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Artists take a leap of faith with newly re-designed gallery space

For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday we spoke with Heather Cook and Alex Ruston, artists in residence of Art Crush Studio at 65 Simcoe Street
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Artists Alex Ruston (left) and Heather Cook are holding a grand re-opening of their gallery Art Crush Studio in Collingwood on June 8. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

A local duo have always had a crush on art.

Art Crush Studio, at 65 Simcoe Street, is holding its grand re-opening on Saturday, and the gallery’s two artists-in-residence, Heather Cook and Alex Ruston, are hoping to see the area eventually expanded into an official arts district.

“I always say that being an artist is a professional gambling career,” said Cook. “You’re buying (materials) and hoping that it sells.”

“You’re putting all your work into something and just hoping that someone likes it,” adds Ruston.

While Cook and Ruston moved into their space at 65 Simcoe Street in November 2018, some other tenants leaving the building has led to a shuffle and a redesign of the physical location.

“So, we wanted to have a kind of grand re-opening to invite people to come and see our space,” said Cook, adding that the re-opening will also coincide with a studio sale.

Cook says she first started painting as a kid.

“I tried to get into Sheridan College for illustration, and I was unsuccessful,” said Cook, with a laugh. “I was a little bit discouraged and I ended up going to school to be a florist instead.”

Cook says she worked as a florist for about 10 years, but never gave up on painting, which she did at home in her spare time.

“I finally decided I just wanted to do it and take a leap,” said Cook.

Ruston has a degree in art from the University of Guelph.

“My Nana was a painter and I used to do it with her. I’ve always wanted to... make it my career,” said Ruston. “We both wanted to do it, but we just needed that kick in the pants to make it happen.”

The duo worked together at a downtown business and decided to take the leap together.

The two artists’ styles are drastically different.

Cook mostly sticks to portraits of animals, and does a lot of pet portraits. Ruston designs custom cards, and does floral and historical paintings. Both artists also take commissions.

Cook says she gets great satisfaction from the reasons people gravitate toward specific paintings.

“I had one woman who bought a painting of a robin’s nest, because it reminded her of her dad that passed away,” said Cook. “I like hearing the stories of how (my art) affects people.”

“I love history, looking at old photos and creating something that’s special for someone through painting,” said Ruston.

Cook says sales are a little sporadic so far, but they are hoping business will be more steady now that the weather is warming up and there will be more foot traffic around their spot.

“We’d like to see this area designated as the creative area of Collingwood,” said Cook. “They’re working on getting signage for the downtown. It would be great if that could happen.”

Art Crush Studio is located at 65 Simcoe Street in Collingwood. Their grand re-opening is taking place June 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a sale on existing art pieces, as well as a discount on any commissions booked that day.