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Art Gallery of Nova Scotia organizers used their party event Friday to take the stuffiness out of the typical gallery experience

4 min read
caption Attendee sporting a self-made hat
Brandon Young
Attendee sporting a self-made hat
caption Attendee sporting a self-made hat.
Brandon Young

When was the last time an art gallery was your prime establishment to hit up on a Friday night?

If it has been awhile, the organizers of the Art Party are hoping you’ll reconsider.

The event happened this past Friday night at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and was filled with dance beats, boozy beverages, and, last but not least, art.

“We wanted to lower the barrier of things that might make people intimidated by the traditional gallery space,” said Kate Spurr, of the club-meets-gallery experience.

Spurr is the chair of The Young Patrons Circle, which works on projects and events aimed at engaging younger people in art. She thinks that art is something young people want to participate in but the environment in which it is displayed can often be uninviting. She aims to change that.

“Art is becoming more commonplace and we have so much great art in Halifax,” Spurr said. “We wanted to make [the AGNS] lively because it can be quiet and not necessarily something that someone in university would want to go to.”

With a packed gallery and having sold out the first event in August, Spurr and her organization were on their way to engaging more ‘up and coming art lovers in Nova Scotia.’

“It’s so different from other nights out!” said attendee Kevin Hong. “Here you can make fascinators. Last time we made crazy glasses; that’s just an experience that you don’t get anywhere else.”

Indeed, decorative headpieces were on the docket for the soiree. Just across the hall from the Maud Lewis exhibit was Sherry Lynn Jollymore, a craft expert and employee of the AGNS, teaching a room of wannabe-hat makers how to make their own creative headgear. Standing amidst tables full of scissors, glitter and construction paper, she was sporting a circus-themed top-hat complete with a tiger.

“I think it’s great to have rich people support art, but I also think it’s important to come in on grassroots terms and have $5 tickets,” she said. “I love that it’s more accessible because I think that’s how art will get into people’s hearts and be more important in our communities.”

CEO of the AGNS, Lisa Bugden, thinks art needs to be accessible beyond a narrow demographic.

“Our goal is to blow open the doors of the art gallery and welcome as many people as we can,” she said. “We’re streaming the Blue Jays because we know we have some fans in the house and we’re also introducing our adult sippy-cups…Tonight is about showcasing the art for a special group of guests and doing it on their terms.”

A trip around the gallery on a typical night would have seen traditional paintings and portraitures, contemporary multimedia exhibitions and much more. This event had that, accompanied by a casual feel that was cast by lively tunes, multi-coloured lights and groups of friends carrying on in the hallways.

“I think there’s been a death with the gallery atmosphere,” said Brenna Connely, another attendee. “This really brings it back to reality.”

Spurr was pleased with the turnout of the event and that the attendees appeared to have enjoyed the experience.

“[Art] can be all different things. It can be a means of expanding your mind, a means of entertainment. If you’re going to events like this, as a hobby, it can mean a lot.”

As for Jollymore, she said she cannot wait for the next edition of the Art Party series which will be in January.

“Let’s have a couple drinks and use some glue guns!” she exclaimed.

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