ACAD graduate struggles to carve out space in Calgary

The sign above the entrance reads “Yes We Are Open: 19 artists welcome you.”

However, the studios in the art loop located in the lower level of Art Central are mostly deserted. Empty and dark, with shutters drawn over the windows, each space is closed and contains no trace of the artist that once inhabited it. Only one space is still open.

This small studio space contains a desk, a bookcase and a kettle plugged into the wall in the corner. The walls are mostly bare, with the exception of the notes posted by the desk, a row of shelves filled with jars, and the words painted on the wall in black print – “We’ll never run dry of love or anything.”

“When I first came to Calgary this was filled up with artists and was just this really vibrant, bustling community back here but it’s definitely quieter”

– Sara Girletz, artist in the art loop in Art Central

This is the title of the latest project by artist Sara Girletz, the only artist remaining in the art loop as of March 31st. The only other artist had moved out several days earlier.

“It’s based primarily off of family imagery,” Girletz says about the installation. The jars lining the shelves on the wall display pictures of her family on the prairie, preserved in oil. “Photography is a big element in my work, but I’m not a photographer. I’m really interested in displacement, and relations between my identity and my physicality to land and old architecture.”

LIFE AS AN ARTIST IN CALGARY

After graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Girletz struggled to find a job in Calgary. “Art students know there’s not a certain job you go out and get,” she says, but adds that the difficulty she encountered finding any work was “a little bit off-putting.”

After graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Girletz has struggled to find a job in Calgary.

Photo by Krystyna SpinnerGirletz states that finding time for both her job and her art is “a juggling act between your job, your art community, and you feel guilty if you’re taking away from your job but then you feel guilty if you’re not putting everything forth to your art community.”

The Calgary Allied Arts Foundation helped to find this studio space for her in Calgary. Her artist residency began on March 10th of this year and ended on April 6th.

“When I first came to Calgary this was filled up with artists and was just this really vibrant, bustling community back here but it’s definitely quieter,” she says about the space in Art Central.

“Normally for the rent that goes for spaces, I wouldn’t be able to afford a space like this. Calgary Allied Arts Foundation sponsors this space. You get to work on an exhibition but then get to have people come and give you feedback,” Girletz says.

“I think there is a lot of spaces out there [in Calgary]…for me, I don’t personally find it very affordable. It’s just in demand for all artists because you need that sense of community and you need that feedback from your work,” Girletz says.

“You can have a space at home and that’s great, but if you’re making work…and not getting that feedback, you just kind of get that feeling of being lost. I think that’s one of the reasons why people stop making work and it’s really unfortunate.”

CALGARY 2012

Girletz did not receive any funding from the Cultural Capital program in 2012 that was targeted at supporting and growing the art community in the city.

“I put through a couple submissions, but there was so much interest…and only so many spaces for some people. I’d had some other things going on in my art life last year that kind of put things on hold,” she says. “So I missed the boat on some of the submissions.”

Although she was not one of the artists involved in Calgary 2012, she made an effort to support her friends involved in the program. She states that with the end of the program, there is a need for artists to use the momentum that it created in order to keep interest in Calgary’s arts going.

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