Skip to content

Long-standing Victoria gallery closing doors after 30 years

West End Gallery owner Matthew Hudon speaks to art world being a ‘difficult business’ after pandemic
Matthew Hudon, owner of West End Gallery, located at 1203 Broad St., said he has seen many businesses shutting down on the street. (Samantha Duerksen/Black Press Media)

West End Gallery owner Matthew Hudon said some of his most fond memories of the contemporary gallery’s 30-year history in Victoria were the gallery walks, where galleries in the downtown core would work together to draw in new people to experience art.

“Those are really special,” he said. “We had evening events, the amount of people that would come through and enjoy the gallery … individuals who are not familiar with the arts and had possibly never seen the talent we had discovered in British Columbia and throughout Canada … that was always our goal. We were very proud of it.”

His parents Dan and Lana Hudon were integral in the leadership of bringing the art walks into Victoria, he said.

Hudon is reminiscing as he faces the upcoming date of April 27, 2024, when West End Gallery is closing its doors. The current lease has ended and they are not seeking to negotiate a new lease within 650 View Street.

The gallery, located at 1203 Broad St. for the past 30 years, situated within the 650 View St. building, could not “envision itself anywhere else and will not seek a new location in Victoria,” Hudon said.

With West End Gallery also having another location – its first – in Edmonton, Hudon has a wider glimpse into the broader trends affecting art galleries across Canada.

“We had, you know, 10 galleries and now Edmonton’s down to like four. So, I mean, it’s not just Victoria and that’s why I don’t want to be negative,” he said. “When the pandemic came along, it really changed how people were able to come to the galleries … It’s just a very difficult business to be in.” He added those days of the larger gallery walks are “gone”.

West End Gallery, located at 1203 Broad St., has announced it is closing its doors on April 27, 2024. (Samantha Duerksen/Black Press Media)

Despite doing everything he could to keep up with online trends during the pandemic, Hudon said it takes more to stay afloat in today’s art world.

“It’s really perseverance,” he said.

The Hudon family opened their first West End Gallery in Edmonton in 1975 followed by the Victoria location in 1994. Since then, they have seen multiple recessions and 9/11 which had a “huge impact” on tourism in Victoria.

“Those big recessions, they came and they went. Now I feel it’s not just a recession and it’s everything. A pile-up of social stresses, economic stresses, you could highlight the cost of doing business, the leasing, the rent is going up.”

Hudon, 42, and his wife Jennifer purchased the gallery in 2021 and Hudon said it was important to him to carry on what his parents started. The gallery’s focus is to promote the careers of contemporary Canadian artists, supporting 60 painters at this current time.

“It kind of really has sunk into me that, you know, they’ve done something really special,” he said.

Continuing to carry the torch for his parents, who are now retired in Edmonton, Hudon will continue to run the Edmonton West End Gallery, which has been an art staple in the community for 50 years.

For gallery goers in Victoria, there will be one last chance to enjoy the gallery’s Annual Garden Collection, running now until the April 27.

“We sincerely hope you will stop by and share some fond memories of our time in Victoria. We intend to make this event unforgettable with the surprise release of artwork from some of our most influential artists,” the Hudons said in a press release.

Fans of the gallery have expressed what the gallery has meant to them on social media.

“Thank you for curating a great selection of Canadian art all these years at both locations,” one Facebook user said.

“Very very sad to see you go!! You were part of my monthly tour outing to my visit in art galleries. You have such a beautiful gallery! You will be missed,” said another.

In a press release, Dan and Lana Hudon said the gallery was more than just a space for art.

“It has been home to memories, achievements, and the celebration of Canadian talent. As we prepare for this transition, we are immensely proud of our impact and the connections we’ve fostered in the beautiful city of Victoria, BC.”

READ MORE: Hermann’s Upstairs set to close doors March 31, jazz club to remain open

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
Read more