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Artists to air out their talent in downtown Okotoks clothesline sale

The Art Clothesline Sale will feature work from more than 20 artists in more than 16 locations in Okotoks’ downtown on Aug. 22
RussellandHeather Thomas
Okotoks artists Heather and Russell Thomas, in front of Birdsong Studio & Healing Centre on Elma Street, are participating in the Art Clothesline Sale on Aug. 22. (Tammy Rollie/Western Wheel)

Dozens of illustrations and paintings will be strung up in yards throughout Okotoks’ heritage districts in a unique art event on Aug. 22.

Artists, merchants and residents along Elma Street and McRae Street will participate in the Art Clothesline Sale that will feature work from more than 20 artists at more than 16 businesses and residences in Okotoks’ downtown. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Okotoks artist Russell Thomas, owner of Birdsong Studio & Healing Centre and president of the Okotoks Arts Council - one of the event sponsors - said artists are desperately looking for ways to get their artwork into the community safely and the Art Clothesline Sale is a great avenue to achieve that.

“We want more people to safely come out and explore the historic district of Okotoks,” he said. “A lot of properties will put up temporary clotheslines for two-dimensional works. There’s going to be a broad range of art from illustrations to watercolours to everything in between.”

The fence in front of Birdsong Studio will feature several of Thomas’ portraits and his wife Heather’s abstract art. Space will also be available for other artists to display their work, he said.

“It lets the people of Okotoks know who we are and what we do,” he said.

Thomas said the role of the Okotoks Arts Council is to engage with and support artists.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Alberta last spring, artists have struggled to sell their work after many public facilities closed and events were cancelled to prevent large gatherings of people.

“This has been a difficult time for artists of all genres so this is an opportunity for artists of varying degrees of experience to get their work in front of people,” he said. “The arts council is really proud to be able to support an event that’s being done in a collective manner. Any time we can be a part of something that’s community driven we’re proud of that.”

The event was spearheaded by Lineham House Galleries owner Cheryl Taylor, who got the idea from an Elma Street resident who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Clothesline arts sales are a very common type of sale and we knew that the Leighton Art Centre wasn’t doing theirs (outdoors) this year with COVID so we thought we could fill a gap,” said Taylor. “I felt it was important to get everything going again and take advantage of the summer months with outdoor events that people would most likely feel safe going to and to bring our community back together.”

Although the Art Clothesline Sale is a small-scale, pop-up art event, Taylor said the response has been overwhelming with interest from not only local artists but also residents and merchants on Elma Street and the River District Business Association.

“This is great with the inclusion of the old town plaza merchants and the other part of historic Okotoks,” she said.

Elma Street resident Leah Koski hopped on board with the event right away.

She is one of the event organizers and her daughter Alyssa Koski will display her illustrations on a clothesline at the Stockton House on McRae Street.

With the Leighton Art Centre not hosting its popular clothesline art sale outdoors this year, Koski said she’s glad to see a similar event held in Okotoks.

“People missed it and we missed it so we thought we could do it because of that,” she said. “Artwork is beautiful and very good for the soul. What we’re trying to do is spread some more of that and help out the local artists that are having trouble.”

Two dollar donations will be accepted at each location to support the Big Rock Singers, an adult community choir group in Okotoks.

Click here to learn more about the Art Clothesline Sale.

Tammy Rollie,

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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact
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