November 21, 2020
a year in review
2020 will be a time to remember
By Heidi Gedlaman, with the KOAC Team
While 2020 threw a curveball to the entire world, at KOAC we adapted, calibrated and moved forward with our long-term vision of a world-class art-in-nature centre and sculpture park for Calgary and beyond.
Katie Ohe’s 60-year retrospective drew a large swath of art-loving Calgarians
Our accomplishments this year:
:: For the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre, 2020 started with our founder Katie Ohe’s retrospective show at the Esker Foundation, which drew a remarkable and broad turnout. The exhibition raised awareness and curiosity for KOAC, as Katie Ohe’s eponymous legacy project. But then came COVID with its disruptive effects, and reaping the benefits of the show’s exceptional run was not possible. Nor was planning further down in the future, which became a game of adapting and complying with safety guidelines that made us postpone school and community programs and artist residencies, as well as any hopes of significant fundraisers, the bread and butter of a charitable non-profit like KOAC.
The seduction of touch worked for young and old
The artist showing off her mesmerizing and rotating Sky Blocs sculpture
However, before all doors were abruptly closed in the spring, we were able to conduct a successful pilot of our School Outreach Program in February. Artist James Ziegler spent time at Springbank Middle School guiding students through experimenting and playing with materials, then visiting KOAC with them to see the materials used in real time in an artist’s studio. We look forward to the time when we can resume this exciting and successful program and share it in more schools throughout the area.
KOAC’s Ziegler Tiny Art Workshop at Springbank Middle School in February 2020
::As we asked ourselves: How do we fulfill our mission to connect communities to contemporary Art and artists from a distance? We decided to put out content that would demonstrate to our community that culture is essential to its social connectivity and provides respite in crisis times. The pause in normal operations afforded KOAC a unique opportunity to develop a suite of online programming to foster communities’ resilience and mental well-being through the experience and appreciation of Art. Our staff and volunteers spent weeks developing innovative virtual programming focused on reaching those particularly vulnerable – immigrants, aboriginal girls, seniors and disabled – and our community at large. We are forming coordinated community-based partnerships with Community Associations to provide art and educational opportunities for families sheltering in place.
We are calling the series “CREATE WITH KOAC.” Each workshop consists of a physical kit. To re-create an in-classroom, one-on-one experience, we’ll combine these kits with interactive video conferencing, likely using ZOOM. Participants will order a kit online from the www.koartscentre.org. They will then receive an invitation to attend the associated webinar. Everyone will be able to submit their finished artworks to a KOAC online gallery, providing an opportunity for further connection among themselves and other community members.
Our main challenge has been sharpening our skills to swiftly embrace all these new technologies, educational tools, and storytelling techniques. Until now, we did not have an outlet to publish virtual content in a meaningful and consistent way. KOAC is investing in acquiring a webcasting studio from which artists and facilitators will live stream to participants.
COVID also affected the timing of our sculpture park’s opening, highly anticipated as a public escape to Art in Nature in times of isolation. Nevertheless, we continued working with the first phase of the park’s development, enhancing existing natural features, planting native trees, bushes and shrubs to create groves as a backdrop for the sculptures and for screening purposes. Our investment in infrastructure included a new parking area and winding pathways.
With the help of an army of volunteers summoned and organized by Volly, a local nonprofit, we went to work through the spring and summer grooming and readying our 20 acres’ grounds to welcome visitors. We installed benches, cleared trails and deadwood in our ten acres of forest, added signage, both for the artworks on display and general way-finding through the sculpture park and natural woods up to a lookout with views of the Rockies.
Volunteer photos courtesy of Kathleen Moors.
:: In August, we partially opened our sculpture park with guided tours and workshops, making changes to facilitate social distancing.
We welcomed Indigenous girls in the Stardale Women’s Group program to visit and create art with us in the August sunshine.
:: We hosted guided tours of our Sculpture Park (and ran free art workshops) to celebrate Alberta Culture Days in September and continued into the crisp days of October and November. We were hit by pent-up demand for visits to our grounds, and all tours filled up very quickly. We will restart our tour programming as soon as weather permits it next Spring. Have a peek of the park in the video below and stay tuned for announcements for one-day snow fun activities during the coming winter months.
Girls from the Stardale Women’s Group during workshops provided by KOAC Artists last summer
:: This year saw four artists participate in our Artist-in-Residence Program: James Ziegler, Kathryn Dobbin, and Patricia Lortie, each spending time in Katie Ohe’s inspiring studio space to develop their own work. Rocio Graham, a botanical artist, planted a native species garden studio as part of her 2021 Spring and Summer residency. She will work on an installation and will lead workshops with natural inks and dyes.
James created our first officially commissioned piece for the KOAC Sculpture Park — “Shimmering Willow.” Installed in October, now sits high on a knoll where it reflects the sunlight and sways with the wind.
Kathryn used her time in Katie’s studio to restore her nearly 40-year-old piece “Comet,” part of the City of Calgary’s public art collection. It was disassembled and sandblasted and then Kathryn went to work welding and repairing. It has been reinstalled in its place outside the Pumphouse Theatre, proud and sparkling with a fresh coat of paint.
Patricia is currently in the studio creating a cardboard sculpture that will be part of an art show in Edmonton next year featuring female Francophone artists.
KOAC will continue to host artist residencies and offer artists a unique space to work and think. We will be accepting new submissions for Fall and Winter 2021 residencies. Contact us through https://www.koartscentre.org/artist-residency-application
Patricia Lortie in her Fall Residency at KOAC
Your generosity is more important than ever
The Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre is a place for art and artists, for the curious, for the novice and for the expert alike – everyone is welcome to visit, to make, to learn and to talk about contemporary art, whether by traversing our sculpture grounds and gardens, or visiting (when appropriate) with our artists in studio or via our digital forums and workshops.
Regular support from our friends enable us to sustain our work with artists, audiences and communities. Help us keep our grounds open as an escape into Art-in-Nature during this unprecedented time.
Become a member. You can make a difference today. All memberships and donations receive a CRA donation tax receipt.
The KO Arts Centre Society of Calgary is a registered charity. CRA Business Account # 83391 4955 RR001.