This afternoon we made a little trip down to vibrant 118 Avenue here in Edmonton to drop in on the Nina. My daughter and I have been considering whether the Centre might be a good place for her to spend some time exploring and expanding her artistic side now that she’s finished high school. The last few years of school were not a wholly positive period for her, so, I’ve been hoping that the more self-directed and open-ended atmosphere at the Nina would at once give her more pleasure and more growth than the structure of the previous period had done.
We started by taking a turn around the Stollery Gallery where some works by artists of the Centre are on display. When you go — which you should — take note of the brilliant superhero prints by David Canough. The Gallery is the principal display venue for the Nina’s artists, although you will see their public art installations around town. From time to time the Gallery also hosts shows by non-Nina artists as well.
Next we headed over to the bustle of the crowded ateliers. About 35 of the Nina’s almost 200 artist/members were at work on fabric, painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking and computer animation. One day a week beautiful fused glass art is produced. There is also a dance program at the Centre. The large bright workrooms were filled with men and women of all ages focused intently on their art-making.
Artistic Director Paul Freeman began by showing us some of the computer and stop motion animation being worked on. The Centre has a number of very nice and apparently very fast work stations tucked into a corner. I mentioned at one point that the Nina needed more space and Mr. Freeman admitted he had been thinking about that.
Next we went back to the Gallery for a moment and chatted about some of our possibilities. Happily for the Nina, Mr. Freeman was called away for a moment to thank someone who had dropped by with a donation. More about that later.
By this time my daughter had quite obviously moved from doubtful interest to cautious excitement. Off she went to check out the rest of the workrooms, ending in the yarn and thread festooned fabric arts room.
Mr. Freeman got us an information and registration package, including a fee schedule. The annual fee (pro rated quarterly) struck me as absurdly low, but when one considers that most of the artists pay their fees out of their fixed AISH income, the fees are actually a hefty sacrifice made for their art.
After our short visit, it looks like we’ll be returning regularly to work at the Nina. “I want to make a glass Binoo!” my daughter said as we walked down the street. Mr. Freeman indicated that I would be welcome to hang around and that, as an artist, they might put me to volunteer work as well. I certainly hope I will be able to, but . . .
The Nina Haggerty Centre is at risk of closing its doors. At the moment they are about a month away from the close of a vital crowd-funding campaign which must be successful if the Centre is to retain its location. If too few ordinary citizens step up to support the Nina, almost two hundred artists will quite simply lose their voices in a more extreme way than most artists can imagine.
Edmonton prides itself on its arts community. The closure of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts because of a lack of community support would be a failure for the city and a tragic loss. And it would be a disturbing situation if our city’s community, with all its wealth, found itself unable to support the professional work of our almost two hundred artists with developmental disabilities.
Until recently, my daughter ended each day sadly asking “Can you cancel school tomorrow, Dad?”. A few minutes ago she announced “I want to go to Nina Haggerty!”
I hope she can.
The Nina Haggerty Centre’s indiegogo fundraising campaign is very appropriately called “Keep the Love Alive“. Please help.
The Centre and the Stollery Gallery are at
9225 – 118 ave
Update, February 19, 2015: Happily The Nina reached its fundraising goal, allowing a tremendous 12th birthday party for the Centre this evening. The Centre was packed with people, including at least two City Councillors and former Mayor now Cabinet Minister Stephen Mandel, all celbrating twelve years of art and the latest work of the Collective, “Confusement”, a phenomenal installation which is truly a collective work (I even got to contribute a tiny bit of paint splashing).