The Northern Beaver Gallery is a tiny space for showing and selling tiny art. Located inside a Canadian-made vending machine, the NBG offers a very constrained working space for limited editions. All work must fit inside a pod measuring less than 2 inches in height and width. Vending machines are usually the domain of children, and inspiring artists and audiences to play is part of the goal. In its early iterations artists have responded with tiny original oil paintings, prints, wooden sculptures, interactive conceptual pieces and more. The project was launched by curator/artist Rebecca Houston in 2011 as a response to the desire to engage with the colourful machines; too often she told her kids “no more plastic junk” when confronted with them at the grocery store, but each time it felt like a loss of joy to walk away without dropping in a coin, turning the handle, hearing the satisfying metallic click as the prize falls out. The NBG was conceived to fill that space with something hand made, local and collectible; pieces that are more worthy of the beautiful machines in which they are housed.
Rebecca Houston is a designer, illustrator and community artist who has worked with homeless youth and marginalized communities for 15 years. She recently returned to school to get her BFA in sculpture and is starting the Master’s program at York University in September. Her work is often involves play and interaction on various scales.
Artvendu began organizing the Norther Beaver Galleries in the winter of 2011 with an application for a student grant from the York University Creative Arts Student’s Association (CASA). The machines were the inspiration, they are well-crafted and Canadian made and make an appealing setting for small hand-made work by local artists and artisans.