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Old McNally school turned into new art studio

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A group of Lethbridge artists have repurposed an old school to make art together.

Rick Gillis touches up one of his works at the McNally Studio. Photo by Richard Amery
Jeanne Kollee and Rick Gillis have made the decommissioned McNally school their artistic home  for the past two years with a cadre of artists including  Ann-Laure Djaballah, Aaron Hagen, Pam Vera , Leila Armstrong, Annie Martin, Kasia Sosnowski, Wende Luco and Robert Bechtel.


Each of them took over a former classroom in the renamed McNally Community Hall, located two kilometres south of Hwy 4 on McNally Road, though Kollee and Gillis share a room, while Bechtel shares the basement with  the stained glass guild.
 It is a beautiful setting for studio, the old schoolhouse, which was built in 1947, is nestled in the countryside just  at the edge of Lethbridge. The floors are beautiful hardwood and the artists have hung their art on the walls of long halls which used to host rows of student’s lockers, which were removed and sold when the school was decommissioned in 1989.


“It’s a full building, we actually have a waiting list to get space here,” said Gillis, who has used the studio to create many of his works for several exhibitions coming up in January including  a group exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University of Lethbridge and his own solo exhibition opening, Jan. 7  at Casa called “the Age of Man.”


“ All of the works are allegorical. Just about all of the pieces were created here or my basement. There are a number of paintings and a lot other projects and I’ve assembled some photographs for it. I’ve been working on a more sentimental series,” Gillis said, adding he is pleased with the new space.
“There’s lot of room in the halls to organize works  for exhibitions, so all we have to do is truck it out,” Gillis said.


Kollee is continuing work on her “Unter Dem Messer exhibition which ran  June 25-Sept, 2 at Casa.
“I’m going to  do six or seven more canvasses for it. I’ve applied for  other arts  groups too,” Kollee said, adding they
Kollee and Gillis were part of a collective of artists called the Potemkin Collective, which  used to work in the basement of the old firehall downtown. When the firehall location became untenable, they moved to a location above Adam’s bookstore. But when the landlord sold the building housing their studio above Adam‘s bookstore and the group disbanded, they had to move again.
“We‘ve been using a lot of different spaces for art, which we used to do all the time  with the Potemkin.  So we were looking for a space when we moved out of the space above Bob’s bookstore, and this place came available,” Gillis said, adding they discovered the location through the Allied Arts Council. Leila Armstrong and Robert Bechtel were already ensconced there.

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Casa presents darker themed exhibits with Mixed Narratives and 26° 16'9.00"N 127° 44'31.79" E

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The two new exhibits at Casa opening, Saturday, Nov. 5 have a little bit of a darker tone.


 The official opening reception for “Mixed Narratives” and  Kazumi Marthiensen’s 26° 16’9.00”N 127° 44’31.79”E is Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

Kazumi Marthiensen opens her new exhibit inspired by Okinawa at Casa on Nov. 5. Photo by Richard Amery
“Mixed Narratives,” features the works of three  Crowsnest Pass based artists Debbie Goldstein, Tony Partridge and Yurek Panek.


“ The artists use three different mediums painting, drawing and sculpture,” said Casa curator Darcy Logan, who is excited to present an exhibit with a slightly darker theme.
“Tony was inspired by Dante’s  Divine Comedy. On first glance they look so pretty, but then look a little closer,” Logan continued.


“ (Debbie Goldstein’s) These lollipops look pretty but when you look at them, they have scenes of torture on them. And on this ceramic cupcake, the girl is ripping out her own intestines,” he said.
“Yurek uses pen and ink to reflect his interest in comics. Their works reflect their personal viewpoints,” he continued.
He is excited to present Crowsnest Pass artists.


“It’s fun to have an exhibit which has a darker theme and I feel the Crowsnest Pass is so close, it is great to feature exhibits from artists from there working in such different mediums,” he said.
Local artist Kazumi Marthiensen drew on her experiences growing up on the Japanese island of Okinawa and  the political disputes arriving from the presence of American military bases for her exhibit 26° 16’9.00” N 127° 44’31.79”E.

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Monster Mash 2 will be a monster of a good time for a good cause at Casa

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There will be a monster of a good time for a good cause at Casa, Oct. 29 as they host Monster Mash 2 from 7-midnight — a fundraiser for the Casa gallery program.The Groove Apostles, playing Love and Records, are playing Monster Mash 2 this weekend. Photo by Richard Amery
“ We have live music from the Groove Apostles as well as all sorts of fun, spooky activities,” said Casa curator Darcy Logan.


 A centre piece of of the night will be  the finals of an audio arts competition Casa curated.


“Wheat we did is extracted 3-5 minute clips of vintage horror movies and had competitiors create original musical scores for them. We had 15 submissions from all over  Canada and the U.S,” said Logan, adding the audience will judge who wins  first, second and third prizes of $300, $200 and $100.


“ There is also a costume contest and a pre-carved pumpkin contest,” he said.
“ It’s a fundraiser for the Casa gallery program so we can continue to be a venue for local artists to  show their work and get paid for it,” Logan continued.
‘It was a successful event last year, and we thought wit would be another great event to make the Gallery program a little extra revenue. It’s a good way for you to support your local artists,”he said.
 Tickets are available at Casa for $20 in advance, $2t5 at the door
 While the Monster Mash is for adults, Casa hosts an afternoon Halloween party in collaboration with the Downtown BRZ for family.
“It’s for free. There  will be game for  everyone’s tastes,” he said.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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Lethbridge arts groups embracing Arts Days 2016

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Get ready to get your art on as the “artumnal” season begins  Sept. 24- Oct. 2 with ArtsDays takes over Casa and much of downtown.Muffy McKay puts a poster up outide the Allied Arts Council. Photo by Richard Amery


There will be  numerous artistic endeavours happening during that time beginning with Word On the Street outside the Lethbridge Public Library, Saturday, Sept. 24.
 The next 10 days will be filled with music, art, drama and a whole lot of fun.


“ArtsDays usually starts with  Word on the Street, but they moved it to Saturday, so the event is longer,” said Allied Arts Council project co-ordinator Muffy McKay.
“We‘re doing activities beginning on Tuesday. But a lot of groups have booked activities during ArtsDays, so we’re happy to promote them,” added Allied Arts Council communications coordinator Kelaine Devine.
“We need to support each other,” she continued.


“An idea that came from the SOAR festival is we’re having an arts workers meet up at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Sept. 27, which gives a chance for people who work in the arts to come and meet and have a drink together. It’s right after work. And the Owl’s Drink and Draw is right after that which is great because I always want to go, but  when I get home, it‘s difficult to leave my house again,” Devine said, noting a lot of other community groups and arts organizations have planned events  to happen alongside ArtsDays.


 The Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra opens their season on Monday, Sept. 26 with Finlandia at the Southminster United Church.


 The big event of the week is the annual Art Walk, happening Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 around the downtown. But before that, the Geomatic Attic brings Big Dave McLean and Tim Williams to sing the Blues at the Geomatic Attic, Sept. 25.
Two dramatic productions continue throughout the week — New West Theatre’s presentation of Cowboy: A Cowboy Story at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Sept. 27-Oct. 1 and University of Lethbridge’s Theatre Xtra has their first presentation of the season at the Dr. Penny Foster building downtown — Alexa Elser’s “Let Me Eat Cake” runs Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

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