June 15th, 2024

Eye on the Esplanade: Art galleries anywhere – everywhere?

By Sierra Zukowski on May 16, 2024.

The travelling exhibition Never Ending Poetry installed at Kainai High School.--Photo SUBMITTED by Sierra Zukowski

The idea of an art gallery can be intimidating. White walls, concrete floors, stark lighting. Not allowed to touch anything or move too quickly. The subconscious urge to speak only with hushed voice. A place where you are told to come and enjoy, but that might evoke a feeling of unease or uncertainty.

But what defines an “art gallery”? Does the christening depend on the clean, white walls and a collection of other stereotypical attributes? Or is it perhaps possible that an ordinary public space could be transformed – in a small act of magic – into an art gallery by the simple act of introducing artwork into the space? The Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition program (TREX) answers this question with a resounding “Yes!”.

TREX is a one-of-a-kind program in Canada that delivers professionally curated exhibitions of Albertan artwork to public spaces across the province. Think of the hallway of an elementary school, the billiards room at a senior centre or an entire public library being transformed into an accessible art gallery for staff, patrons and students to enjoy. This is the magic of TREX – accessibility, natural exposure to the arts and meeting people where they are at.

Here the City of Medicine Hat operates TREX Southeast which services Southeast Alberta. There are three additional TREX regions throughout the province located in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie. In 2023, TREX Southeast alone presented 100 exhibitions at 45 different host venues in 23 communities. These exhibitions were experienced by over 90, 000 individuals. How’s that for breaking down barriers to experiencing art?

Now why is this important? My colleague Ashley Slemming, the Curator for TREX Southwest, summarized it perfectly in a video for the program: “Art is a doorway for curiosity; curiosity is a doorway for understanding the world that we live in.” Our public spaces should be communal areas for productive discourse and the exchanging of ideas. Artwork can be a gateway for initiating these conversations by adorning spaces in a way that is not only aesthetic, but thought-provoking.

So do you want in on the magic? Have I convinced you? If you work at a school or library or another public institution, I invite you to become a host venue and book your own TREX exhibition. All information on how to book can be found on our website trexsoutheast.ca. If you would like to engage as a viewer, I invite you to visit TREX Space in downtown Medicine Hat. We play music, have drop-in art stations, and don’t worry, you don’t have to whisper!

Sierra Zukowski is the program manager / curator of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program, TREX Southeast

Share this story:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments