for theatre, music and art, fine art and all the other beautiful, beautiful things that make people happy and able to interact and make Squamish a very nice place to live."

Blachut said he takes the history of the place and Thor's vision for it seriously. 

The name will stay the same, and he hopes to hold on to the uniqueness that makes the BAG the special place it is. 

There will be renovations by local contractors to bring things up to code and to put in a new industrial kitchen, among other changes.

"We have literally 10 million ideas," he said with a laugh. 

Ultimately, he said he hopes the community as a whole gets behind the place. 

"We are going to need the support of the community to make it into the cultural setting that we envision," he said. 

"Thank you to Dorte and all the people who have attended and helped out with the BAG over many years. There have been so many volunteers who have helped build things and help do things. ... We do have a little bit of construction to go through. So it might be a couple of minutes before everything gets fully solved out, and we can do everything in the way that we want to. But we're just really excited."

Community input and support

Rigg is already involved in running the BAG, as she has been taking over the event bookings from Alex Badger, who is moving on. 

Rigg said Blachut invited her to go and tour the BAG and when she did, she was — well — sold on the idea. 

"I walked in, and that was it. It was just the energy and the history, and the potential in that place. I couldn't turn away after that," she said. 

Like Blachut, she said she is excited to amplify what the space is into an even more "really funky, cool place to gather."

Her vision includes more options for meeting rooms and workshop spaces.

She wants to continue consulting with locals in the community to find out more about what they envision for the place, too.

'Thor is smiling'

For Patricia Heintzman, long-time friend of the Froslevs and supporter of the BAG, this torch passing to new "go-getters" is exciting to see. 

"It really has been the constant beacon of art and culture for 50 years," she said. 

"[Thor] is smiling down for sure."

Upcoming BAG events

While the sale will be officially complete in April, events aren't stopping in the meantime.

Here are a few coming up at the BAG.

• Feb. 17th - The Maiden's Lament: Evening of Folk Song and Story

• Feb. 25th - Bluesberry Jam Band

• Mar. 18th - Womxn's Night featuring Cat Madden, Sativa the Diva & Taylor Harlow - a fundraiser for Howe Sound Women's Centre


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