SUDBURY -- Northern Ontario artists now have a co-operative hub to create and sell their artwork in downtown North Bay at Gateway To The Arts.

From paintings on the wall to balloon art on display, a group of 11 northern Ontario artists put their heads together in Feb. to come up with the plan.

"There's very limited affordable space in the city for artists to work in, said Karrie Emms, one of the group's founders. "When you want to rent a studio, you're looking at a hefty chunk of change."

Emms is one of the 11 artists involved. She paints, is involved in sketch-work and also teaches during paint nights. There are studios in the lower level of the facility, as well as workshop space where the member artists can prepare their works.

"We have five rental studios downstairs," said Emms. "We planned for COVID-19. We thought if we use the studios, that covers our bills."

Emms and the other artist members celebrated the official opening of Gateway To The Arts at 151A Main Street on the weekend.

Balloon artist Anne Brule is part of the artisan co-op and was always fascinated with balloon art ever since she read about the world’s largest non-round balloon sculpture in the world. It depicts two soccer players challenging for a ball and is completely made of balloons.

"You can make clothes (with the balloons), you can make all sorts of different things," said Brulé. "I made a Métis sash for Le Carnival a couple of years ago and it just really opened up so many possibilities."

The space will also be intended to help young and upcoming artists hone in on their skills and support their talent, as well as help them with resumes and portfolios in hopes of finding a job in the arts.

"Art can be a career. It can be a job and it can support you," said Emms. "We want to foster to young people."

Emms said the group is always looking for new members, saying art and the passion for it are limitless.

For the next few weeks, the co-op is also featuring 11 more artists' holiday artwork.

"There's so much talent in the area with the ideas and creativity that people have," Brule said.