The exchange got soul

Soul Gallery takes over Fleet Galleries’ legacy

Julie Walsh, owner of Soul Gallery

Keeley Braunstein-Black

After 40 years of supporting local artists, and seven generations of fine-art framing, Jeffrey Gasenzer and his father, Jeff, closed Fleet Galleries on Albert Street in the Exchange District in December of 2023.

“It was too much for us to handle,” Gasenzer says. He scrambled to keep Fleet going while his father’s declining health hospitalized him for months at a time.

Growing up in the gallery and learning how to frame from his father, Gasenzer imagined taking over someday. However, as an artist himself, the rigours of gallery ownership often put his own dreams on the backburner.

“I knew there was so much more potential for me outside of there,” Gasenzer, who is transitioning into a new creative venture with his wife, Lori, says.

Once word got out they were looking to sell, Soul Gallery owner Julie Walsh was the first to show interest. The connection, for Gasenzer, was obvious.

“This specific space in the building has been an art gallery for so long, it doesn’t have the look or feel of being anything else,” he says. “That space will continue to be very creative, as well as beautiful. (Soul’s) collection of art and artists is amazing.”

Walsh opened Soul Gallery in a residential location on Clare Avenue in December 2012 after dissolving a partnership in her first Exchange location in 2011.

Walsh’s background in interior design as the owner of Beautiful Spaces Design got her thinking about showcasing artists’ work in a home-based setting.

“I didn’t have that intention in the first place,” she says. “It was really coming from my soul, my passion, so it just sort of happened that way.”

Soul Gallery has enjoyed great success in its Clare Avenue location, representing a roster of local, national and international artists with whom Walsh built relationships over the years.

For several months, she pondered expanding her business to include a framing component, and how that might look.

“The serendipity and the synchronicity of Fleet Galleries closing and them reaching out and suggesting, ‘boy we think you would be a great fit here’ ... it sort of all fell into place,” Walsh says.

Their shared love and support for artists – and Walsh’s desire to carry on the framing side – solidified the transaction.

“The appreciation that we have for her for coming in and taking the space in the first place was really nice,” Gasenzer, who gifted Walsh Fleet’s framing tools and equipment to help her get started, says. “She’s a very smart and intelligent woman.”

Walsh finds the gallery community in the Exchange supportive and hopes her addition to the neighbourhood will help increase foot traffic and revitalization.

“I hope it comes alive again, because it is such a beautiful area,” she says.

Soul’s packed Albert Street grand opening on Feb. 22 kicked off the first of many events and exhibitions to come.

“My artists are up and creating like wildfire, and we have quite a roster of events and solo exhibitions planned this year, so we are quite excited about that,” Walsh says.

Soul Gallery locations are at 65 Albert St. and 163 Clare Ave. in Winnipeg. Artists, hours and exhibition information can be found at

Published in Volume 78, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 29, 2024)

Related Reads