There’s a new gig in town and, make no mistake, it’s worth checking out.

Bryan Chen and Shane Lucas Bailey moved JR Art Lab from their studio space in Toronto to a log home just North of Ladysmith.

You’ll have to hit the internet though. It arrived unannounced, doesn’t have a sign hanging on a door in town and the business hours aren’t quite nine to five. JR Art Lab took up residence just North of Ladysmith last fall and is finding momentum. And while you may not have yet heard of it, that’s about to change.
Less than one year ago, Shane Lucas Bailey and Brian Chen called Toronto their home. Having arrived in Canada in 2017, they lived and worked in the Beaches area of the city and were living very much a modern urban dream. By day they taught art and video skills in their studio space and by night they dovetailed their own personal passion and development of those crafts with the delights of city-living.
And then, covid.
Suddenly they were forced to close the doors to their studio and in person art education was replaced with online learning. Much of what they were teaching was in the digital realm already, and so when workspaces gave way to Zoom and Skype, Bailey and Chen were aptly prepared to handle the transition thanks to their extensive backgrounds in the digital world and ease with technologies.
Still, they were obliged to pay Toronto prices in rent and insurance to keep alive the hope of opening the doors once again and this became untenable. It should be noted that one month’s obligation in Toronto would essentially allow them to have lunch at Café 349 and dinner at the Ladysmith Hotel every day for two months while still seeing the occasional movie at O’Brien’s in Renfrew.
And so, they took to the internet in search of options that would allow them to take advantage of the pandemic-inspired turn of events. After all, remote learning also means remote teaching and this has a great deal of leverage on quality of life decisions.
They had long dreamed of country amenities and much of their then digital art was fuelled by that dream.
You can thus imagine how this ad turned their world on edge: “Home for Sale in Thorne, Quebec. Nature lovers paradise. Beautiful and unique 4 bed 2 bath, 3 storey log home on private 2.1 acres. Amazing views over the forest and wildlife filled marsh land.” This was not Yonge Street and there would certainly not be a Starbucks nearby, but it could be theirs.
It took but one visit to one home in some far-off land in Québec and their world changed. Computer-generated art-boards became reality as if in some Disney-inspired fantasy and Bailey & Chen bought their first home.
Fast forward to today. Bailey & Chen are settling in, as are their furry companions, Norbu and Arya.
Walks along the beach have been replaced with strolls through the forest and watching nature through a window has given way to bird feeders, daily visits from the deer and watching the Milky Way overhead.
They each have their own studio space in their log home and evidence of their craft abounds without changing the character of the dream. Bailey specializes in graphic design, digital painting, 3D modelling & sculpting and Chen in photography, script writing, podcasting, video editing, documentary & virtual reality. Together, they offer an incredibly broad spectrum of courses spanning skill levels from novice to expert. They can take you from learning how to turn the computer on to generating an animated 3D avatar corresponding to your mother-in-law.
Their respective backgrounds inform their business model. Bailey started out with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and working in family services before moving into digital media, and Chen taught children in rural settings before acquiring a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. Their firm belief in the power, formative and transformative nature of art for well-being led them initially to focus their offerings on young adults–both those still living at home and those contemplating their futures.
Their students are still largely young adults, but they’re finding footing among a broader audience looking to fully realize the value of the new “technology-is-available” world of 2023. They want to bring ideas for healthy habits to the fray and empower those who might be nurturing an artistic thought but who are held back by inhibition.
The JR in their studio name initially applied to their target student demographic: junior. Meaning, young adult. They have since come to expand its connotation to more accurately reflect their fuzed version of eaching new skills to all students. For, everyone is a junior at something and they may just need a guiding hand to bring potential into reality. Like Franklin, they believe “Diligence is the mother of good luck” and teaching is likely the best way imaginable for them to pay it forward.
All of this while living the dream themselves and they are still somewhat surprised at that.

by Glen Hartle

Bryan Chen in his home studio

Shane Lucas Bailey in his home studio


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