The turquoise lining around the building, to go along with a red timber and the four flying female figures attached to the walls, offer subtle hints that the old Holy Rosary Catholic Church is, in fact, no longer a church.
Instead, the property in Wells, B.C., has been transformed into a gallery, workspace studio, and home for artists and partners Bill Horne and Claire Kujundzic.
Having purchased the former church in 1995, and having spent close to 25 years in the place they call the Amazing Space Studio and Gallery, they’re now ready to move on. The property at 2338 Bowman Cres. has been on the market for $298,000 since June 2019.
“I’d like to see people take it to the next level,” says Horne, who will be moving with Kujundzic to Vancouver to be closer to his ageing family. “It doesn’t even need to be a gallery anymore.”
For years, Horne acted as president of the B.C. affiliate of the Canadian Artists Representation, while creating decades worth of art, such as his series “Behind the Lines.” Kujundzic, who like Horne is an activist and artist, notably had her work installed in the athletes’ living rooms during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Kujundzic’s “Flying Women,” a feminist project, is now partially shown on the walls of the former church, sharing space with a weather vane which Horne made to replace the church’s old cross. Now in its place is a crescent moon and caribou head, symbolizing the region: “The Cariboo Regional District”.
Creating the Amazing Space Studio and Gallery bit by bit, the couple was inspired by a Kelowna, B.C., church which Kujundzic’s parents turned into their home while she grew up. They also received additional support from Marie Nagel in Wells, who had, surprisingly enough, turned the local St-George Anglican Church into an art gallery years prior.
But despite these influences, there still isn’t anything quite like the Amazing Space Studio.
When you first walk in, you’ll notice the four-metre-high ceilings. They’re shaped by the original curved archways that laid the foundation of the church, which was originally built in 1939. The main room, at around 1,000 square-feet, holds the gallery that hosts Horne’s and Kujundzic’s artwork.
The area also includes a studio space, but it leads to a back door where the altar used to be. The altar, much like everything that was previously in the church, such as the robes and pews, has been removed. Instead, in its skeleton, a living space has been put in place. The former vestry has been turned into a kitchen that features a pair of pews for a seating arrangement.
Above is a loft that hosts an office space, accessible by a staircase made by Horne out of yellow and red cedar, and Douglas Fir.
“A lot of the materials, such as the Douglas Fir in the kitchen, is reclaimed material,” says Horne. “I believe it provides a good sense of karma. I like that we’re able to bring new life to the materials.”
The building’s structure is also made of Douglas Fir, a soft wood that hardens over time. That includes the arched window cavities, which are all slightly different in size. Because of their differences, Horne had to make adjustments each time he replaced a window to include double-glazed glass for better insulation and natural light.
The lower level, which is above-ground since its foundation sits on a concrete slab, is also filled with natural light. The floor includes a print shop, a wood shop with a separate side entrance, a master bedroom, guest room, a living room, laundry pantry, and the main bathroom. The other bathroom is located right near the gallery.
Throughout the house are six heating zones, to go along with an environmentally friendly Blaze King wood stove, and a sound system that can be controlled from four different locations.
Restoring the house, a process that fully started in 1999, has cost the couple an estimated $500,000. It’s also added 1,700 square feet to their three floors, bringing the total to 3,700 square feet.
“It has so many unique features and so much work has gone into each one,” says realtor William Ingram, explaining why the property should be listed for more than its current listing of $298,000. “When they moved in, it was just an old church.”
Ingram explains that a challenge with selling a house such as Horne and Kujundzic’s is that for one to buy the property, they also need to buy into the community. Located about 75 kilometres from Quensel and 735 kilometres from Vancouver, Wells is a somewhat isolated community, without a highway passing through it.
But it’s also unique. The town became well-known thanks to a gold rush in the 1930s, and it’s also a 30-minute drive from the world-famous Bowron Lakes Provincial Park.
Once you enter Wells, you’ll also notice the beautifully painted houses and properties, in colours that stretch one’s imagination. The movement to add such colours started in part with Horne and Kujundzic.
“We’ve been part of a branding of our town,” says Horne. “It now has a slogan of ‘Arts, History and Adventure’.”
During their first summer, after buying the property for $37,000, they decided to add the turquoise trim seen around their church building. That led to them designing a colour palette of a purplish-blue with yellow, and red lining for Wells’ Good Eats Cafe.
Soon after, the other church-turned-gallery in the town decided to add purple trimming to their own building. Its former owner then added a hot pink trim to her home. It showed the impact a couple of artists can have on a small community.
“We’ve shown that it’s possible that an artist can scratch out a living in a small Canadian town,” says Horne. “You don’t need to go to the big and expensive cities to create.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019