curator’s blog

September 15, 2017  Have I Gone Too Far?

I’ve learned many things over the years about curating, and certainly there are no hard and fast rules about what works and what doesn’t. It ebbs and flows with a changing community, changing art trends and my own interest in certain ideas and issues. I’ve learned to take risks, be more innovative, and learn from mistakes. This has led me to develop an exhibition schedule that includes plenty of community engagement projects – shows that have multiple people involved, innovative use of media, and a meaningful impact in Salmon Arm. Basically this is a good concept; lots of people means a diversity of voices. But it’s also like herding cats. After 15 years, I’m not sure how much herding I’ve got left in me. I started looking at 2018 sometime in late 2015 (post-Knitted Tree), and I am worried that I’ve now overtaxed the community. Two huge collaborative projects; Shuswap Legends and The Little Lake, are taking far too much of my workday, and I have very little time to manage the other 12 exhibitions on the go, grantwriting, sponsorship procurement, and the other 100 items requested of me each week. People aren’t stepping up the way they used to, not willing to take the same risk I am, reporting on how busy they are, dropping out after making initial commitments. What I’m saying is, the cats are escaping into the wild. I don’t seem to be able to rally support for crazy creative ideas anymore. Is this a trend that will pass? I hope so. I can’t see going backwards to a time when landscape paintings ruled the gallery (I can say this because I’m a landscape painter). However, I can’t do this alone. Creativity is a team sport. I look forward to a time when people realize that “me time” can also mean “me working my ass off to make an awesome thing happen time.”

September 2, 2017  Getting to Know You…

This is just to say that I am amazed and delighted that Chris Cran is not only a kind and generous human being, but also an incredibly thoughtful and playful artist. We’ve just spent a week getting to know him and his work as we installed the Save The Date exhibition, and I’ve learned volumes in that time. He is funny, so it makes the process quite entertaining. I can see why he is a well-loved faculty member. The thing is – and I’m a bit embarrassed to say this – I didn’t really understand his work before. I saw the progression from realist portraits to the striped and dotted pop art imagery. I saw the “My Face in Your Living Room” painting and thought, oh, he’s playing with the history of self-portraits. That was it. Now I realize there is so much more – and that he’s totally changing the way we look at art. He’s a headliner in the contemporary art scene in Canada, and we’re so fortunate to have the month of September to get to know him.

September 1, 2016  The Rest of the World

After many years of imagining, planning, saving and researching, I took my family on a trip to Europe for 53 days this summer. We visited Britain, Italy, France and Spain, and saw artwork I studied in art school oh so long ago. There are no words to describe the laying of eyes upon something that has only been experienced through books and photos. I cried when I entered the Sistine Chapel. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime. I visited Casa Buonarotti in Florence and saw the first two sculptures Michelangelo created at the age of 15. I saw Artemesia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in the Uffizi, Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the Rhone in the Musee d’Orsay, and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre. It’s like coming full circle, completing the education I started 30 years ago.

I also saw contemporary work mixed with historical monuments, innovative use of cultural spaces, public art on every square and in every roundabout, and honour and respect for the arts in general. Coming home made me feel a bit like I live in a parking lot. The depth of cultural engagement in Europe is so clearly felt by every individual. We are such babes. We think we got this, but we don’t. Not yet.

July 22, 2015  Contemporary Art in Salmon Arm

Three weeks into the Cardiff & Miller exhibition, we’re learning that our community, and its visitors, are eager to experience contemporary work. It’s not a huge leap to understand sound as artwork, to spend a few moments in an unusual sensory embrace. Many locals have arrived with enthusiastic anticipation at seeing these works. Musicians are especially intrigued, and spend a lot of time really working the piece, and enjoying their reward. The road to this place has been gradual but fulfilling. To educate and challenge our community to see differently, think differently, and now to experience differently – that has been amongst our top goals. Now that we’ve exhibited the world-famous Cardiff & Miller, where do we go from here?

March 25, 2015  Preparing for Cardiff/Miller

Let’s be honest, little Salmon Arm Art Gallery is hardly the place you’d expect to see internationally renowned artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller exhibiting one of their works. It’s a gift, to say the least, that the artists are willing to loan Experiment in F# Minor for the summer exhibition. It is our intention to make the best possible use of this fantastic opportunity, and to showcase our beautiful gallery to the entire Pacific region. Marketing has moved to the top of the priority list, and I am learning a great deal about innovative ways to get a message out into the world. Louise Wallace-Richmond is a genius, and I only wish I had the hours in a day to fully explore her ideas.

And then, just when you think it can’t get any better, the artists have offered to exhibit an additional work, The Muriel Lake Incident. This is a fantastic piece, similar in theme to their award-winning Paradise Institute. Although not interactive as in Experiment, Muriel Lake creates an experience using binaural sound in a forced perspective setting, and whisks you away into a vintage world where your popcorn-eating companion is distracting you from the artwork. A many-layered narrative work that will compliment Experiment beautifully.

January 21, 2015  New Year, New Expectations

This is going to be a blockbuster year. Looking forward to the Cardiff & Miller exhibition in July and August, we are already going hair-straight-back in marketing and grant-getting. The other 18 programs run out of this office are also at the ramping up stage, as planning for WOW, the new First Nations artist database and the Trail Alliance Call-To-Artists are all competing for my attention. One day at a time… the 28 works in the “Game On” exhibition are on the wall, lit and labelled. Opening this Friday, we pull the curtain on the new year here at the Arts Centre, with big plans and a lot of enthusiasm. Bring it on!

November 7, 2014  Game On

What do artists know about sports? Plenty. It is a myth that you have to belong to either one sphere or the other. Most people connected to this gallery are also avid cyclists, skiers, kayakers, hikers, tennis players or golfers. It’s part of a well-balanced life – to participate in many forms of culturally rich activities. Opportunities for gathering are to be grabbed and held onto, thus sports and recreation play a vital role beyond keeping us physically healthy. To that end, we honour the action in our lives by challenging artists to get their game on. The Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition opening in January encourages artists to tell the story of sports and recreation in their lives. I look forward to telling the story of nordic skiing at night in Larch Hills. Or perhaps what the lake looks like when I’m swimming off the boat. The possibilities are endless! Artists must register their intention to participate by December 17.

May 28, 2014  Art Educators

Listen to Louise Wallace and I talk about how art teachers have inspired us to think creatively and find inventive ways to contribute to the world: Artscape: Art Educators

March 17, 2014   Young Artists are Amazing

Yesterday we held an all day art immersion experience for young kids called “Monet Monday.” After the intro and slide show to the French artist who established the Impressionist movement, we learned watercolour techniques, made ATCs and wet-felted water lilies. At each stage, I learned something new, not from the wonderful facilitators, but from the kids. Each had their pearl of wisdom, a creative story, or a funny observation. Such maturity in these young brains. Even the youngest one, at the end of the day seriously eyed her small completed watercolour and stated, “This is my best work yet.”

November 28, 2013  Sliding into Home

I can see it, the finish line is just ahead. A glimmer, a whole two weeks of down time spent skiing with my family, drinking hot chocolate, eating too much, painting, drawing, visiting. I think I can make it. We have a host of Christmas events coming in these next 15 days, plus a couple of grant applications that have to get out. But there is something magical about “shut down” time. We repaint, rewax, recover from the hectic year. Sometimes I even clean my office. Time to reflect, evaluate, decide if we’ve been risky enough, engaging enough, meeting enough needs, pushing enough envelopes. We look ahead to the next year, are all the contracts signed, is everyone coming back to start the process all over again. We’re good? Okay. Then we’ll all take a deep breath and do it again. And, we’ll do it better than ever before.

October 30, 2013:  Halloween Treat Trail, Opening Reception, Reel Lunch

During installation week, we usually ignore all else and focus on getting the new exhibition up and ready for public viewing, the process of which is reminiscent of the famous Leslie Nielsen scene, “nothing to see here!” as the chaos ensues behind him. This week, it feels like that kind of madness. We’re simultaneously setting up the zombie theatre for the downtown treat trail, the new exhibition, the annual two-day soup event “Reel Lunch,” as well as a security system upgrade, newly painted walls and (gasp!) a newly red wall. Everything happens within the next 72 hours. A multi-purpose building deserves a multi-purpose staff, and thank goodness we have that kind of adaptable team here at this Arts Centre.

July 18, 2013: Rain or Shine?

Wednesday On the Wharf is what it is… it’s Wednesday, it’s near the wharf, it’s live music and it’s outdoors. We don’t move it if it is raining (with the exception of the high school bands because they have the gym if needed). We do struggle with weather issues. After last night’s awesome concert by Miss Quincy and the Showdown, I really had to think about weather policy. Last night was the latest we’ve ever decided to go ahead with a concert (6:05pm) because after an afternoon rain storm, the sun burst out at 5:30pm. We knew we would kick ourselves if we cancelled, because the Shuswap can be tricksy that way. After much radar-checking, wet-stage evaluation and “what can we eliminate” equipment inventory, we decided to go ahead because the three-piece band was an easy set-up, and because Bryan Coffey has superhero powers. Normally, we’d have to call it on or off by 4:30pm because sound equipment set-up takes nearly two hours, then the sound check can also be time consuming. The crazy last-minute decision was rewarded by the fabulous sound by this all-female group, and those grey clouds never did drop their payload.

June 22, 2013: Arts Summit

I have just attended the two-day BC Arts Summit in Vancouver.  The purpose was to build a cultural policy framework for the province.  Of course this is just the beginning of the work, which may or may not ever see completion. Part one is to identify the needs of the arts community, the tools needed to move the process forward and the people who should be at the table. Big discussion, and lots of mind-blowing ideas. Inspiring keynote by Richard Evans speaking about our new fluid sector, where there used to be value in stability and structure. With the world changing so fast, we have to be willing to take risks, fail, learn and try again. We’ve gone a few steps here, I feel good about our progress in the last two years. Now we start again, building more relationships, finding new paths, innovating and exploring.


May 13, 2013:  Bike Month is for the young…

Since last year’s “Pedal Power” exhibition, I’ve been quite the biking advocate and showing my dedication to the mode of transportation by biking to work as often as I can. Bike Month has gone well for me so far, coinciding nicely with our inspiring youth exhibition. Today, however, I drove the dreaded car. The muscles in my neck are not responding well to biking, and I’ve been advised to get higher handlebars. Since my bike doesn’t have adjustable ones, I’m on the hunt for a new set. I saw an older woman on a vintage bike with age-appropriate handlebars this morning, and suddenly realized – I am an older woman! I’m not sure when that happened, but I’ve decided to embrace the handlebars and surrender the things of youth. My hats off to all 90 of the kids in the ;D exhibition. They have so much to look forward to.

January 8, 2013:  Get Outta Town

At some point, we all need to leave our happy comfortable space and go exploring. I recently spent three weeks in the Southwestern United States.  I visited two large contemporary art galleries and several smaller traditional galleries.  Of course I looked upon everything as “oh, we need to do that,” but then would think about our size, our community, our funding and our purpose and realize that maybe we don’t need to do that.  However, there were many new ideas that supported visitor experience in these galleries, and I hope to implement a few of them in the coming years at SAGA. In addition to gleaning curatorial ideas, I was impacted by the subject matter of several of the exhibitions. One very small gallery in Patagonia featured a woman artist’s installation on the rapes and deaths of Mexican women attempting to cross the desert to find work in the states. I am still thinking about it to this day. It is a topic that never enters our sphere, and I wonder if maybe it should. We love to present local artists and the local landscape, but we should also benefit from learning the lives and challenges from other parts of this continent.


December 3, 2012:  Decrypting Calendario

The Affordable Art Fair is up and bespeckled with dots already. My attention is turned now to the Calendario-themed exhibition in January.  Many artists are asking what is expected of them.  Themed exhibitions are tough in this way.  It’s very difficult for me to say what would be accepted and what wouldn’t, because I am not a member of the 3-person jury that will be selecting for this show.  What I can say is that my understanding of the Calendario project is this:  in nature, one event can often indicate the arrival of another event.  Two things are linked in this way.  The project’s purpose is to create an agricultural calendar based on these events in nature.  Many of us are so removed from agriculture that it is not easy to identify these signs. Some of us know them and just aren’t aware.  For example, when your hummingbirds arrive at your feeder, is that your signal to plant your peas?  It is for me, so that is a seasonal indicator.  If I were to depict that, I might paint a flash of colours reminiscent of a calliope hummingbird, along with little green dots in an abstract pattern.

The purpose of SAGA having this theme for the exhibition is to help artists re-connect with the signs of the seasons.  You as an artist will have to observe the outer rather than looking inward. Your work, in turn, will help visitors to the gallery understand the signs of the seasons.  Ultimately we will all have a better understanding of the cyclical agricultural calendar that is unique to this bio-region.  When we get to the public art part of this project, then we will all be able to participate in its creation.

The registration deadline for the “Signs of the Season” exhibition is Wednesday, December 12.  Registration forms are available at the gallery and be email request.


November 1, 2012:  Post-Hallowe’en and Surrounded by Dreams

Yesterday we had 800 kids (plus all their grups) file through the gallery to see the “Gallery of Ghouls.”  It took two days to put that together, and about two hours to take it down.  I felt like it was its own exhibition. Today we rallied to put together the “BrainStorm” exhibition we open tomorrow night. Then it’s “Reel Lunch” for Saturday and Sunday, where we serve soup and smiles to film festival goers. The fun never ends here, but the real treat is doing it all surrounded by these intense dream images by Jen Dyck. A wonderful contemporary show, and complimented by Patrick Hughes’ 3D work. Exhaustion is rewarded.


October 10, 2012:  On Jurying

The December exhibition “Affordable Art Fair” requires jurying because each year we have far more submissions than space on the wall. The purpose, therefore, is to select a balance of media and styles so that we can present a diverse and high quality exhibition for the entire community to experience. The purpose is not, however, to educate and help the artist improve their work. There are jury processes that are precisely for that purpose, and artists wanting that sort of guidance should seek out juried shows that feature that educational component, such as arts festivals and FCA membership. At SAGA, our two juried shows per year are selected for curatorial reasons – to create a cohesive exhibition with a diversity of media and styles. The jurors have a tough job – they have to envision the exhibition before it’s in place, looking at each individual work in terms of how it fits in with the thematic concept of the exhibition. They are building an exhibition from the ground up in a matter of hours. Our standards have risen over the years as we move toward the provincial and federal arts mandates, which is to promote artistic excellence. Many of our artists have moved along that road with us, producing more and more fantastic work each year. We’re so pleased to be able to present our local artists in our beautiful venue, where anywhere from 500 to 1000 people per month will see their work.