Lethbridge Salon: Artists, Potlucks, and Community-building

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Lethbridge is a small city in southern Alberta that is home to some really great artists, and also has a very strong, supportive art community. For many years I wondered what it was that drew people here (some say the light, some say the size of the city, others swear it is the potluck culture). I wanted to start a dialogue about that so I organized a project that would bring people together on a regular basis.

I invited 7 practising artists to congregate at my home and make art.  I told them that I would supply materials and feed them, and at the end of every night I would tuck the work away. After a year of Salons I would apply for exhibition space in a gallery and try to sell the work. The money we raised would be used for a philanthropic cause and everyone's name would be attached. My original intention was to challenge them to work with a different medium or technique every time we met but somehow we have never moved past working with collage. (I originally borrowed that idea from some of the artists who are now part of this.)

I invited this particular group of people based on the fact that they could all commit to coming once a month for twelve months. We're comprised of 6 artists, one writer and one designer: Glen MacKinnon, Denton Fredrickson, Mandy Espezel, David Hoffos, Mary-Anne McTrowe, Dana Woodward, Christina Cuthbertson and myself.

Because I set out so many rules, I've been amazed at how everyone has responded. They have complete trust in the project! The evenings are not noisy, chatty events, either – every one is hard at work and serious about the task at hand. It's also terrific how they are so eager to try anything. For this video I asked if they could make a soundtrack, and they all immediately picked up some tool close by and started to build a rhythm by tapping or shaking.

I'm not sure if I'm any closer to answering what makes Lethbridge such a strong art city. We talk about it as we sit around the table cutting and gluing, but it has come to be completely secondary to the task at hand, which is simply to make art.

Story by Leanne Elias, Lethbridge-based new media artist. Video by Blake Everndon.

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