The Fernie Arts Co-op

When you’re looking for a unique piece of local art or a gift for someone special that says “Fernie,” where do you go? There may be many incredible options in our community now, but it wasn’t always this way. While many of our members and consignees have changed over the years, the Fernie Arts Co-op continues to feature a diverse range of mediums and the opportunity to meet the artist in person while you shop. Whether you are searching for a painting, photography, jewelry, pottery, mosaic/stained glass, leatherwork, fabric/felted items, handmade soap, woodwork, mixed media, paper craft or something else, we probably have the medium you’re looking for. 

A gallery run by the artists, for the artist in everyone, the Co-op will soon be celebrating a special milestone in January 2023, its 20th birthday. Looking back to December 2002 when two of our founding members were looking for a space for such an enterprise to call home, we have come a long way. 

Originally located in the Mugshots building (where the Good Earth is today), we have Millie Barnett and Erica Konrad to thank for finding this initial space and for coming up with the idea to have place for local artists to share and retail their works. Millie hosted a meeting of about 10 local artists and Fernie Creations by Hand was born, opening its doors on January 13, 2003. The Co-op’s first president was Debra Brygadyr Cook (a potter). Other founding members included Alice Byrne (jewelry), Troy Cook (bold colourful paintings), Jeannie Grey (stained glass), Patrick and Joanne Burke (wooden ornaments and sewing), Nancy Watson (also sewing/baby items) and my mother Marcie Welsh (nature collaged switch plate covers.) 20 years later a few of our original members are still continuing their artistic journeys at the Co-op including Alice Byrne, Pat Moore, Kathy Stead and myself (now as consignee rather than working member).

It didn’t take long for the Co-op to begin to outgrow its 400 square foot space, so by late fall of 2003 we were able to find, paint and move into a new location at 492 2nd Ave (home to Rooftop Coffee Roasters now.) This allowed for more eager artists to join our core group including Bill Bell, Kendra (Smith) Dixson, Ilona Webster, Bill Mortimer, Ann Louise Joyal and others.

When the building sold and the Heinz family began their dream of opening the Fernie Tea and Coffee House, it was time to move once more and thankfully this brought us to our current location at 572 2nd Avenue in May 2006. This beautiful heritage space was being renovated at the time after being the home of Minifie’s Men’s Wear and Shoe Store for decades. We have been fortunate to remain here ever since and are grateful to our past and present landlords for the opportunity to continue showcasing the works of 40+ artists in this building. 

From the day we opened in January 2003, it was the intention of our group to have cooperative status, however this took a lot longer to achieve than originally anticipated. After three years of efforts on the part of numerous artists to no avail, a new member Barbara Kosiec was able to achieve this. Barbara, who had experience with attaining cooperative status for an apartment building in Cranbrook, took on the task and on March 15, 2006 her efforts were rewarded when our growing group of artists legally became Fernie Arts Co-op. Since that time, we have been governed by the Co-operative Act and a rotating board of member elected Directors.

As we look forward to celebrating our 20th year in business in 2023, we encourage you to keep an eye on our social media (facebook and instagram @fernieartscoop) for our latest events and happenings. We thank all past presidents, board members, artists, consignees, bookkeepers and managers for their role in shaping the Co-op into what it is today and you, the customer, for your love for local art and encouraging us to do what we do!

To learn more about the Arts Co-op and its members, visit or drop by their downtown space, open 10am to 6pm daily.