Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante opened ARTE funktional at The Factory in the fall as she grows her art career valley-wide.

Kelowna: Repurposing art space at The Factory

Okanagan artist seizes opportunity to build new gallery space in ARTE funktional

When Jock Hildebrandt moved to Vancouver Island last fall, opening up space in Kelowna gallery venture The Factory for a new artist or dealer, the door opened on a golden opportunity for Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante.

The Argentinian-born artist is a fixture on the Vernon art scene with her own commercial gallery promoting other artists and an active artistic practice working in architectural ceramics and three-dimensional textiles.

“I always grew up around art and I always was interested in art and artists, so it’s something that was part of me,” said Sanchez de Bustamante.

In Argentina, she worked in designer film and taught ceramic sculpture before immigrating to Vernon to be with the man who would become her husband, Robert Sterry. The pair met during the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and stayed in touch for over a decade in the lead-up to the big move.

“After a few years, I was able to leave my country and he was living in Vernon, and he invited me to come to Canada,” she explained.

It was 1989. She was 33 years old. And one could picture her launch into this new life as the kind of bronze-ensconced experience in which a pair of gates created by one of her artists swings open and she steps through to a stunning new life and career.

In reality, Sanchez de Bustamante started out small, volunteering at the Vernon Public Art Gallery, eventually earning a staff position as an educator to work with the school program.

She sold art at the farmers’ market and grew her own practice. Then ten years ago, in conjunction with another artist, opened a gallery in the city, later moving it to her own home.

“I like the promotional part or the sale. You know, artists we’re often secluded or solitary,” she said. “(But) the main goal is always to try and sell some art to be able to continue creating.”

And create she does.

With a hand in many ventures, she just finished a public piece for Okanagan College, working with youth from the community to craft four clay panels now installed in the parking lot of the campus.

And she is currently working with a few local designers on private commissions, leaving only Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for her to man The Factory. The other days are left to staff. Having handled some of the top artists in the area, and the province, for years, she says her trick to selling is in the selection.

“I don’t come from an academic background… I really select my artists for what speaks to me,” she said.

This Thursday, that will include launching a new show with Salt Spring Island’s Gerda Lattey, a passionate stone sculptor, and Winnipeg’s Michel Saint Hilaire, whose architectural acrylic and mixed media paintings focus on infrastructure and how it interacts with nature, and the way mankind interacts with the natural environment.

The gallery is also currently featuring artists like Lake Country’s Julie Elliot, Angelika Jaegar from Kelowna and Lynden Beesley.

From hand-forged elements to fused glass, ARTE funktional is truly a new business to see and will be invaluable to architects and designers working on projects throughout the Interior of B.C. The next show launches this Thursday, May 1, 5 to 7 p.m. To see her space in The Factory, stop in at its location,  1302 St. Paul St., or check out the website

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