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King Edward Hotel

Calgary is a hub for culture: art, music, and theatre all thrive here, thanks to both patrons and organizations. One key organization that I had the pleasure of meeting last week is Calgary Arts Development (CADA). Jordan Baylon, Emiko Muraki, and I sat down to discuss what’s happening to the city in this regard.

King Edward Hotel King Edward Hotel

We met at Art Central, a building housing several galleries, arts organizations (including CADA), and local artisans in the heart of the city. Across town at the East Village, the King Edward Hotel (known affectionately by locals as the “King Eddie”) is in the process of being revamped as a music and arts centre.

A new structure will be built (ground breaking will be followed by two years of construction) that will house recording studios, a live music space, exhibit space, and rooms for musicians to host residencies. An additional building will be constructed, and the two will be connected via a bridge. This forms part of the East Village’s revitalization project.

This brought to mind Vancouver’s own Yale Hotel, which is also getting a well-deserved facelift over the coming year.

Calgary wants to create a legacy for the city’s art community to thrive. CADA is currently in the middle of a three-phase process, asking Calgarians what makes art in a city. They’ve assessed organizations, and brought a random sampling of 36 participants on board (out of 5,000 requests sent to households across the city) as an even representation to share opinions and ideas on art. Four Saturday sessions will involve a panel of artists, and the outcome of these sessions will help to draft a basis for moving forward.

Studio C is the artistic arm of Prospect Human Services, and helps to empower people with varying abilities to create their own artistic expression through workshops and mentorships. They work with marginalized people, bringing creativity and colour to their world.

As 2012’s chosen Canadian Cultural Capital, Calgary has plans to bring a night of art to the city, loosely based on Montreal’s Nuit Blanche. There’s a new organization that’s getting this off the ground. On top of these vital arts organizations, several festivals form part of Calgary’s cultural calendar. The Giraf Festival creates large-scale projections of animated short films around buildings in the city. Hotel Arts participated in last year’s festival.

The Art Gallery of Calgary

On the same afternoon, I stopped in at the Art Gallery of Calgary, recognized as non-collecting public art gallery space. By avoiding permanent collections, the gallery conserves its budget while helping to promote the artists and community programs themselves.

The Art Gallery of Calgary

The AGC presents contemporary art exhibitions and art programs to Calgarians. While I was there, I took in Mary Kavanagh’s Atomic Suite exhibit, a series of photos from the atomic and nuclear industry, creatively placed on one large white wall. This collection is focused on the artist’s visit to Wendover Airbase and environs. There’s also a few watercolours on the opposite wall that are a more personal response to some of the strong photographic subjects. The exhibit runs through August 25.

The Art Gallery of Calgary

UK-born Carl White is also at the AGC, his paintings and drawings forming numerous private collections both nationally and internationally. White’s Pentimento exhibit is on at the gallery through August 25.

Glenbow Museum

Not far away is a building housing the world where “East Meets West”, the Glenbow Museum. This enormous museum houses about 28,000 works of art on four floors. On through September 3, Canada on Canvas showcases 130 years of works from mid 19th century up to the 1970’s. It includes works by 40 of Canada’s most esteemed painters.

Canada on Canvas also celebrates the country’s painting tradition by highlighting three overlapping themes: people, place, and paint.

David Garneau’s large panel “How the West Was…” is one of my favourites out of the collection.

How the West Was
[David Garneau, How The West Was…, 1998, Collection of Glenbow Museum]

His masterpiece challenges the authenticity and mythology of the Old West through a series of comic oil on canvas panels.

How the West Was How the West Was

Another standout exhibit is Charlie Russell and The First Calgary Stampede. Born in St. Louis in 1864, Russell came to be known as one of the world’s greatest western artists, aka the “Famous Cowboy Artist“. Many of his works were sold in 1912 to millionaires for a then-paltry $1,500. This collection of 20 paintings was a huge hit at the first ever Calgary Stampede held that year.

1961
[Charles M. Russell, Smoke of a .45 (formerly The Smoke of a “45”), 1908, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas]

The exhibit helps to commemoration the 2012 Stampede Centennial. Russell’s works are so lifelike and detailed that the viewer is at once drawn into a world of cowboys and indians. This collection (now over) is derived from both private collections and several major art galleries across North America.

My visit to the Glenbow was courtesy of the Glenbow Museum.

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