Think of it as the little art gallery that could. Since opening at the end of a recession, in 2009, the Viva Vida Art Gallery has grown and prospered from a small storefront locale representing a handful of artists into an exciting and vibrant arts centre in the heart of old Pointe-Claire Village, in suburban Montreal. This summer, it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
There is so much happening at Viva Vida these days, it’s difficult to keep track. The gallery now represents more than 25 contemporary artists who work in paint, mixed media, glass, metal, sculpture, fibre arts and prints. It holds exhibitions and one-of-a-kind shows, and operates a website for online sales (www.vivavidaartgallery.com). Amélie Montplaisir, David Kelavey, Lorne Wisebrod, Gordon Pym, and Denise Buisman Pilger are among the artists the gallery represents.
Throughout the year, Viva Vida plays host to hundreds of local children at its one-week art camps. (The very first camp saw one child sign up.) And it has become a community hub: this spring, close to 100 people turned out at the gallery for an art auction in support of the Pointe-Claire Historical Society. The event was just the latest of many local causes the gallery has sponsored over the years. “We want to be part of Village life,” says Nedia El Khouri, the gallery’s Brazilian-born owner.
“ ‘Viva Vida’ is Portuguese,” she explains. “It means celebrate life, live life (to the fullest).” She says the Brazilian phrase represents her philosophy perfectly. She loves contemporary art and wants to use it to educate the young and enrich people’s lives. “Art adds to our quality of life,” she says. “Art is life and life is art. It’s been my motto since the beginning.”
El Khouri graduated with a fine arts degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University), and she furthered her studies, eventually obtaining a masters degree from Boston University in arts education. After a five-year sojourn in Brazil following her studies in Halifax, she decided to make Quebec her home, the gallery her life: “I just jumped in,” she says. “I thought if I don’t do it, I would always regret it.”
El Khouri’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Viva Vida Art Gallery was a finalist for the West Island of Montreal Chamber of Commerce Accolades Award for Small Business in 2012, and that same year, it was recognized for the WIMCC Ambassador Status for Exceptional Business Community Leadership.
In October, the gallery will host the 2019 Elected Members Exhibition for the Society of Canadian Artists. “It is quite a substantial event,” says El Khouri. “This is an across-Canada exhibition and when held in Quebec, it has usually been hosted in downtown Montreal.”
As Viva Vida marks its 10-year anniversary with several fun activities this summer, including the painting of a new mural in Pointe-Claire Village by its young art students, the owner is thinking of new ways to expand the gallery and its reach even further. To that aim, says El Khouri, she has teamed up with an art collective in Curitiba, the largest city in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Her goal is to take the work of Montreal-area contemporary artists to Brazil and bring the work of Brazilian artists to Quebec. “Viva Vida,” she says. “Art is life; life is art.” •
Viva Vida Art Gallery
278 Lakeshore Rd. Pointe-Claire, Quebec