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Braid St Studios is back home in New West

The newly opened art rental spaces can accommodate about 35 artists

New West-born Braid St Studios is back home after spending a short stint away in Port Coquitlam.

First started at 100 Braid St. (hence the name) in 2014, the co-working art studio had to shift base to Port Coquitlam for three years before making its way back to New West this spring.

“It's wonderful to be back. I'm extremely happy,” said Susan L Greig, founder of Braid St Studios, and a resident of New West for 20 years.   

“This is my home,” said the award-winning Métis artist. 

On June 10, Braid St Studios will see the official launch of its two new locations in the city.

For Greig, the day will mark the completion of nine years since she embarked on a journey that was spurred by the question: “If I wasn't afraid to fail, what would I do?”

The beginning of Braid St Studios

Greig, who worked in healthcare back then, recollects answering that question: “I said to myself, ‘I would surround myself with a community of artists. I would paint and write full time.’” 

At that point, Greig was on a three-month break from work — she was suffering from PTSD, and couldn’t imagine going back to the hospital. So, instead, she decided to nurture the dream of being a full-time artist right away.

“I asked myself, ‘Well, why can't I do it now?” So, I went and found a building.”

Greig found a 1929-built building — a historic building at 100 Braid St. — to be the home of her new business. It used to be a winery building for the B.C. Distillery; Greig turned it into a co-working space for artists. 

In the building, there were 46 art studios, workshop rooms, and a 2,500-square-foot event space that held art shows and sometimes, weddings, said Greig.

After about six years of operating out of the iconic space, Greig had to move out, as the building was to be redeveloped into a 34-storey residential tower.

“It was right in the middle of the pandemic and it was a difficult time but we received tremendous support from the building owner, Wesgroup Properties,” as per Greig. 

Though the artists had to disperse from the art hub, all of them have managed to remain connected through an online group. 

Meanwhile, Greig moved to Port Coquitlam, to a “very small gallery and two-studio” space.

“It's been a slow journey,” she said. “I look at Port Coquitlam as a place for us to just get through the pandemic. And that's exactly what happened.” 

While there, Greig continued looking for properties in Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Aside from people reaching out to her with leads on potential locations, she also received support from the the City of New Westminster’s economic development department to find another spot within the city. 

“My heart has been in New West, and it has always been my first choice.” 

Now, with two new locations in New West, she got what her heart wanted. 

The location at 321 Sixth St. has individual studios with lockable doors, a meeting/workshop room, a commercial industrial sink and more. While this is “essentially an office building,” the other location — at 301 Sixth St. — is a little bit more like the original Braid St building where artists share a common space, she said. 

“So what we're really doing is catering to different types of artists — artists who prefer to have their own studio, and also those who want to work in a collaborative environment.” 

Meanwhile, the PoCo gallery and studio space will be transformed entirely as just a studio space, she said.

Between the three, Braid St Studios can accommodate about 40 artists.

Is the Uptown move a permanent one?

While the new locations are open for artists to rent, Greig can't guarantee any applicant more than 18 months in the space.

“The building is going to be redeveloped at some point. We don't know what's going to happen with the redevelopment. If there are any delays, we could go on for longer.” 

Greig is already in talks with other developers and building owners to plan where she can move the artists once the redevelopment of the current site starts.

Since COVID, Greig has been seeking properties that are set for redevelopment and might have trouble filling a building with short-term rentals.  

“Rather than a space sitting empty for 18 months to two years during the redevelopment process, and because Braid St (Studios) already has an existing community looking for space, we have the connections, structure, and processes in place to 'pop up' quickly. We can create a community where none has existed before and it is a wonderful way for owners and developers to support the arts community.” 

But a move is a long way away; as of now, Greig is just happy to bring Braid St Studios back home.

Braid St Studios has two new locations in New Westminster: 321 Sixth St. and 301 Sixth St. The studios are open to the public on the first Friday and the first Saturday of each month. Artists can apply for a space on Braid St Studios website.