Exhibit definitely something out of the ordinary

Art: Work from In-Definite Arts Society showcased at Okotoks gallery

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Friday, May 02, 2014 10:18 am

Members of the In-Definite Arts Society work on their latest projects at the Calgary workshop. Work from the artists, who have developmental disabilities, is currently on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery.
Members of the In-Definite Arts Society work on their latest projects at the Calgary workshop. Work from the artists, who have developmental disabilities, is currently on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery.
Photo submitted

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People can take a look at art with a different perspective when they visit the latest exhibit at the Okotoks Art Gallery at The Station because many of the artists who worked on the exhibit certainly did so.

On Friday a reception was held at the Okotoks Art Gallery (OAG) to open the new exhibit Impressions, which is a collection of work done by the In-Definite Arts Society members as well as one of their mentors Adele Woolsey.

In-Definite Arts Society is a group based in Calgary which offers innovative visual arts for adults with developmental disabilities. The society offers its members support and a studio environment for artistic development as well as professional opportunities to exhibit and sell artwork.

The society hosts regular workshops with accomplished Alberta artists and Woolsey submitted an application to host one of the workshops. Her workshop led to her collaboration with the society on the exhibit in Okotoks.

For Woolsey she said she could not be more proud to be involved with an organization such as the In-Definite Arts Society.

“The workshop was so interesting,” she said. “They had about 150 people over two days and they had all different levels of disabilities from blind to autism. It was very different for me, but I enjoyed it a lot.”

The results of Woolsey’s workshop were so impressive they decided to submit a proposal to the OAG to showcase the work in Okotoks.

Woolsey said she is excited the gallery agreed to showcase their exhibit and people who visit the OAG will be impressed with the work of the society’s members.

“I absolutely loved (working with them),” said Woolsey of the society. “I was quite proud to participate in this exhibit with them. It shows where this program has started and where it can go.”

Roxanne Taylor, exhibition co-ordinator for In-Definite Arts Society, said their artists exhibit their work regularly at venues ranging from local coffee houses to more traditional art galleries like OAG.

The society serves about 160 adults ranging in age from 18 to 90 with a variety of developmental disabilities including autism, Downs Syndrome and brain injuries. However, what all the artists have in common is talent, a desire to showcase their work and a blossoming self-esteem.

“Art is transforming for our population,” said Taylor. “People with developmental disabilities often feel marginalized. They do not have a voice, they do not have a choice in their decision-making. This allows them to explore their abilities, showcase their artistic talent and build self-confidence.

“They are not just doing art, they are able to say I am an artist and that disability label falls away.”

Taylor said the work down by the society’s members for the Okotoks exhibit is excellent and it highlights how the artists embraced Woolsey’s unique medium of Venetian plaster.

Taylor said working with the plaster resonated with the artists and many of them have continued to work with it — the same can be said for Woolsey herself.

Woolsey started out as a painter when she attended the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), but she was encouraged to try other mediums.

A scientist in her other career, Woolsey admitted she likes to experiment with different elements and started toying with Venetian plaster seven years ago. She has not looked back.

“I am not a typical artist, my background is in science so I am not much of a traditionalist, I am much more experimental,” she explained. “I am very willing to try anything — it is like making mud pies — I like to make whatever I want.”

This is the first time Woolsey has shown in Okotoks and she will have about 20 pieces in the Impressions exhibit alongside the work down by the In-Definite Arts Society. The exhibit will be at the OAG until June 8 in the large gallery.

In the small gallery Devon artist Elaine Funnell will showcase her exhibit Botanicals, which is a collection of her detailed watercolour paintings of some of Alberta’s flora and fauna.

Funnell said she prides herself on keeping her work as realistic as possible.

“I want to keep it true to the history of botanical art,” she said. “It should be exact.”

Funnell focuses on Alberta plant life and the insects who are such a substantial part of it likes dragonflies, lady bugs and caterpillars.

Self taught, the Devon artist likes the detail work associated with the botanical art and works almost exclusively with watercolour as well as pen and ink.

An accomplished artist Funnell has had her work in exhibits around Alberta, including the Leighton Art Centre, but this is the first time she will be showcased in Okotoks. She said she is looking forward to the response she gets from people who may be seeing her work for the first time.

Funnell’s exhibit Botanicals will be in the small gallery at the Okotoks Art Gallery until June 8.

For more information see www.okotoksculture.ca


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