The former Coast Capital Savings branch in downtown Langley City has new occupants - at least temporarily.
The Langley Arts Council (LAC) has taken over the Fraser Highway space until the end of September, converting it into stables for both horses and artists.
Passersby can't help but notice the herd of white horses penned up inside the glass walls of the temporary art gallery, said arts council president Rosemary Wallace.
And while the horses are part of a public art project being organized by and for the arts council, it's also a fundraiser that is expected to help cover costs for such initiatives at the new downtown gallery.
Once lured inside by the life-sized white horses of the Horsin' Around project - which will soon be painted up and displayed in key locations around the community - visitors are usually surprised to discover the works being exhibited by an eclectic group of local artists.
The gallery features 14 local artists in residence using the space to create as well as display their work.
Aldergrove painter Robin Bandenieks, for instance, loves the venue and especially the air conditioning on those hot days.
"This is just fantastic," she said, in love with the concept for a Langley arts centre.
Not only does it provide her exposure to the public that she doesn't normally get, but she lauded the synergy it offers between the artists.
"It's nice to paint with other artists," agreed Milner painter Judy Vanderveen, who applauded how the new gallery offers a friendly atmosphere to work, as well as an appealing space to showcase her art.
South Langley artist Vivian Harder said the space offers an inviting forum for artists to share, removing themselves from the typical isolation in which they normally work.
"I'm thrilled that the arts council has a place in Langley now," Harder said.
The space is also being shared by members of the Langley Writers' Guild, and author Doris Riedweg hails it as a needed venue.
"One of our purposes is to display and sell our books, but we also hope to be able to talk to gallery visitors about the guild and writing in general," Riedweg said.
"More than that, we would like to encourage aspiring writers, and go over their work with them if they wish. They could get this at our meetings, but many people who would like to attend are not able to, so this could be an option for them."
The gallery is actually just a pilot project.
It has been open a few weeks now, and Wallace is pleased with the reception its getting from the public.
"It's a great way to showcase artists' works," she elaborated, and Wallace feels the existing venue offers an ideal mix of open spaces for exhibition of art and smaller office and cubbyholes perfect for individual work stations.
"It's a compilation of the arts that are happening in Langley," Wallace said, sharing the arts council's vision to incorporate live entertainment, maybe a coffeehouse, a courtyard, and other components that can create an overall tantalizing venue for artists and art enthusiasts.
"We're hoping it will take off," she added. "A dream for the future is to have a facility that does just that- our goal is to develop a permanent residence."
Wallace sees this temporary space as an opportunity to gauge public and artist interest in a Langley arts village. This is a test of what it would look
like, but it has to be self-sustaining, said Wallace, who also sees it as a teaching space and possibly even a business centre for other non-profit organizations in town.
"We're getting exposure for the Horsin' Around, but also showing that arts and culture is alive and well in Langley," she said.
The temporary artists village is open Mondays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Sept. 28 - when LAC needs to move out to make room for the returning Langley Christmas Bureau.
It's still unclear if LAC will return once the bureau closes for the season, Wallace said, noting the building is also up for sale. But she's hoping people will stop in and offer their input.