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Unique exhibits beautifying spaces in downtown Okotoks

Sixteen exhibits made of repurposed and recycled materials were installed in trees, along fences, between buildings and in other hidden spaces in Okotoks’ annual Nooks & Crannies Arts Festival on July 18.

Empty spaces around buildings in downtown Okotoks have been decorated with art that’s stopped passersby in their tracks and prompted conversations this past weekend.

Sixteen exhibits made of repurposed and recycled materials were installed in trees, along fences, between buildings and in other hidden spaces in Okotoks’ annual Nooks & Crannies Arts Festival on July 18. The exhibits were created at the hands of artists and organizations in Okotoks and Calgary, and will remain on display until Aug. 22.

Okotoks artist Jennifer Stables of Jenny Dale Designs put a light-hearted twist on the COVID-19 pandemic with her exhibit in front of the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on Elma Street.

Using recycled materials, Stables constructed three miniature dollhouses featuring human and robot characters participating in common tasks during the pandemic.

“It represents things that a lot of people experienced,” said Stables. “It really paints a picture of the pandemic.”

Among the scenes is someone watching Tiger King on Netflix, a woman cutting her hair in a bathroom, a child doing schoolwork and a woman baking bread.

Stables said the robot characters were a nod to Boltz, the life-sized robot she constructed using recycled material for last year’s Nooks & Crannies Art Festival.

When initially submitting her proposal for this year’s festival Stables planned on going another direction, but said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she saw how it was impacting people she decided to put a lighthearted twist on the situation.

“I don’t really do current events - I like to do art that’s funny and whimsical and light,” she said. “I thought it’s an opportunity to find a little bit of humour in what’s going on. It was cathartic, and my way of having fun.”

Calgary artists Tomikka Wallawein and Michelle Smyth took a different approach to their exhibit east of the Okotoks Art Gallery on North Railway Street.

The kinetic cube the duo created, inspired by the Esker Foundation’s Eye Youth Project, features eight cardboard cubes taped together to make one cube that moves.

Wallawein said the cardboard cubes feature art inspired by influential abstract artists from around the world.

“We wanted it to be inspirational with different artists that people know,” she said. “It’s an art history lesson that’s interactive in a visual way.”

Smyth, an art teacher at Alberta High School of Fine Arts located at Foothills Composite,  said the Nooks & Crannies Art Festival is a wonderful way to get artists thinking outside the box.

“It’s a really great idea because we can look at recyclable objects in a different way,” she said. “I use found objects all the time like rusted metal and garbage people throw away.”

Calgary artist Justina Panchuk took an audio approach with her exhibit, Windsongs, in a tree in front of Tribal Connection Market.

The young artist created wind chimes and spinners using tin cans, necklaces, tassels, egg cartons, stenciled pie plates and other materials she strung in a tree.

“It’s about wind,” she said. “I let different materials guide me and they play off each other.”

Panchuk said the exhibit represents her interdisciplinary art style, which incorporates mediums like painting, textiles and jewelry in a unique outdoor display.

“The point is to draw attention to the wind,” she said. “It’s just sort of playful.”

While lunching at Tribal Connection Market with family, Okotoks resident Sarah Jones watched Panchuk at work.

“It’s beautiful,” she said of the exhibit. “I love it.”

Jones and her family walked downtown to check out the Okotoks Elks Farmers’ Market when they came across some artists putting up their exhibits.

“It gives a little spirit of happiness,” Jones said of the exhibits. “A lot of people are sick of COVID and want to get out and about. People are looking for things to do.”

Greg Bojarski also enjoyed viewing the exhibits around downtown after having perused the Nooks & Crannies Arts Festival last year.

“I think it’s great,” said the Okotoks resident. “It’s good for the artists to get the experience and showcase their talent.”

For a list of the artists and exhibit locations visit https://www.okotoks.ca/discover-okotoks/community-events-calendar/nooks-crannies.

Tammy Rollie, OkotoksToday.ca

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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

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