Kingston's Little France

Artist owner brings a unique experience to the local arts community

Credit: 
Supplied by David Dossett

Martello Alley is a dead-end off of Wellington Street that doubles as a scaled-down French village. 

Created in 2015 by David Dossett, ArtSci ’83, Martello Alley was initially like any other gallery showcasing art for purchase until Dossett became bored of looking at the bare walls of the space.

Shortly after he opened the outdoor gallery, Dossett took the opportunity to turn those walls into works of art in their own right.   

“My wife sent me a postcard from France … [which] had been sitting on the front counter and I saw it and said ‘I’m going to paint this [alley] to look like Strasbourg.’”  

The square yard was originally bare, housing the still-active apartments in Martello Alley. The murals were “done randomly — when you let your imagination go and use cheap paint…you can be creative,” Dossett said of the transformation that continues to this day.  

When he started, he simply wanted to beautify the alley, asking the landlord for permission to cover the walls of the surrounding buildings. After getting the go-ahead, Dossett made his Strasbourg vision become a reality until the alley became the mock- French village it is today. 

“It’s kind of like doing a diorama, only full-scale,” he said. Since all the murals are on large, imposing walls, the work takes on an immersive, three-dimensional quality.  

But Dossett doesn’t just paint walls. 

Most of the art shown in Martello Alley features some type of print or canvas paintings — including many works by the man who started it all.

Dossett said his canvas paintings tend to focus on nature. Often drawing on Group of Seven influences, he voiced his plans to expand to a series of images featuring kids playing in the snow.  

“What we do is tell a story behind the art, everything here has a story,” Dossett said. 

Accompanying Dossett’s artwork, the remaining pieces within the space display work by a variety of local artists. Currently, Martello has a board of 20 artists who evaluate submissions and run the day-to-day operations of the gallery. 

Growing up in Kingston, Dossett realized how difficult it was for artists to exhibit work in the galleries around the city and longed to create a space that would remedy this inaccessibility. 

Cathie Hamilton, ArtSci’86, is one such artist. Attending night and summer school at Queen’s in the ‘80s, Hamilton ended up in a career in teaching. Despite this, she always had an interest in pursuing art ever since she was young. 

The alley is unconventional in that Dossett is always present to show you the artwork displayed and explain the artists and stories behind the pieces, rather than just sell them to you. 

Hamilton similarly helps show people around and doubles as a tour guide to the gallery in addition to displaying her art. 

“I like meeting people and I’ve found many like to meet the artists whose work they’re looking at,” she said in front of a wall of her own paintings. 

On the wall, she had acrylic, encaustic and also mixed media pieces, all exhibiting natural and local scenes. 

What Dossett started as a beautification project now works to uniquely showcase a collection of local art in central Kingston. 

“It’s always evolving…I’m always adding to Martello Alley,” Dossett said. 

 

 

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