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Column: A stroll down Elma Street — part two

Dick Nichols' monthly column Business Beat
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Strolling down Elma Street, one is transported back to the pretty world of a century ago. But that doesn`t mean it`s old-fashioned.

Our stop this month is a stately brick residence at 33 Elma Street West. Built in 1906 by W.D. Lineham, it is now home to the Lineham House Galleries, owned and operated by Cheryl Taylor, her husband Owen Key, and their children Hamish and Hanna.

Cheryl has been connected with the art scene in the Foothills for over 17 years, organizing a popular annual show for local artists at the Okotoks Art Gallery, formerly known as the Station Gallery, with fellow artist Janifer Calvez.

Five years ago, with their children all grown, the two decided to showcase the talents of both experienced and beginning artists in the community by renovating a vintage home on Elma Street to serve as a permanent gallery.

The Lineham house was not their first choice, but when it suddenly become available, they jumped at the chance.

It’s unusual to find a major art gallery on a quiet residential street in a small town, but that’s what Cheryl and Jennifer created.

“It’s important that you are part of the local art scene before you even begin,” Cheryl said. “We spent time getting to know people in the local art community and we’d been planning this for many years.”

They have an amazing base of extremely talented local artists, people like Don Hamm of High River whose work is featured in galleries throughout the region; Maryanne Jespersen who had owned her own gallery in Black Diamond; well-known Calgary artist Rachelle Brady, and Michelle Austen, another Calgary artist who has been painting professionally for more than a decade.

“These people have a surprising reach beyond the local area,” Cheryl said.

By the beginning of 2020, Cheryl and Owen had acquired Janifer’s share of the gallery and were promoting it primarily by social media and newsletters.

“We use social media perhaps more than other galleries,” she added. “The pandemic has limited our activities, but normally we are very event-heavy, with lots of interactive demos, talks, and receptions. When we open a new show, we would fill the house up with all sorts of excitement, food, and music.”

The paintings at Lineham House Galleries fetch high ticket prices, and the market for such work extends well beyond the boundaries of Okotoks. The gallery receives a lot of visitors from Calgary, but also a surprising number from beyond Alberta. In fact, it has been favourably compared to galleries in Florida and California.

“Elma Street is a unique location,” Cheryl said. “It has such flexibility, with residential and commercial buildings side-by-side. We really love the ambience. It’s a lovely neighbourhood and we feel very well supported by our neighbours.

“Once health conditions improve, we are looking forward to hosting some exciting shows again.”