Kidstuff – not just for kids!

I climbed the stairs at Habitat last Tuesday with some trepidation…lurking somewhere in the building were supposedly a troupe of children and adults in full Mardi Gras mode.  The evening had been designed to start after school and was open to all ‘wanna be‘ thespians, musicians and Fat Tuesday enthusiasts.   From the balloons on the entrance to the glitter on the stairs it was obvious the parade had just left the building!

And as the valiant ladies of Mardi Gras Jasper vacuumed and cleaned after the crowds had gone home I setup KIDSTUFF.  Kidstuff is a traveling exhibition of – well – kid stuff.  Vintage kid toys, etch-a-sketch, view master, spinning tops…  Woody Woodpecker, Charlie Brown, Grover and Cookie Monster emerged from their boxes to be remembered by adults more than children.  Putting out the Dr. Suess pieces I couldn’t help thinking of the Mardi Gras parade with its flags and minstrels – not unlike Suess’s flooflooblers and blumblookers.

The last thing to go up on display were the ‘Please do not touch the toys‘ signs, for which I got the immediate ‘What?  Why do you have a display of toys that no one can touch?’

Habitat is becoming known as a place for interactive art, a place where the public can be engaged in or experience art.  It has become home to several weekly sessions for children to paint and dance and be theatrical…but it is also home to exhibitions that engage the viewer.  For a true community presence Habitat is also home to visual displays that offer individual reflection on culture.  Most often these exhibits are artifacts or artworks presented from a collection for the simplistic interaction of just viewing.

Culture has been described as everything around us that defines us, what makes us human, products of human work and thought.  There is little chance that anyone can say that their childhood was void of cultural definition.  I know we were not allowed much of the candy that came with the PEZ dispensers but I sure remember the View Master and the Slinky.  And even though the sign said – ‘don’t touch’ – the etch-a-sketch got a few moments off the shelf with two young friends while no one was watching us!

That’s the great thing about the Arts too – the forgiving flexibility of discipline, the unexpected increase in appreciation for something when the rules are harmlessly bent even just a little.  The Elementary School kids came over for a walk through the Aaron Paquette exhibit this week.  Imagine the kind of limitations a ‘paintings on the wall’ exhibit must have for someone in Grade 2.  What was truly amazing was the interaction that these children had with the art – the conversation with the imagery – in grade school!

One of our intentions when conceiving of Habitat was to offer these kinds of missing opportunities for learning.  For 1/2 hour on a Friday afternoon Jasper students communicated with their teachers while sitting in a room of artwork from the Art Gallery of Alberta.  No lengthy bus ride, no expensive road trip – a two block stroll to Habitat and these youth got to see these beautiful paintings up close and personal.

Aaron Paquette hopes that his art acts as a catalyst for greater understanding.

Habitat hopes that provision of a space for the arts can do the same.


Special thanks to the Creative Campus Edson and Tracy Templeton for the KIDSTUFF exhibit.

Creative Campus also hosted their SECOND ANNUAL Celtic Hour on March 17th.  The Peoples Gallery at Habitat was close to capacity thanks to the amazing talents of Lisa Riddell and Monika Schaefer.  If you didnt catch them this year – shame on you!!  Mark your calendar for next year, St Patricks Day 7pm at Habitat!

A Musements and Mythology, Habitat moves into March

Habitat for the Arts is now looking at month four!

The Peoples Gallery:

The Snow and Ice exhibition of photography for Jasper in January is now replaced with ‘A Musements’ by Susan Szathmary.  These works are wonderful explorations in colour.  Each canvas is based on just that – Red or Yellow or Green…and through the darkest days of a Rocky Mountain winter Susan has developed delightful pieces that enlighten and spirit the viewer away in their abstract form of colour.

FROM THE FITZHUGH February 24th 2011 by Annalee Grant, Photojournalist

Susan Szathmary was working on something entirely different – illustrations for a children’s book – when she found a collection of wooden planks and decided to paint them with acrylics.

The resulting pieces, titled A Musements, are being displayed at the Habitat for the Arts in the People’s Gallery until March 1.

What’s special about these works of art is that they were created in Costa Rica, while Szathmary was on an artist’s retreat at the Julia and David White Artist’s Colony located in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica. It was her first departure from painting on paper, to the wooden planks. She used a monochromatic colour scheme to create vibrant, lively pieces that are receiving praise from those who have caught a glimpse at the People’s Gallery. Szathmary explored six colours and played with shapes and her chosen colours. She never did finish the pieces, until the Habitat for the Art’s Marianne Garrah encouraged her to pull them out of the closet and finish them up to be hung at the Habitat for a few weeks. Szathmary said she has no idea where her inspiration came from, past the use of bright colours.

“A lot of it’s very intuitive,” she said.

Usually Szathmary sticks to smaller pieces and creates patterns and designs. She says the size of each board was a challenge, and she did her best to use depth of field to create something unique. The experience has left her with a desire to keep pursuing different kinds of art.

“It’s like a springboard for me to kind of develop and keep developing.”

Szathmary calls the pieces “lovely accidents.”

The artist has never done a show before, and was hesitant to hang her pieces in public. She says she has a constant battle over whether or not to display her pieces, and wonders what art is really for – display for others, or for the creation and enjoyment of the artist?

“It’s scary, you know. You really put yourself out there,” Szathmary said of displaying her artwork, although she adds that sharing it is all part of the process. She went on to muse about the possibility of pursuing a larger and more formal show in the future. She says the challenge for her is to bare what she has created, and “be brave enough to be imperfect.”

Szathmary has spent months at the Costa Rica retreat, which accepts artists of all forms who submit their portfolios to be accepted. While there, Szathmary has mingled with artists from the U.S. Japan and more, with skill levels ranging from developing to experts. Depending on how long each artist stays, they get together at the end of their time and share the pieces they created. Many people are repeat customers, and return year after year to be inspired by the cozy, friendly place away from the mainstream tourist rush of Costa Rica.

“It’s a well loved place,” Szathmary said. She reminisces about the beautiful tropical flowers that change constantly. “All season long new flowers come out.”

Szathmary first attended the retreat in 2006, and returned in 2007 and 2009, and hopes to go back again in the future.

“I’m very, very fortunate to have a lot of time to explore.”

Once the show at the Habitat is finished, Szathmary hopes to return to some unfinished projects and use up the remainder of her paints to clean out her closet of art projects. In the process, she hopes she can develop her skills further.

A Musements will be at the Habitat for the Arts until at least March 1.

The Szathmary exhibit will be followed by an AFA travelling exhibition called Half-Breed Mythology with works by artist Aaron Paquette.   This show arrives on time for March and International Womens Day.  Aaron’s works often depict the important role of family in his images.  The role of grandmothers is a central theme in his work, referenced by the balancing of heritage with stories.

This exhibit is presented by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Peoples Gallery in the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts.  It will run March 3rd -23rd.


The Classroom:

When not being used for after school creative arts you will find evening classes in anything from Spanish to the Art of Gardening.  Thanks to the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre the classroom received wonderful new tables and chairs.  A thank-you goes out to Adult Learning downstairs for the use of their table and chairs while in transition.

The Studios:

The artists studio for visiting or resident artists who would like to have a quiet dedicated space is almost ready – a bit more shuffling of stored items to their proper placement, some oak to cut up for the stage floor, and yet MORE recycling and we will have a fabulous home for an artist with an amazing view of the Rockies through the ceiling to floor windows!

The Schools:

The pottery school is running at capacity two nights a week with more planned in April.  The video school has several students lined up waiting for some minor upgrades to the Computers from Schools.   The theatre school has after school programs twice a week and the creative arts program is working towards 3 days a week soon!

It is worth reminding you here that the Classroom and the Peoples Gallery are two spaces you can use for arts programming of YOUR choice.   If you have always wanted to run a class for any age or in any arts medium…we welcome you to check out the Habitat spaces.  For very low hourly rates you can bring your ideas alive!  Call Justin at 852.4747 noon to 5pm.