Since opening in a small retail space in the Westin in April 2008, the Blake Jorgensen Gallery has played host to an impressive range of exhibitions and industry parties. But over the past month, the gallery has been shut down for extensive renovations as the owners ready the space for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, doubling the size to about 1,600 square feet in the process.
"When we first opened, we just sort of took over an old retail space. All we really did was put some pictures on the wall," Blake Jorgensen said with a laugh. "It was real simple."
Now, just over a year after opening their doors to the public, they're redesigning the entire gallery from scratch, thanks in large part to an Olympic partnership.
"We've been doing really well and we were also able to get interest for the Olympics through this media company I work with in the U.S.," Jorgensen explained.
The Bonnier Corporation publishes a variety of magazines, including Ski, Snow, Skiing, and the TransWorld series of magazines for snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, etc.
"They flew up from Aspen to have a look at our space and they decided that they wanted more space, and the space adjacent to us was vacant, so we just worked out a deal with Cressey and our landlords and those people," he added.
During the Games, the gallery will play host to meetings and events for Bonnier, acting as a hub of sorts while still operating as a functioning gallery with work by Jorgensen and others on display throughout the 17-day period. The deal with Bonnier means their rent will be subsidized, which helps Jorgensen to reduce the financial risks of expanding.
"We had a bunch of offers actually, but this one was the best one because it was one that allowed us to keep operating as a gallery as opposed to having to sublet," he added.
It also helped that Jorgensen has an existing working relationship with Bonnier and their clientele.
"The people that they plan to bring in and be affiliated with I think will be a huge benefit, too," he added.
The expansion will be permanent, remaining that size even after the Olympics.
"I think it's awesome because it gives us the opportunity to be a quite a bit closer to what we wanted to be in terms of a gallery and a space that facilitates events and exhibits," Jorgensen said.
Though the space typically features Jorgensen's own work - which is for sale - he also regularly brings in other world-class action sports photographers as guest exhibitors. The space has also hosted parties, featuring specific brand name corporations who use art exhibits to promote their industry.
As it turns out, parties and events have made up a big portion of business for the gallery.
"Being part of photography, and especially in Whistler where its so associated with all the sports and the athletes and the people that work for all these companies, it's a lot more involved than just artwork from individuals," he explained.
"We didn't really expect that there would be this much outside interest at the beginning, but its kind of a 'if you build it, they will come' sort of scenario."
While the gallery has already reopened to the public, Jorgensen plans to hold a grand opening on Wednesday, June 24 - with a Red Bull sponsored party, of course!
And the gallery has lots in store for the months leading up to the Olympics as well. The gallery is also participating in Whistler Arts Council's ArtWalk again this year, showcasing the paintings of local artist Jenn Ingram, who has created renditions of a few of Jorgensen's photos.
"For Whistler arts in general and having a gallery, it's super important to be involved in local arts, because the hardest part about being an artist or art in Whistler is having access to space," he added. "The whole purpose of ArtWalk is to try and get space and a lot of it just ends up being retail space, which brings people into retail stores, but I think our space is 100 per cent dedicated to art."
During Crankworx, which takes place at the end of August, the gallery will also play host to a Kona/Freeride Entertainment exhibit and party to celebrate Freeride's 10 th anniversary, while raising money for charity.
Factor in Jorgensen's own photographic pursuits and aggressive shooting schedule, and you can see why this was the busiest - and best - winter for this seasoned photographer.