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Portraits from the Women’s Centre and Alpha House

April 5th to May 3rd, 2012

Art Wall, Calgary Public Library, Central Library, 616 Macleod Trail SE

Presented by This is My City Art Society

Building on the OUT OF THE SHADOWS exhibition in MOCA, in which painter Bernard Safran depicted marginalized people in New York City scenes, the idea was born to curate an exhibition of portraits by those closest to the streets of Calgary. During the months leading up to this exhibition, workshops were organized in two very different agencies: The Women’s Centre and Alpha House.

The Women’s Centre of Calgary is a unique, street-front organization that provides a variety of services and opportunities to the women of Calgary. The women participating in the workshops were asked to create a portrait of a “Woman you Admire”. Not everyone has the drawing skills to produce a good likeness, so the participants applied paint, collage, photographs, and even poetry to create expressions of their own personality or to embellish icons representing their heritage or belief.

Alpha House is a community-based facility providing services for those who are under the influence of, or withdrawing from alcohol or other drugs. Several workshops were held in the shelter and detox facility. Simple materials were provided: paper, charcoal, felt-pen and pencil-crayons. Some participants chose to create a ‘portrait’ of something close to them: their native heritage, the landscape, or a bleeding heart.

Most participants were more eager to model, than to draw. When an artist is striving to create a true likeness, the face of the model is intensely studied. There is personal eye contact, and the model is truly being seen. I ended up drawing many portraits of Alpha House’s clients, who were very pleased to be depicted, and who were thrilled by the idea, that they will be truly seen by the Calgary Public.

Eveline Kolijn
Exhibition curator, visual artist and TMC artist-mentor

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