I climbed the stairs at Habitat last Tuesday with some trepidation…lurking somewhere in the building were supposedly a troupe of children and adults in full Mardi Gras mode. The evening had been designed to start after school and was open to all ‘wanna be‘ thespians, musicians and Fat Tuesday enthusiasts. From the balloons on the entrance to the glitter on the stairs it was obvious the parade had just left the building!
And as the valiant ladies of Mardi Gras Jasper vacuumed and cleaned after the crowds had gone home I setup KIDSTUFF. Kidstuff is a traveling exhibition of – well – kid stuff. Vintage kid toys, etch-a-sketch, view master, spinning tops… Woody Woodpecker, Charlie Brown, Grover and Cookie Monster emerged from their boxes to be remembered by adults more than children. Putting out the Dr. Suess pieces I couldn’t help thinking of the Mardi Gras parade with its flags and minstrels – not unlike Suess’s flooflooblers and blumblookers.
The last thing to go up on display were the ‘Please do not touch the toys‘ signs, for which I got the immediate ‘What? Why do you have a display of toys that no one can touch?’
Habitat is becoming known as a place for interactive art, a place where the public can be engaged in or experience art. It has become home to several weekly sessions for children to paint and dance and be theatrical… but it is also home to exhibitions that engage the viewer. For a true community presence Habitat is also home to visual displays that offer individual reflection on culture. Most often these exhibits are artifacts or artworks presented from a collection for the simplistic interaction of just viewing.
Culture has been described as everything around us that defines us, what makes us human, products of human work and thought. There is little chance that anyone can say that their childhood was void of cultural definition. I know we were not allowed much of the candy that came with the PEZ dispensers but I sure remember the View Master and the Slinky. And even though the sign said – ‘don’t touch’ – the etch-a-sketch got a few moments off the shelf with two young friends while no one was watching us!
That’s the great thing about the Arts too – the forgiving flexibility of discipline, the unexpected increase in appreciation for something when the rules are harmlessly bent even just a little. The Elementary School kids came over for a walk through the Aaron Paquette exhibit this week. Imagine the kind of limitations a ‘paintings on the wall’ exhibit must have for someone in Grade 2. What was truly amazing was the interaction that these children had with the art – the conversation with the imagery – in grade school!
One of our intentions when conceiving of Habitat was to offer these kinds of missing opportunities for learning. For 1/2 hour on a Friday afternoon Jasper students communicated with their teachers while sitting in a room of artwork from the Art Gallery of Alberta. No lengthy bus ride, no expensive road trip – a two block stroll to Habitat and these youth got to see these beautiful paintings up close and personal.
Aaron Paquette hopes that his art acts as a catalyst for greater understanding.
Habitat hopes that provision of a space for the arts can do the same.
Special thanks to the Creative Campus Edson and Tracy Templeton for the KIDSTUFF exhibit.
Creative Campus also hosted their SECOND ANNUAL Celtic Hour on March 17th. The Peoples Gallery at Habitat was close to capacity thanks to the amazing talents of Lisa Riddell and Monika Schaefer. If you didnt catch them this year – shame on you!! Mark your calendar for next year, St Patricks Day 7pm at Habitat!