Cory Nespor originally trained as a graphic designer but pursued a career as an electrician.

Unhappy in his career, he chose to return to his artistic roots and founded NVRLND, a network for artists he co-founded that gives other artists opportunities and space to create.

Growing up, Nespor had been surrounded by art. Prior to taking up classes in high school, his grandmother had encouraged his passion from a very young age.

“She taught myself and my twin cousins painting classes during summer break for a few years in a row,” said Nespor. “So that was some introduction … then high school stuff, nothing too serious, but its always been a part of who I am.”

Nespor continued to develop his skills by studying graphic design in college. However, he ended up taking a job as an electrician.

“I had a different life as an electrician,”said Nespor. “It treated me well, [but] it was not what I was supposed to be doing.”

After seven years, Nespor knew he needed a change and quit his job to pursue art full-time. He left for a year-long trip to New Zealand at 28, and he was reconnected with his art.

“It just made me happy, that was the core of it,” said Nespor. “I was happier than I’d ever been and I knew that it was something I was built for in a way. I was honest with myself; it was something that would ultimately make me happy so I pursued it…. I found my voice.”

Nespor formulates ideas for a project on a canvas at the NVRLND Open House. Saturday Afternoon. November 30, 2019. Photo by Sarah Akeredolu.

Now, at 39, miles away from his former job as an electrician, Nespor is a co-founder of NVRLND. Starting off in Marda Loop as Voltage Creative Garage, the collective is now based in the abandoned Old Shamrock Hotel in the inner-city community of Ramsay. It has become a collection of bright, spacious, and flexible multimedia art studios that encourage creativity and showcase the talent of the city.

“We just tried to be there for the people that wanted space and needed space,” said Nespor. “Whether it was lifting furniture or building them things like frames or stuff for their pieces.

Whatever the things were, it was our job to help support the artists that we had here in this space.”

Working alongside Nespor for nearly five years is another self-taught artist. Kelly Johnsgaard came from a similar carpentry and construction background and later transitioned into the arts.

“I knew about Cory because I was a huge fan of his artwork and his practice…. And I just became fast friends with him through the art scene and getting to know him better.” said Johnsgaard. “I believe we struck up a fast friendship because of certain similarities of our lives. He was another likeminded artist willing to roll up his sleeves to get dirty to create something unique in this city.”

According to Johnsgaard, it was these similarities that enabled them to create NVRLND. With the main idea stemming from Johnsgaard, he says that Nespor worked tirelessly to develop the network.

“He spends pretty well every day of the week at NVRLND working on his own personal projects as well as working on NVRLND the project in itself, helping the artists out,” said Johnsgaard.

Kelly Isaak is one of many artists based in NVRLND. As a visual artist, she works primarily with coloured pencils, graphite, charcoal and chalk. She has been based at the studios for a year and a half. Since being at NVRLND, she says she has found a community enabling her to put out more work than ever before.

“We get to bounce ideas off of each other and encourage each other,” said Isaak. “I was working on my own before in a home studio and it’s a lot different working around a group of people, it kind of pushes you to do more.”

Since moving to the Inglewood area of Calgary, the network has made some growth in the community.

“We came over from Marda Loop with 4 artists and it’s now grown to 43 so it’s pretty cool,” said Nespor. “It’s pretty weird, it’s a lot of work but it’s amazing how the arts and culture scene in Calgary is growing.”

Late Saturday night, at the front entrance of the NVRLND building, Nespor stands proudly in front of one of his projects, “Don’t quit your day dream”. Photo by Sarah Akeredolu.

As NVRLND continues growing, one thing Nespor looks forward to is expanding their programming. In fact, they are taking the collective on the road to Kelowna for a group show with the Palace of Manufacturers, another like-minded collective based in Kelowna, B.C.

“It’s going to be interesting for us as an organization to learn but it’s also going to be so much fun to take art on the road,” said Nespor.

Editor: Sajan Jabbal | 

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