The story of Side Street Studio is more than the history of a business. It is the physical expression of a belief that real art should be accessible to everyone. It is also the evolution of a business model supported by principles of community-building economics.
Here’s how it happened.
In 1984, six women artists rented a space on a small side street in Victoria’s Oak Bay neighbourhood. Their location gave them a name for their collective business, and it also allowed them to do what they love: show and share their art with local people.
They believed art, however basic, should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone.
They established two rules for their business. Firstly, everything in Side Street Studio must be made in British Columbia by small artisan businesses. Secondly, everything in Side Street Studio must be beautiful and the very best of its kind.
My name is Jill Fitz Hirschbold and I am the new owner of Side Street Studio.
I have lived on the Coast for 30 years and my formal education is in the Sciences. I have a Diploma in Environmental Quality Control, a Bachelor of Science; I’m a Certified PADI Dive Master, a Paddleboard Instructor and spent 12 years working as a Laboratory Manager in Environmental Analytical Chemistry before starting a family. When my daughters were born, in my early 40’s, I made the decision to leave my career to stay at home with them.
To be honest I could not have predicted what would come next.
Over the last 7 years I have created a home based business with my West Coast and Abstract Photography. It extends from a line of photo gift cards to large format art sales and photography services. I have participated in Studio Tours, Arts Shows; have been a member of the Gage Gallery and for many years was represented by the Brentwood Bay Resort. I have organized art shows from the conceptual theme, curated participating artists, hung the artwork, scheduled staff, facilitated sales and fully planned the opening nights. My pieces have made their way to England, China and the US and many private residences in Western Canada. I have participated and successfully sold at the Sooke Fine Arts show in 2015/17. I have also volunteered my photography skills to Raincoast Conservation, Greenpeace Canada, FraserFEST, Watershed Watch, Tour de Victoria, Swiftsure, Santa Shuffle, many other community events and donated works to the Banff Mid-Summers Ball 2014/15/16/17/18, CNIB Art Appeal 2015/17, Heart for Hospice 2015, VGH/UBD Night of 1000 Stars Gala 2015 and YWCA Woman of Distinction Awards 2016/17. I have participated in over 20 shows and have self-published three books of my images paired with my writing.
You would think with all of that going on and raising children it would be enough but I was missing the daily interaction that comes with working outside the home. Then this amazing opportunity came my way. I have sold my cards at Side Street for many years so was very familiar with the Studio and the business model. It is a perfect fit.
My goal is to continue to build on the vision and many years of hard work, by all of the previous owners, that has made the Studio a success. To maintain the standard that is expected by customers when visiting the store and online, to keep all the artists that customers have come to know and love but also add in new talent so there is always something new to see. I also hope to meet each of the British Columbia artists that are represented in the store and try and understand a bit about how their process works. It is that personal connection that can be translated to the customer when we sell their handmade artwork.
Art comes from the Heart and that is truly what makes this store a success!
My wonderful staff, Kathy, Jean, Samantha, Heather, Joanne and Sheila, and I invite you to come down to the Studio and see what we have been up to.