The arts have a new home in Lethbridge

Posted on : Wednesday, May 08, 2013


A lot of curiosity surrounds Casa, the new community arts centre, as people try to catch a glimpse of the inside or find out who or what will be making it their new home. In a nutshell, Casa will be providing huge opportunities to a growing number of people and groups within the city. 

Last week I had a chance to take a tour of the building with Derek Stevenson from the Allied Arts Council before they open their doors to the public next week. The interdisciplinary art centre boasts an amazing 42,000 square foot design built as a collaboration between Nyhoff Architecture (Calgary) and Ferrari Westwood Babits (Lethbridge). Funding for this project was provided by the Federal Build Canada Fund ($6,000,000), the Provincial MSI Fund ($14,900,000) and the City of Lethbridge ($200,000). 

I can't offer any sneak peek photos since they're not allowed, which means you'll have to attend the grand opening ceremonies between May 14 and 18 to see it for yourself. What I can say, however, is that the building and the plans for its new occupants is impressive. 

From soundproof music rooms that enhance sound by not having any 90 degree angles to an outdoor plaza designed to protect visitors from the strong southern Alberta winds, every space in Casa has been carefully planned and thought out. The large windows on the second floor dance studio will provide natural light for dancers and cozy nooks hidden throughout the building offer scenic views of Galt Gardens while visitors enjoy a coffee break. 

The support for community has also been key in the creation of Casa. Artists working out of the Bowman Arts Centre, as well as new and emerging artists can rent space or purchase a membership that enables them to use the equipment and studio space, such as the pottery wheels, textile equipment, the 2D studio and more. Derek compares the membership to a gym membership in the way that the monthly fee allows the use of the equipment, building and a locker to store their projects in. Showcases placed throughout Casa will display their work and offer an avenue to sell their pieces. 

The Allied Arts Council will be administrating instructors who wish to teach their preferred medium and set them up with classes or students. Artist residencies are also available, which would give an artist project space. Resident artists must give presentations on their work which, in turn, educates the public on the process and inspiration behind each piece. Casa also provides meeting spaces for groups or societies that previously had no official place to meet. 

The impact that this has on local artists is huge. As we toured the building we met artists who spoke passionately about their work and how having a place to actually create and build a community around what they love to do will make a huge difference to them. For example, a print making machine can cost thousands of dollars, but having one readily available at Casa creates opportunities for new and current artists. 

Casa will also be the new home for the University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music, which will provide them an opportunity for them to expand their music programming and enhance their ability to serve Southern Alberta. The community room space will become an additional performance and multi-use space that will allow musicians dancers, and drama groups to host shows. 

The gallery inside Casa is also a reflection of their dedication to the local community. The first exhibition is a group show with 34 artists from Lethbridge and the surrounding area titled Transitions & Transformation. The exhibition will open on Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. as part of their grand opening celebrations. 

The grand opening will begin on May 14 at 11 a.m. with the ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by facility tours and artist demonstrations. The week will also feature nightly events including a collaborative dance performance titled Dance Comes Home, an original play by local playwright Jeremy Mason, the Inaugural Gallery Exhibition, Prairie Tales - short films by Alberta filmmakers, and a performance by Oscar Lopez. The ceremonies will close with a Party on the Plaza featuring local musicians on May 18. For a full list of events, visit the Casa website. Tickets for all ticketed events are available at the Allied Arts Council. (318 - 7th Street South, 403-320-0555) 

By: Melanie Fast