The space was green. And I mean really green… But it was a green that was funky, artsy, and very cool. It was, in fact, the perfect stage setting for Irricana’s undiscovered gem – the Grasshopper Gallery.
Or perhaps I should clarify that it was a new discovery to me. I had been visiting Irricana recently as part of the launch of the new multi-purpose floor of their recreation center. Also participating in the event happened to be local artist Brenda Campbell. It was like destiny that we should meet – or more to the point – she came over to introduce herself and quite enthusiastically said that I needed to visit the Grasshopper Gallery.
She, of course, was right. Over the years, my career in the arts has taken me to various international art spaces. Of all of these spaces, my favourite ones have been those that were not simply exhibition spaces but bumping grounds where the arts and community met. Queue Irricana’s Grasshopper Gallery.
The first thing that I discovered about the Grasshopper was that it wasn’t only an exhibition space; it was also an artist co-op. The idea of forming an art co-op in Irricana had been a dream that Brenda Campbell has had for many years. As an artist herself, Brenda understood how cost prohibitive trying to “go it alone” could be for most struggling artists. And the so the idea for the Grasshopper Gallery AND Irricana Artist’s Co-op was born.
With some seed funding from the Federal Government’s Rural Development Fund awarded to the Canadian Badlands Ltd. for several initiatives, forming an art co-op in Irricana was put into motion. The gallery and co-op officially opened their doors on July 10, 2010, in the old newspaper office located on Irricana’s main street.
Brenda says that it took old style elbow grease and a ‘work bee’ (much like a knitting bee but participants come out to help get a job completed) to get the gallery space to the state it is at now. Members of the co-op also take turns manning the gallery as part of their commitment to the project.
This commitment to community spirit is what defines the Grasshopper Gallery. Not only has become a funky ‘third space’ where artists can meet and discuss ideas with colleagues or interested community members, it also aims to promote the arts and artists in Irricana and the surrounding areas by offering a wide variety of classes, lectures and a retail gift store.
Hoping to work with other local businesses and even stretch their reach into the tourism trade, the vision for the artist’s co-op in Irricana includes being diversified and interesting enough to help foster some economic developmental spin offs for both themselves and the town itself.
I know that I will be keeping a watchful on them and encourage you to do the same. You never know what artistic gems are yet to be discovered in rural Alberta.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Irricana Artist’s Co-op is invited to contact Brenda at firstname.lastname@example.org.