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Where architecture meets art

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Owner Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante of Kelowna's newest gallery, Arte funktional, has filled the space in The Factory building with local and Canadian artists. She holds a fused-glass bowl from West Kelowna's Annemarie Fux in front of a large-scale painting by Heidi Thompson and a textile creation of her own making, right, along with her cylindrical ceramic sculpture, Ten Salmons.
According to the owner of Kelowna's newest art gallery, her philosophy for how she chooses what to show is a personal one.
"I choose whatever I like," said Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante of Arte funktional on St. Paul Street. "Mainly, I concentrate on modern and abstract art. But I'm always open to new artists."
Three months ago, de Bustamante moved into the space in The Factory building vacated when sculptor Jock Hildebrand relocated to Vancouver Island. She now represents about 30 artists from across Canada at the gallery.
Herself an artist who works mainly in ceramics and textiles, she emigrated to Canada from her native Argentina 23 years ago, bringing with her training as an architect and an appreciation for art not only as something to be appreciated esthetically, but functionally as well.
It's easy to see how that philosophy is reflected in the elegant, modern space itself, located at 1302 St. Paul St., and the pieces on display and for sale.
For example, in the main room of the gallery, a trendy dining table made from forged steel and reclaimed fir planking sits beside a strikingly colourful 90-inch by 66-inch painting from celebrated Okanagan visual artist Heidi Thompson. The table was made by local artists Doug Alcock and The Factory owner Bo Snarski.
On the table is an eye-catching magenta fused-glass bowl by West Kelowna's Annemarie Fux. "That could be used as a centerpiece, to hold fruit or whatever," said de Bustamante. "And besides being utilitarian, it's also very beautiful."
With an emphasis on architectural art and functional art, as well as paintings and sculpture, Arte funktional is a natural extension of what de Bustamante has been doing in the Vernon area and in her own home above Okanagan Lake in the Fintry area off Westside Road.
As she pointed out, for the past several years she's been running her own gallery out of her home on weekends from May through October and has run "pop-up" galleries in other spaces in the Vernon area as well.
But Arte funktional is her first permanent gallery in Kelowna.
"I've been creating architectural art for about 18 years," she said. "I saw the opportunity to create a gallery oriented more towards functional work."
De Bustamante showed photos of one "installation" she did for an appreciative couple in the North Okanagan. The pair is fond of Barcelona, Spain, and wanted to reflect that in their home, so de Bustamante created a series of colourful mosaics for their master bathroom and other areas, influenced by the work of Catalan artist Antonio Gaudi and others.
While that project was perhaps different from most of the art in the space, which is available for purchase and can be taken home, it is a perfect example of what de Bustamante means by architectural art.
"People forget in the beginning there was (only) painting, sculpture and architecture," she said.
De Bustamante, who shares The Factory with a half-dozen other design-oriented businesses, hopes to put on four or five exhibitions a year, and although the artists represented come from across Canada, there is a local emphasis to the work as well.
Besides showing some of de Bustamante's own striking ceramic and textile pieces, the gallery represents the diverse range of artists working in the Central Okanagan, including visual artists such as Vernonite Judy Clarke and Kelowna's Vikki Drummond.
"She has an amazing sense of colour," said de Bustamante of Drummond's artistic sensibility.
There are also scaled-down, card-sized pieces in mixed media on paper from Mexican native, Lorena Krause.
"They could be a card or they could be framed," said de Bustamante. "They have a really playful sense."
As well, the gallery displays beautiful jewelry pieces from the Okanagan's Deborah Wilson and Yael Krakowski, and Vancouverite Carmen Thompson, whose silver and gold works she has special praise for.
"I have a feeling this artist will be going places," she said.
It's also hard to miss the works of Heidi Thompson, with their huge splashes of colour highlighting her large, abstract paintings.
Her clients come from all around the Okanagan and as far away as Vancouver and Calgary, and are as individual as the pieces on display.
"A client that will come for architectural art is different from one who will come for sculpture," said de Bustamante. "But I believe there's a certain energy in original work."
The functional art concept de Bustamante believes in is not necessarily new, but it has found expression at Arte funktional and that is something she hopes to build on, bringing creative inspiration to everyday living.
"When I came to Canada, there were just a lot of artisan fairs," she said. "But I believe there's a market for this art … I believe the key is diversity."
Arte funktional is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and de Bustamante is there Wednesday to Friday.
For more information, go to artefunktional.com, or call 250-712-6388.

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