As you have certainly heard by now, Angst Gallery has closed. One of the best places to see art in downtown Vancouver is no more. While you may assume that the pandemic is to blame, the decision to close the gallery was made much earlier. Since Leah Jackson founded the gallery in 2009, it was an essential space for community activism, music, private events, art classes, writing workshops, and (since 2015) home to Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic. In addition, she forged significant partnerships with local arts organizations including Mosaic Arts Alliance (which she helped found), Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, Inner Light Photographic Arts Society, and Dengerink Arts Supply.
While we will find another home for Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic when it becomes safe to gather in person again, we will miss Angst Gallery terribly.
Images from our final reading at Angst Gallery on March 12, 2020
featuring Mindy Nettifee
Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic began at Ice Cream Renaissance in 2004, moved to Cover to Cover Books in 2007, and followed bookstore owner Mel Sanders from her original location to a new spot on St. James after the first store was damaged by fire. My wife Toni Lumbrazo Luna has co-hosted the event with me since 2007, and we recently added Ghost Town regular Morgan Paige as a co-host. We had eight great years with Cover to Cover; when the bookstore closed, there was only one place I could imagine as a suitable substitute: Angst Gallery.
There was something great about holding our monthly poetry reading in a big beautiful space that had new art every time we gathered. In fact, many of the Ghost Town Poetry regulars were among the more than 350 local artists whose work appeared in Angst Gallery shows over the years. Whenever Printed Matter Vancouver, the publishing imprint, writing coaching, and editing service Toni and I co-founded, needed a place to host an event or workshop, Leah always happily agreed.
When I first met Leah Jackson, she was the director of the Sixth Street Gallery. She was (and remains) an art dynamo and a straight talker, a quality this New Yorker has found sorely lacking in the Northwest. We became friends, and she provided me with a space for literary events including a Gertrude Stein reading, a 50th Anniversary Reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and trans author Aaron Raz. She was also the first person to accept my visual art for exhibition in Vancouver.
Later, when Leah opened Angst Gallery and Niche Wine Bar, she allowed us to use both spaces for poetry and music performances, a bilingual poetry reading series, a regular poetry and jazz jam session, and poetry workshops with writers including John Sibley Williams, Dan Raphael, David Meltzer, and myself. She also suggested a coaster poetry contest. Many of the poets who won the contest had their first publication on a Niche coaster.
Leah is so active behind the scenes that many do not realize what we owe her. For example, we would not have a Vancouver Arts District without her tireless advocacy, her willingness to attend city council meetings, and her dedication to showcasing local artists in her gallery.
After 17 years of fighting to make our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, Leah succeeded in persuading the City Council to create protected bike lanes along Columbia Street:
I was deeply honored when she proclaimed me to be the poet laureate of her two businesses as a way to acknowledge my contribution to nurturing local poets and writers. Later, when Clark County named me its first poet laureate, I felt that Leah had paved the way, and she jokingly told me that I would always be “her” poet laureate.
Of course, Leah isn’t going anywhere. We strongly encourage you to continue supporting her by buying food and wine from Niche Wine Bar (https://nichewinebar.com), which is open for takeout and dine-in service. In fact, Leah continues to curate art shows at the Loo-vre, Niche’s art gallery, and the bar continues to display work by several local artists.
We have no doubt that Leah will continue to contribute to our vibrant arts community in ways big and small. Nevertheless, I speak for many when I tell you that the closing of Angst Gallery is an immeasurable loss. There will be no replacing this magical and nurturing public space which has meant so much to so many in our community.
Thank you, Leah.
Christopher Luna & Toni Lumbrazo Luna
Co-founders of Printed Matter Vancouver
Co-hosts (with Morgan Paige) of Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic
For Immediate Release: Leah Jackson closes Angst Gallery after 12 years in downtown Vancouver
After 12 years of art shows, poetry readings, live music, and community events, Leah Jackson has made the decision to close Angst Gallery. The gallery has been home to the popular Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic since 2015. It has also provided a space for weddings, bike activism, private parties, writing workshops, and postcard-writing campaigns to support progressive causes. Jackson has served as a mentor to countless local artists and provided many of them an opportunity to display their work in public for the first time at Angst Gallery. The gallery has exhibited the artwork of hundreds of artists and became an essential gathering-place for the community in the Vancouver Arts District.
In a manifesto released in 2018, Leah Jackson laid out her vision for the space: “Since its opening in 2008, Angst Gallery has hosted solo and group shows featuring more than 300 local and national artists and cultural events including art shows, musical performances, book launch parties, art talks, classes, workshops, and the monthly Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic. Every January we exhibit a Celebration of the Male Form. We also put out open calls for special shows such as the Door Show, The Chair Show, Petals, Myth-o-Logical, and Family Corvidae. We have partnered with local arts organizations including Dengerink Art Supply, Printed Matter Vancouver, Inner Light, Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, and Art at the Cave. Angst Gallery has also participated in downtown mainstays such as Art in the Heart, Cruise the ‘Couve, and Sip and Stroll. More than just a place to show art, Angst Gallery is also a safe space for community discussion, where all people are respected for who they are. We donate the use of the space to organizations that work for human rights and progressive social change.” Other shows of note include Women Warriors, Questionable World Leaders, and a Black History Month showcase co-curated with local artist Claudia Carter.
Jackson made the decision to close Angst Gallery before the coronavirus pandemic. She is ready to move on to a new phase of her life and focus on her second business, Niche Wine Bar, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in October.
Niche has remained open during the stay-at-home order and continues to prepare meals for takeout. On June 9, as Clark County began the slow process of reopening, Niche began taking reservations for dine-in service. Niche Wine Bar has always displayed local art. Jackson dubbed the restroom The Loo-vre, which will continue to function as a gallery with a rotating roster of local artists throughout the year. Recent shows featured the work of Toni Luimbrazo Luna and Christopher Luna, co-hosts of Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic and co-founders of Printed Matter Vancouver. In August and September, The Loo-vre will feature the work of Serena Van Vranken. Jackson reminds artists that everyone who comes to Niche enters The Loo-vre eventually.
Leah Jackson would like to express her deepest appreciation to the community for all the support she received from them over the past 12 years.
Here is what the Columbian had to say about Leah Jackson’s service to the art community: