News / Calgary

Calgary's artBOX opens 'treasure trove' of emerging talent

Painter Deng Chol Duot uses art to lift his spirits and artBOX to connect with others in the Forest Lawn community, and the city at large.

“This space, it has helped,” Duot, originally from South Sudan, said Tuesday. “It has encouraged me so much. It connects me to the people in Calgary.”

The 5,400-square-foot space on 17 Avenue SE used to be a paint warehouse, but sat empty for years, until it was reborn as a community gathering space last summer that also serves as a showcase for art and a hub for local business.

“It’s really created a wonderful community resource for artists living in the area,” said Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of the International Avenue BRZ.

Supported by area businesses and Calgary Arts Development (CADA), artBOX provides a space for artists – painter, photographers, actors, musicians, and more – to showcase their work, but it’s not a simple gallery.

“It’s a little bit different than just renting a venue,” said Sharon Stevens, who co-ordinates special events for the BRZ. “It’s very different. You need to engage with this community and with the businesses.”

Artists must agree to abide by the artBOX mission statement, which includes a variety of criteria aimed at fostering community connections, benefits to local business, and mentorship of emerging artists.

“In neighbourhoods outside of the downtown core, in many communities, there is a treasure trove of artistic activity and cultural value that is really just looking for more opportunities to connect with the rest of the city,” said Jordan Baylon, a community investment officer with CADA.

Baylon also announced Tuesday that $48,000 in funding would be awarded to four artists or art groups as part of the Greater Forest Lawn Project Grant.

CADA plans to accept applications for another round of grants later this spring as well as for a new, $5,000 artist award as part of its Arts For All Program.

The current exhibit at artBOX ends on Thursday and Stevens said the space will be used primarily for performance art in the coming months, before another exhibit opens, likely in June.

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