Entrepreneurs under 25: Gary Parker


Some people call it luck. Some people say they were in the right place at the right time. Some people call it blessed. However you explain it, the birth of Community Art, and the opportunities that have arisen since relocating to Montreal, have been nothing short of awe-inspiring.

After moving to British Columbia from Jamaica a year and a half ago, founder Gary Parker was sitting in the library when he overhead a conversation between two girls after they had created a beautiful drawing.

“I looked over and they said, ‘Oh, you know, I’m not gonna do anything with this because art can’t make money. I’m just gonna go into nursing.’ And right then, it hit me,” Parker told MTLinTECH.

The sentiment hit home for Parker, who had grown up doing parkour in Jamaica but given it up because of the assumption it would never take him anywhere.

“It sounded very familiar, how people have to keep giving up their passions for practicality. So that was how I mapped out Community Art. I had $20 in my pocket because I just came here, and I started this giveaway and we pushed out this Facebook video. It wasn’t much at the time, but right now we’ve grown and it’s fun, and it’s always amazing when someone comes to you and says, ‘Because of this, I’m gonna continue to pursue my thing’.”

You ever hear people say they’re lucky or they were in the right place at the right time or the right moment? I’m not gonna say lucky, my faith is a real part of how i move forward, but blessed.

Community Art is essentially targeted marketing for local businesses that helps young artists gain exposure while raising money that goes towards a scholarship.

“We framed their work and placed it in businesses, an optometrist or a restaurant would be the ideal. So now your artwork is in that business, where would you rather go to eat lunch, all things held equal: a place where your artwork is, or a place you have no connection to? And now this year, we’re moving toward a plan where every piece that’s in a place, [the business] pays a monthly subscription, and we take in 51% of the profit and put it into a scholarship for the artist from that piece.”

Only seven months after Parker released that first Facebook video and launched Community Art, it has grown in new directions he never could have foreseen. Moving to Montreal to attend university at McGill, he had originally planned to complete his four-year degree as quickly as possible and return to BC to continue expanding. But it was while up late studying into the early hours of one morning that fate/chance/faith turned him in a different direction.

“It was late, 4 am, and I had decided to go to sleep. But all of a sudden I saw a Facebook thing called Dobson Cup. It said they had a startup booth at 7 am, in 3 hours. I just left. I took a bus, went there in the morning, and it was… you ever hear people say they’re lucky or they were in the right place at the right time or the right moment? I’m not gonna say lucky, my faith is a real part of how i move forward, but blessed. I showed up, pitched, and all of a sudden, right after, the guys who do the murals all around the city were there and they give me their number. And all of a sudden the McGill administrators looking to put revenue streams into the department come to me, and then everything just lined up. So I thought, ‘why not’?

The move to Montreal in combination with the Dobson Cup opportunity got Parker interested in what came after post-secondary study for these artists. He saw a thriving art scene and the chance to connect and make a difference with university students, not just high school artists. How were they getting exposure for their portfolios? How did they know how to price them? Although he couldn’t disclose the details of the upcoming expansion, he did say Community Art will be moving into the university sector very soon.

“It’s been an amazing seven months.”

And considering it was only a year and a half ago since moving to Canada, it’s exciting to think what the near future could hold for Community Art.

Finally, if any artists in university read this, especially those who work in graphics or online, please email Gary at communityartca@gmail.com or through the Facebook page. He has promised to personally respond as soon as possible.

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