Darin Bavis gets his inspiration from nature. That’s why, when he and his wife Michelle Beaulieu opened their new art shop—and Bavis’s new studio—they chose to name it Earth. Situated beside Pridham’s Studio on York Street, the shop is an outlet for several local artists, all of whom are personal acquaintances.
“Every single artist that’s in here is someone we would consider a friend,” Bavis said. “We have connections with a lot of them.” That sense of connection is important for the couple, having moved to Sackville just over a year ago to be closer to the community. Looking around the store, it’s not hard to see where that importance comes from—members of his network even provide the raw materials for Bavis’s mushroom art.
“People bring me mushrooms all the time,” he says. “It beats going to Michael’s for art supplies!” Sustainably harvesting tree fungi from around the province, Bavis then dehydrates and inks the mushrooms to produce intricately detailed pieces. He also keeps some on hand—a basket of chaga mushrooms sit on the counter, where their potent anticancer properties are proudly proclaimed (“They make a great tea!” remarked a visiting artist).
While their shingle and window display are lovely, it’s when standing inside and talking to the pair that you can really sense their creative energy. That energy has already been invested into the space itself.
“Darin built everything in here,” says Beaulieu, “The shelves, the painting… he’s very handy.” The sense of inclusion, too, is palpable—in the short time it took to gather information for this article, I met several local artists and browsing patrons, Beaulieu’s mother, a dog, and shared a birthday with five-year-old Oliver (who was excited to have his picture taken before going home to his presents).
Bavis trades some of their art at the Moncton market. “I’ll take pieces from this shop,” he says, “and promote shopping in Sackville, to send people down this way.” While using the space as a live studio for his own work, he also wants to hold demonstrations of live art in the open space beside Earth. “I’m inviting Nick, the guy who does the glassblowing for these pieces,” he says, gesturing to a nearby collection of glass jewelry.
They’re also interested in making connections with Mount Allison’s vibrant young artists. This is the kind of relationship that is encouraged by the university.
“It really is about the network, and making those connections,” says Rebecca Blankert, this year’s Owens Gallery intern. “And I think that’s a really important part of being an artist… I think Mt. A, Sackville and the local community is really unique in that we have an abundance of that.”
Bavis and Beaulieu’s desire to spread their roots into the soil of Sackville is matched by their friendliness, and their optimism. They say that they’ve enjoyed their time in town so far, and look forward to the future with Earth. “I’m sure that as time goes along, we’ll just keep meeting more of these incredible people with incredible talents,” says Beaulieu.