Edmonton needs more venues for art exhibitions like Capricious!

Does Edmonton need more venues for showcasing and enjoying local contemporary art? Miranda Sayer thinks so. She’s an independent curator and is the organizer of Capricious!, a month-long pop-up art exhibition that would feature the work of a number of local artists, if only it had a venue.

Miranda got in touch with me a few weeks ago to talk about the project, and highlighted the crowdfunding aspect. She is using RocketHub, a platform similar to Kickstarter except that it is focused on “creatives” and works in Canada. The RocketHub mission page boldly proclaims that the platform is “the foundation for the new creative economy.” While that might be a bit of a stretch, it is a smart way to fundraise. So far Capricious! has raised $595, or about 14% of the goal ($4500). All of the funds raised will go toward making the show happen and each funding level from $10 and up features a variety of rewards.

Miranda Sayer
Miranda Sayer, the independent curator behind Capricious!

While I was indeed interested in Miranda’s use of RocketHub, I was much more intrigued by her thoughts on the lack of viable spaces for art in Edmonton, and especially downtown. “It’s surprising to me that the downtown core doesn’t have more in the way of venues offering local contemporary art, as we have no shortage of talent locally,” she told me. Just a few days before Miranda and I got together for coffee, I had spent an evening visiting Dirt City, Dream City, the transitory public art exhibition in The Quarters (which runs until the end of the month), so her point about the amount of local talent we have really hit home for me.

There does seem to be a shortage of venues, however. Of course the Art Gallery of Alberta and Latitude 53 come to mind, but what else? There’s the Gallery Walk in Oliver, the gallery space at ArtsHab One, the gallery at the Stanley Milner Library, and probably a few others. But the list is not exceptionally long. And how many of the venues that do exist are really available to local up-and-coming artists? Or to curators like Miranda?

This discussion has actually been going on for quite some time. The Mayor’s Arts Visioning Committee noted in its final report last November that “City Hall must plan for arising opportunities to expand and enhance Edmonton’s inventory of arts facilities.” A number of the recommendations in the report talked about the lack of space:

“The need for arts spaces of all types is mentioned numerous times in this report. The repetition is purposeful. It is a high priority need today and the demand for places to create, rehearse, perform and exhibit will only grow in coming years.”

In March there was significant discussion about what should happen to the gallery space at Enterprise Square, which served as the temporary home of the AGA while the new building was constructed. The University of Alberta proposed a $500,000 partnership with the City, which many felt was too expensive. Council should be receiving an updated report on the issue next month.

Arts spaces need not be traditional buildings, either. The Alley of Light has become a gallery space on a number of occasions, and other similar projects have happened throughout the city. In a post last year, Latitude 53’s then-Writer-in-Residence Megan Bertagnolli highlighted the Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair as an artist run centre. “Edmonton needs more points of engagement between art and the public at large and alternative venues like the Royal Bison aim to fill that need,” she wrote. Latitude 53’s Executive Director Todd Janes agreed in a comment on the post: “I have often felt that Edmonton needs more artist-run or artist-initiated spaces and projects – the Royal Bison is just but one and perhaps one of the more successful and similar to the precursor of today’s ARCs (Artist-Run Centres).” Clearly artists are trying to find ways around the lack of venues.

The hope with transitory projects like the Alley of Light or Capricious! is that their success will help make the case for more permanent spaces. “Edmontonians are in fact very receptive to and supportive of contemporary art when it’s offered to them, so having more exhibitions showcasing local talent will hopefully lead to more permanent gallery spaces,” Miranda told me. She is keen to have the show take place downtown, and after no luck trying to find a suitable venue for free, decided to try the crowdfunding approach. The bulk of the money will go toward rent, though some would be used for the opening reception and some promotional materials.

Coy Fox (2011)
“Coy Fox” (2011) by Megan Stein

Here’s the description of Capricious!:

“The show is an opportunity for a number of emerging and established Edmonton artists to present their work in an exciting way (the pop-up gallery — we’re going to occupy a space that ordinarily isn’t for art) so they can encourage Edmontonians to engage and connect with contemporary local art. We have a wonderful and thriving arts community, but unfortunately less in the way of venues for viewing the work, especially in the downtown core.”

There are nine days left to contribute to the project at RocketHub. As a fan of utilizing unconventional spaces for projects that make Edmonton better, I have, and I look forward to seeing the exhibition come to life in the near future!

6 thoughts on “Edmonton needs more venues for art exhibitions like Capricious!

  1. Art, artists and the support of local artisans is a large part of the raison d’etre of Blue Skys Arts Lofts + Market. They would probably love to help out and I hear they just
    recruited a new can do Venue Manger – Jessi.

  2. Have you tried the pop up venue next to the Duchess Bake Shop on 124? Or the one on the first floor of the Saddlery Building on 104?

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