Local artists donate Springbank home, land and studios to Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre


A botanical wetland marked with celebrated sculptures, a home-turned-art-gallery, a centre that marries art and culture, and — if all goes to plan — a welcome destination for national and international artists.

The newest addition that pays homage to the Calgary contemporary art scene aims to offer all of the above, and more.

Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe – a Calgary modern-art power couple – are the driving force behind the formation of this new contemporary art institute, the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre (KOAC).

Ohe and Kiyooka, both in their senior years, are donating their house, the 20 acres of land they call home and their respective art studios — located on the Springbank property as well — to the KOAC foundation.

The prominent Canadian artists will also be passing on their art collection to the centre in hopes of inspiring and educating budding Alberta artists.

Produced by: Taryn Hajnrych

The intended purpose of the KO Arts Centre, according to the couple, is “to serve as a legacy for the immediate community of Springbank,” but also to reach out to the members of the contemporary art scene in Calgary.

Christine Pennell, a member of the board of directors for the arts centre, said, “the idea for Harry and Katie is to provide an opportunity for people to experience art, whether it’s an artist in residence, and seeing what they’re creating and how they’re creating it.”

Kiyooka explained that the primary goal of the arts centre is to raise sufficient funds so that the foundation can endure for years to come.

“At this point in time we are focused on a three-year development plan to complete the project,” Kiyooka said. “This is going to require a lot of help from the community in terms of raising money.”


Pennell said that the price tag for the three-year development plan rings in at $2 million. Though the figure may be ambitious, Pennell said the plan is feasible. Patrons were able to interact with Harry Kiyooka, who was debuting his ‘Paintings from the Venetian series’ at Calgary’s Herringer Kiss Gallery from November to January.
Photo by: Taryn Hajnrych

She said that fundraising could be tricky. However, she explained that with grants and environmental funds, the money is definitely available.

The three-year plan is something that Kiyooka wants to see come to fruition quickly, according to Pennell.

Pennell said that the centre wants to show their donors that the contributions they made are being put to good use.

To date the organization has hosted three open house events to raise funds as well as mindfulness for contemporary art. Kiyooka said that all of the events have been helpful and have received great support from members of the community.

“As people learn more about the cause, it strikes a chord with them,” Pennell said. “What’s not to love about people who are selflessly giving their land, their money and their art collection as a legacy to the Calgary community.”

Pennell resides in the community of Springbank.

She said that to her the plan for the arts centre is “fascinating” and that she feels the centre will give Springbank residents and Calgarians alike a place to go and experience art in a very unique way, unlike anything else in the city.

“They just live it, and it’s not a big deal,” says Pennell of Kiyooka and Ohe’s dedication to art. “Every time I go there I learn something new.”

Pennell says that the couple will continue to live in Springbank at the arts centre, welcoming and hosting artists and visitors alike.

Deborah Herringer Kiss, founder of Calgary’s Herringer Kiss Gallery —where Kiyooka’s recent show was exhibited — said that “the centre has been a dream of local artists such as Marion Nichol and Illingworth Kerr, and now Katie and Harry are making it happen.”

“It’s up to the rest of us to help in any way possible to carry the torch into the future.”

Herringer Kiss said she believes that what Ohe and Kiyooka are doing with the arts centre is a “gift to all Albertas.”  Pennell believes the arts centre will better facilitate artists who want to come to Calgary and work while they are here, and will enrich the Calgary community with art of all different types.

Herringer Kiss agrees with Pennell, predicting that, “It will be a major cultural tourist draw to the city and be a source of inspiration and opportunity for future generations of artists.”


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