The Gallery in the Park continues to be an amazing attraction for Altona.
According to Frank Friesen, Chair of the Gallery's Operations Committee, the facility logged 4,500 visitors during its 2023 season, spanning from June through September. "It continues to be a hot draw for the art lovers in the community and even outside the community. The grounds continue to be well-kept and it's just a very attractive place."
The season opened with a collection of historic Kroeger Clocks from across the world, put together by the Kroeger Clock Heritage Foundation. This exhibit, noted gallery curator, Susie Fisher, in a year-end newsletter sent to donors, demonstrated the unique combination of both function and beauty that would have been present in Mennonite homes of the past. The spring exhibit also featured photography by Barb Bottle, pottery by Jozanna Loewen, and paintings by Candace Propp.
On two separate occasions this season, around 600 people came through in one day. One of those days was the Saturday of the Manitoba Sunflower Festival.
"We partnered with the Manitoba Sunflower Festival operating committee to host a silent disco on our beautiful grounds, which drew a diverse crowd. Families, individuals, couples, and young people alike joined us to dance the evening away by listening to pre-programmed playlists on special long-range wireless headphones. Lights and a disco ball lit up the patio. It was a blast!" said Fisher.
The second occasion was the Blue House Market craft sale held in September on the Saturday of the weekend-long Pembina Valley Studio Tour. Meantime, Sunday feature artist Particia Eschuk participate in an artist talk, touring gallery-goers through her exhibit.
August saw the opening of the Gallery' second exhibit of the season, featuring work by Winnipeg painter, Patricia Eschuk, on the main floor. On the second floor, photographs by Kerry Enns, paintings by Rosalie Olson, drawings by Callen Froese, and paintings by Paulo Delgado were on display.
The month also included a workshop involving kids and youth from the Regional Connections summer day program. They explored new ways of painting with shadows and light.
"Amazingly good things are happening there and the interest continues to grow," beamed Friesen. "The programming is growing under the direction of Fisher."
In July, the Gallery also hosted the unveiling of the Orange Bench Project. Launched by the local Steps Toward Reconciliation Committee, the Orange Bench is intended to tell stories from an Indigenous perspective, mostly from the Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation. The event featured guest speaker, Elder Peter Atkinson, from Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation. He offered up a creation story as the inaugural story told at The Bench.
Friesen says the committee is looking to expand on its Indigenous offerings in 2025. That includes the addition of a sculpture by a local Indigenous artist, representing the ongoing walk along the path of reconciliation, and an indoor exhibit featuring work by Manitoba Indigenous artists.
Meantime, this past summer was the first in several years where a new sculpture wasn't added to the grounds. "But there's plans in place again for next year and the year beyond," assured Friesen. "I just want to reiterate that, with the support of the Town and the corporate community and the Friends of the Gallery."
Additionally, the heritage Schwartz House that serves as the gallery is slated for a few exterior updates in the next year or so. That includes new shingles and siding.
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