Richelle Bear Hat, NaAC Special Projects Facilitator, has a special place in her heart for the all-ensemble meetings.
“They’re my favourite; they’re wild,” she says. “So many people in the room are either meeting for the first time or haven’t seen each other since before the pandemic.”
With so many ways to make art, the NaAC recognized an opportunity for the artist ensembles to create with—and learn from—each other. That’s how the New Works, New Ways concept originated. Each month a different ensemble leads a discussion to share what they do, the mediums they work in, what they’re learning, and what’s important to their group.
Richelle finds it rewarding to see the artists excited to share with each other.
“Artists who are comfortable speaking about their work have the chance to speak to their peers and celebrate what they’ve learned, and the quieter folks challenge themselves with public speaking,” she says.
She remembers a moment when the Conference of the Birds ensemble confidently took charge of their meeting, enthusiastically answering questions and engaging with the group. That moment highlighted an overarching goal of the program: to encourage artists to embrace and share their experiences.
The presentations always wrap up with a lively Q&A where the artists are eager to know more about the presenting ensemble’s experience. “The Q&As are on fire,” says Richelle, adding how fun it is to see the artists learning and excited to try something new.
All Art, All In
One of those NaAC artists with a “bring it on” attitude for creative exploration is Carla Salter, a member of the Art Share ensemble.
“I like any medium,” Carla emphasizes. “So far, there’s no art that I’ve done that I don’t like.”
Though she’s a self-described pottery newbie, Carla says it’s currently her favourite medium. She’s working on a piece of abstract pottery, she explains, detailing how her pottery (a type of clay sculpture) will be photographed on glass against a mirrored backdrop. That enlarged photograph will be on display at New Work, New Ways. Carla adds that working collaboratively for the exhibit has been fun.
“Everybody’s so nice and there’s no judging. We laugh a lot and learn from each other’s art styles,” she says, adding that she’s picked up new techniques for future art projects.
Being in the studio with other artists has also boosted Carla’s confidence. She helps the instructors hand out snacks to attendees, and that simple act of service has opened the door for her to talk to people on her own. Helping her overcome her shyness, she says.
Though Carla has spent considerable time and effort on her exhibit pieces, she’s just as excited to see everybody else’s work and to support her fellow artists. She doesn’t hesitate when asked how it makes her feel to have her art at the upcoming exhibition.
“It’s awesome, but it’s more awesome to see other people’s art on display,” she says.
Art, Optimism, and Continuous Exploration
For some of the artists, being involved in a public art exhibition is new. As the ensembles created new works for the show, they also had to determine how to share their story with their NaAC peers and exhibition visitors. Richelle calls it a big learning curve for any artist, noting that the support of the ensemble makes the experience far less intimidating.
The artists agreed that they wanted the exhibition experience to feel like talking with a friend. “That speaks to the community and the support I see every day in the arts studio here at the NaAC,” says Richelle.
Richelle is optimistic that New Works, New Ways will advance the NaAC’s visibility in the community as friends and arts supporters gather for the evening. However, she believes that the show will hold even greater significance for the artists.
“I hope the artists feel proud of what they’ve accomplished, that they have fun, and that they take a moment to celebrate. I also hope that this exhibition sets them on a good path to continue to try new things,” she says.
Learn more about New Work, New Ways at accessarts.ca/new-work-new-ways/
New Work, New Ways is made possible through the generous support of Calgary Arts Development.