Artist Julia Veenstra and her family will celebrate the grand opening of the Art Deco-inspired gallery, cafe and event space on June 16.
Things are happening in the 3,500-square-foot old Ottawa Street storefront now known as Crown & Press Gallery. When I sat down with Julia Veenstra, the fire inspector was there, systems were being set up, and all of the partners were busy pulling together final details for the gallery’s grand opening.
Veenstra is far from a newcomer to the gallery space. Born and raised in Hamilton, she’s a well-established painter known for her bold use of colour in Canadian landscapes and whimsical depictions of cows. When the pandemic hit, she moved out of her studio on James Street North and into a converted garage-turned-studio at her home on Beach Boulevard. “Hamilton has been very, very good to me,” she said about the opportunities she’s had to share and sell her work.
Veenstra and her partners (all family members and artists or creatives) see Crown & Press as a place that can give back to the city. The café itself serves coffee from Sippy Cup Coffee Roasters, beer from local brewers like Grain & Grit, Fairweather, and Northern Crow, bowls from Planted, and specialty cookies and scones from Pleasant Cookie Co. Their hope is for Crown & Press to be an inspired space for meetups, hangouts, remote work excursions, and events, where visitors and coffee-drinkers can support other local businesses and look at beautiful art.
Through the renovation process, they even built a modified catering kitchen in their basement for event rentals and businesses whose goods they sell. They have no intention of being a restaurant themselves. “We simply want to support awesome, local food businesses and sell our art,” said Veenstra.
Veenstra also shared their vision for offering business mentorship to other artists to help them make a living. She’s tired of seeing artists starve and says they are open to proposals as they develop and evolve their mentorship process.
Hand-picked by Veenstra herself, the gallery walls feature artwork from new, emerging, and established artists from across the country. They’re all pieces Veenstra says she would be proud to have in her home. The gallery’s featured artist, Leslie Starr, will be in attendance at the opening, as well as esteemed artists Michelle Paradis, Raquel Roth, Janet Mackay, and Lori Meeboer. Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet and connect with several Hamilton-based artists.
Original artwork will be available for purchase but Veenstra, who wants art to be more accessible, says that art-lovers can also buy prints at a size and price point that “meets their needs.” Would-be print owners can order directly from a system in the gallery. Crown & Press will custom print orders for pickup or direct shipment.
Crown & Press is a venue unlike any other in Hamilton. And if you only make it there to admire the stunningly renovated space, the excursion will be well worth it. The building has one of the only art deco historical facades in the city. It’s a style that influenced its current look, which is contemporary and elegant, with a confident dusty rose and sage green colour scheme.
Veenstra’s son-in-law Shawn Cuthill from Refresh Renos designed the space. “He intuitively knew what it needed,” said Veenstra. Doug Veenstra, Veenstra’s contractor husband and business partner, then facilitated bringing that design to life. But the business-family mix doesn’t end there. Veenstra’s daughter Abigail Veenstra, and her husband Justin Scholman are also business partners, with Abigail managing the café and Scholman managing the gallery. Elias Dummer, Veenstra’s nephew, is also a business partner and he handles Crown & Press marketing. It’s a true family affair where everybody is doing what they’re truly good at.
The grand opening on June 16 welcomes art, coffee, food and drink-lovers alike to experience the first of many Crown & Press curated collections. Attendees can drop by anytime between 5 and 10 p.m, and there will be live music from 7 p.m. onward. The café will be open, selling wine, beer, espresso martinis, coffee, and other non-alcoholic drinks as well as bowls and baked goods. Guests can meet Veenstra and her family, connect with the featured artists in attendance, and may leave with something beautiful to hang on their walls.