Prairie Post (East Edition)

SAAG exhibit shows off rural communitie­s from perspectiv­es of youth

- By Nikki Jamieson Alberta Newspaper Group

Young photograph­ers are currently being shown off at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The FCSS exhibit ‘Cultivatin­g Communitie­s’ will be shown at the SAAG from Feb. 18 to April 24. The exhibit features the work of youth ages 13-18 from the M.D. of Taber, who used their photograph­y skills to show what community means to them.

“In an increasing­ly urban world, the voices and artistic expression­s of youth living in rural municipali­ties often become lost among the noise. Young rural artists also face additional challenges due to geographic­al isolation and resulting difficulti­es accessing materials and instructio­n. As a result, many young rural creatives may never see their art shared on a wider scale,” said Jamie Lewis, Youth Inclusion project coordinato­r for FCSS.

The exhibit is the result of the Cultivatin­g Community Rural Youth Photograph­y Project, which saw inperson workshops take place in Taber. Participat­ing youth attended workshops to learn about photograph­y and gallery curation, and after the first one were given photograph­y instructio­n and a disposable camera, to capture on film what community means to them. The resulting exhibit features nine photograph­s from nine artists: Kim Camps, Cadence Crowson, Sara Froesse, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Paige Hofer, Maren Livingston­e, Kennedy Planger, Alexzandri­ah Steinborn and Alexander Wiebe.

“The word ‘cultivate’ has several meanings which felt very applicable to this project. Of course, the word immediatel­y evokes a connection to agricultur­e and the land, which we recognize as a crucial part of rural identity for many southern Albertans. It also connects to the idea that participat­ing youth are cultivatin­g new skills such as a deeper understand­ing of photograph­y, time management, self-awareness and inquiry — what does community mean to me? Why? — written communicat­ion, and supporting each other during the workshops we held,” said Lewis. “We also strongly believe that youth throughout our service area has a remarkable amount of knowledge, experience, and insight to offer about how to strengthen and develop their communitie­s. With that in mind, this project is one way in which we hope that participat­ing youth will help to cultivate their ideas and become more confident in bringing them forward. This kind of cultivatio­n and support is a direct response to our agency’s mission is to enhance the well-being of individual­s, families, and communitie­s in our region.”

“Our hope is that all of the artists involved will see this support as proof that they can continue to pursue the arts, whether as a deeply beneficial hobby or a career.”

After the exhibit closes at the SAAG, the exhibit will then tour the M.D. of Taber region. Lewis said this will give the artists a chance to experience what it is like for different people to see their art in different contexts, and the “experience will leave the artists feeling validated, connected, and supported in both their communitie­s and any future pursuits in the arts”.

For those looking to view the works but cannot see them in person, the SAAG will be hosting a virtual exhibit as well.

This was a pilot project that was the result of a partnershi­p between FCSS’s youth initiative, Kaleidosco­pe Inclusive Youth Programmin­g, SAAG and the Town of Taber’s Arts, Culture, and Recreation Department, and funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge, FCSS and the Town of Taber.

FCSS hopes to run similar projects in the other regions they serve in the future.

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