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Artists About Town: Unexpected gallery nestled in St. Albert clinic

Art is now part of the practice at the Sturgeon Women's Health Clinic.

The Sturgeon Women’s Health Clinic recently moved to an office in the new Sturgeon Medical Centre at 625 St Albert Tr., right next to the hospital. It is a busy practice with six physicians and up to 150 clients coming through the door every day. That's a lot of people – a lot of people with time on their hands and a lot of eyeballs that might otherwise be staring at the walls.

With that, the doctors came to that age-old question: “What should we put up?” When you have 25 metres of wall space, there’s one great local artist collective that can answer the call.

“I wanted to keep it as local as possible and so I just actually began by Googling ‘St. Albert painters’ and found the St. Albert Painters Guild through Facebook,” said Dr. Christina Kerr.

“I had no idea if they would be at all interested. For all I knew, maybe it would be too much of a pain … or maybe they wouldn't have enough interest, but it was very much the opposite.”

St. Albert Painters Guild members were “extremely enthusiastic” according to Dr. Kerr.

“We jumped on it right away,” said Lorraine Berube, the guild’s vice president. Berube said the 100-plus members of the guild were right there with her in their ardour for a show-and-sale venue.

The pandemic has not been kind to artists, as many galleries and other exhibiting spaces have been restricted and closed down, some even permanently shuttered. Any opportunity to hang paintings and potentially find art-loving buyers is a welcome one, said guild president Berni Buyse.

“We put it on a first-come, first-served basis because we knew that there was about 30 artists that were interested in doing it,” she said.

After a period of researching, selecting, and installing the adjustable art-hanging system, the first installation is now up for viewing for clients of the clinic and their family members. Exhibiting artists include: Alan Anderson, Carol Ann Beedling, Suzan Berwald, Deborah Blair, Holly Cheverie, Catharine Compston, Sandra Elsinga, Marylou Olsen, Tracy Lyn Propp, Tom Steele, Svetlana Troitskaia, and Pamela Wolfe. The selection will rotate quarterly.

“It was like unwrapping Christmas presents; we had no idea what the art was going to be when we got there. But it was amazing. It went together like they were all meant to be in that show,” Buyse said.

Two of the doctors came in while the show was being installed. “They were as excited as we were,” Buyse said.

Part of that excitement was certainly about giving the clients something to do while they wait.

"Just in the last couple of days, people are like, ‘What? When did you have this planned? This is so awesome. It gives us so much to look at while we're waiting.’ Full disclosure: as obstetricians, we're not always the most timely people," said Dr. Kerr.

"Some people have definitely commented about what a nice surprise it was to walk into the clinic, and have all this colour and vibrancy on the walls for them to look at and occupy their time, especially right now during COVID. We aren't able to have magazines and things for people to read and nothing they can bring in themselves. It's really lovely. It's given them something to look at and brighten their day a little bit. It’s not quite so cold and clinical. It's warm and inviting and interesting. It makes our days a lot brighter, too."

Dr. Kerr said this also represents another way of demonstrating a commitment to the community. She likes to support local businesses and artisans as much as possible.

"My hope is that, especially in times when people aren't having opportunities to display and have shows and things like this, that hopefully this will help expose some of our local talent, if not just exposure, hopefully get some sales as well," she said.

Enticement in the staircase

Print artist Amanda McKenzie's works combine images of aquatic creatures with their mortal enemies: bait. Witness her piece Enticement as proof of the battle between survival and the draw of a lure.

“I scan in images of fish and real tackle to create new amalgamations of what could be perceived as an ordinary fishing lure. I meticulously collage these images and objects together and silk screen numerous altered colour layers to result in shimmering and iridescent creations of uncanny decoys,” McKenzie explained.

“My manipulation of colour, imagery, material, and paper evokes the vibrancy of aquatic life, and calls for closer inspection to discover the true nature of the image. It is my intention that this process of discovery allows viewers to consider their own connections to the small life that lives among us.”

Enticement is now installed in the Staircase Gallery at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. A virtual tour of this exhibition is planned for Friday, May 21 at 3 p.m. Registration is free. Sign up via the Eventbrite link found on the Gallery’s website. The exhibit will remain on display until Aug. 5. Visit artgalleryofstalbert.ca for more information.

ArtWalk officially 'off' for 2021, planning 'on' for 2022

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, organizers behind St. Albert’s ArtWalk made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 ArtWalk season.

“We are already planning for a fabulous St. Albert ArtWalk in 2022 and hope many art lovers in our community will be able to join us," said Leah Louden, ArtWalk committee chair and interim director of the Art Gallery of St. Albert.

The committee had hoped to bring the arts community together this summer, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic precluded the possibility of ensuring a safe event for artists, visitors, volunteers, venue staff, and the general public. This is the second year this popular community event has been cancelled.

Updates on plans for 2022 will be posted on the St. Albert ArtWalk website at artwalkstalbert.com.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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