KOAC: Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

This morning, I’m celebrating Wendy Lees and the Love Art in Calgary tours that she provides, here in the city.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the intimate and generous experience of visiting KOAC.  Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe directed a magical tour of their property, studios and home and today I am still ruminating about the conversations, the practice and the encouragement received.  Grateful!

Katie and Harry have done so much for our community and, both visionaries, they have a commitment to leave an amazing legacy for all of us.  But right now, they need our support, both monetary and philosophically.  Calgarians need to see themselves as both beneficiaries, but also contributors to this dream.  I hope that my readers will take the time to visit the website and explore how they can be a part of this.

We began our tour with the wondrous drive out to the property under an amazing chinook arch.  The light and arch contributed to the aesthetic experience of being on the edge of the city, looking west toward the mountains.  Good conversation, laughter and shared philosophies are always a part of a Love Art in Calgary tour and this time, I reconnected with a like-minded woman, Sharon, who I had met on a previous workshop at the Esker Foundation and Melissa, who has a long history of Gorilla painting with me.  So much fun.

Melissa and I went for a wander to look at a couple of the sculptures on the property before the tour of Katie’s studio began.


This one made a journey across the ocean in a crate…missed the sculptor’s name.


‘Dandelion’ a kinetic sculpture created by one of Katie’s former students.



Walking to Katie’s studio, we stopped and had fun, listening to Katie’s stories and being present to her larger-than-life energy!

I think this woman is such a role model for us.  She is so full of warmth and has such a generous nature.  And…she says that she writes a lot of reference letters! :0)

Katie Ohe, when speaking of her sculptures, touches them in such a special way and speaks about them in that manner, also.  It is evident that she has a very close relationship with the materials and knows and loves the process of creation in a very intimate way.  I cherish listening to her speak of her art.



Next, we went to Harry’s studio, a treasure trove full of discoveries and large canvases.

Harry is such a gentle and kind man, with such enthusiasm for the vision that has been forming over such a long period of time…a vision and partnership shared between Katie and him.  He is a huge promoter of KOAC and has announced that tickets are available for the next big fundraiser.

Next, the two artists invited us into their home and we sat and snacked and shared a coffee break, while being surrounded by amazing works of art, as well as an extensive collection and library!  Phenomenal!


I will never forget the strength of Katie’s hand wrapped around mine, as I thanked her for the afternoon.  What an amazing woman!

Previous posts…

Art Tour 2013

Poem For Katie Ohe

Katie’s Idea Books

Objects of Affection

Final Stop: The Studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay

Margy and I got caught up chatting with Phillip and bid Anna and him good-bye with hugs before heading over to Weeds Cafe for a Montreal spiced meat sandwich and Italian soda.  It was a pretty nice feeling.  When you go out on a Love Art in Calgary tour, your brain goes “ZING” and you find yourself processing so much great insight…sometimes it’s a good decision to punctuate!  On we raced to the studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay.

P1150856Mark’s studio was magical, but how can it not be when he has such a beautiful way of seeing life and his world.  I think that he is extremely generous and very community centered.  His hands and mind are engaged a lot in terms of visual arts in Calgary and we need to be grateful for people like him.  He generates a lot of chatter.  I really do treasure the fact that we got a window into just a small part of what he does and accomplishes.

P1150816I liked learning about his use of ivory black to mix colour.  I liked that he had a Lucien Freud book perched against a wall. (I am nuts over Lucien Freud’s figurative works.)  I was excited to have him demonstrate his exploration of camera obscura, his connection with Vermeer, his insights after reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.  I felt so excited about his vision around public art and his open concept of public art everywhere.  I had a warm heart as he spoke of his son, the innovative and driven musician who worked alongside his Dad to paint his mother’s eyes on his front yard fence. Generally speaking, his time spent with us was jam-packed and invaluable!

P1150832Mark, impacted personally by the spring flood of last year in Calgary, appears to have not missed a heartbeat, but, with determination and resilience, rebuilt and then some.  He is a hero to our arts community.  A good person.

I’ve written sometimes about the objects of our affection…about how our objects hold memory and such.  In Mark’s studio, I felt that I was surrounded in a blanket of so much love, perception and imagination.  Truly remarkable!  Thank you.

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Love Art in Calgary: Aaron Sidorenko’s Studio

Always a few steps behind the rest of the tour group, I was grateful to be met by a very special door man, young York, as I made my way to his Dad’s studio space.  “Really?  We’re not taking the elevator, York?”  Exhilarating! I climbed several flights of stairs and followed the sounds of voices…the artist already in enthusiastic conversation with the tour group. “Thank you, York.”

Magic!  Pure magic!  I really really really enjoyed getting to visit Aaron Sidorenko’s studio.  Artists’ studios are fascinating places because they hold so many personal objects…they capture the mysteries of technique that has been developing over long periods of time…they contain book collections…they remove some of the mystery.  I felt as though I was stepping into a treasure chest.

I enjoyed bumping into photographer, Jeremy Fokken’s blog…it features some brilliant photographs of Aaron within his space.  Nice to see some professional photographs!  The quality is stunning.  Also, a great resource, Aaron’s website.  Thank you, Aaron, for opening up your studio to us.  I am so happy that when I left, we could all get a ride on the elevator!

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Love Art in Calgary: Carl White at Jarvis Hall Fine Art

Shannon Williamson, Assistant Director of Jarvis Hall Fine Art, introduced us to Carl White.  She was bright eyed and smiling as she explained that this was the last day for the exhibit.  My readers might remember that I had written of the opening event, but this was a wonderful thing to be able to have the artist to ourselves for conversation and inspiration.  I circled Carl like a shark at the opening, but never did get closer than four feet from him…openings are just like that.  This tour was oh-so-much-better!

Some of the topics that Carl White explored during his artist talk were poetry, cursive writing, romanticism, art as layering of skin/flesh, teacher as facilitator and Gnosticism.  It was a thought provoking morning and the conversation certainly informed the work and our experience of the pieces.  Shannon generously pulled out some of Carl’s earlier works that contributed to an even broader context.  Thank you, Carl White, for your time and your thoughts.

Words carried away in my heart as we left the gallery…”Kath, who is your e?”

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Courtesy of Jarvis Hall Fine Art

Courtesy of Jarvis Hall Fine Art


Love Art in Calgary: Thai Le Ngo

The last stop on the second Love Art in Calgary tour was at the home of Wendy Lees.  Similar to house concerts, home exhibition spaces are beginning to crop up around the city.  Wendy is a firm believer in advocating for artists, musicians and people in general and generates so much positivity in terms of the community by opening doors, not only to commercial venues in the city, intimate arts spaces, but also, she opens the doors to her heart.

It was a wonderful thing to meet Thai Le Ngo and her partner, Phil.  Thai shared with the group, a number of stories from her journey as a visual artist and experiences of travel and plein air painting.  I was impressed by her prolific nature and the immediacy of her work.  It was lovely to end the day with a glass of wine and quiet conversation and camaraderie.  Thank you to Wendy Lees for another enlightening art tour!


The Inspiration Studio for our Host, Wendy Lees


Thai Le Ngo


Thai Le Ngo Sketchbooks and Travel Journals


What you give to the world, comes back and graces you.

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Love Art in Calgary Tour: ‘Doing Lunch’

What Art Tour does not include tasty foods and animated conversation?  Wendy Lees made lunch reservations for Muriettas at 200 808 First Street SW.  The group shared such interesting conversation on all matters of concern, from those of a local nature to a global view.  It was so darned exciting…conservation, connection, Tim Horton’s cups, big business, art, spirituality, horses, farming, gophers, mountain climbing, art business, life vision, the marginalized.  A rich and blessed time spent well.

And yes!  You DO see a gin martini there!  So glad that the next gallery was just a walk away!  Good planning, Wendy!

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Love Art in Calgary Tour: Part 3

Rob Mabee of Axis Contemporary Art at Art Central was so hospitable!  What a generous person, in terms of the discussion that he engaged us with around art, Art Central and his history with Axis Contemporary Art.  We were already at Studio C, so it was just a matter of going up a couple of flights of stairs to Axis.  I had formerly walked into this gallery during First Thursday events, but hadn’t ever visited with Rob, so that was really the special aspect of this part of the tour.  There was quite a variety of work from the Axis collection, so that was fun.  Early in April, they will be featuring Verna Vogel’s works.  Once housed in a larger warehouse space downstairs, Rob shared that he enjoys the more intimate and welcoming location and that people feel less intimidated by it.

I think that it’s important for the community to understand that art is accessible…that there is not some prerequisite in terms of knowledge, understanding or experience with art, for every person to enjoy it.  Sometimes art just leaves us speechless and that’s ok too.

Here is an excellent biography about Rob Mabee.  Calgary is so fortunate to have him as an approachable and positive contributor to our art scene.

Taken directly from the article…and I suggest you read it…THIS.

7. Name a Calgarian that you admire and tell us why.  I admire my friend Mike Swanson for the time, energy and total commitment he gives to running the Inn From the Cold program at his church.  Visiting him there made me appreciate him, and all the people like him that make giving-back part of their daily lives.

Thank you, Rob, for your time and your easy manner!  A great part of Wendy Lee’s first Love Art in Calgary Tour!  Axis Contemporary Art is located at #203, 100 7th Ave SW on the second floor.


The Bathers Series by Christine Wignall Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors


A focused group of art explorers!

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Love Art in Calgary Tour: Part 2

Opportunities to Chat about Art, the City, common goals and visions!

Opportunities to chat about art, the city, common goals and visions!

Housed in Art Central and in some jeopardy of being realigned based on recent news of re-development, Studio C/ArtRecruits has been one space that has enjoyed longevity in the sometimes-struggling venue.  While its initial vision was a very exciting one, a number of variables have contributed to the fact that several spaces within the building now sit vacant.

On the positive side, Wendy introduced us to Studio C, a very exciting exhibition space and workshop that has its mission based on developing employability of marginalized individuals through the experience and practice of art.

Directly from their website, this.

Studio C offers an innovative program called ArtRecruits. ArtRecruits provides Calgary’s mental health population with alternative experiences in developing employment skills through the medium of art.

What is the connection between art and employment?

The essential skills needed for employment success include time management, communication, interpersonal skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, planning and the ability to work independently. All of these skills can be developed and practiced through the discipline of art. ArtRecruits is an experiential learning opportunity where people can develop these skills, ones that Calgary employers are specifically seeking.

Thanks to Sage for meeting us at Studio C and sharing enthusiastically about the Studio C vision and walking us through various collaborative art works produced in the warm and practical studio space.  I think that the flow from Gorilla House to Studio C was a natural one as both settings are open to providing opportunities for ALL in the joy of self expression.  An awesome website provides information about various programs and collaborations that are happening.  Currently, a book launch is in the works for Wednesday night at this location.  (9, 100 7 Ave SW – Lower Level) Thanks to Prospect for your vision and to the Government of Canada for funding. 



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Our Fearless Leader

Our Fearless Leader

Visionary, Wendy Lees, Guides us on Her First ‘Love Art in Calgary’ Tour!

I’ve decided to write about Saturday’s ‘magical’ event, led by Wendy Lees, in a few installments, this one being PART ONE.  I am so excited about Wendy’s venture into the art scene and very pleased to discover so much about visual arts in Calgary that I didn’t already know!  I am also so grateful to the various proprietors who have invested time and been open to an intimate tour group moving into their spaces in order to ask some questions and discover new things about art in Calgary. Wendy is one of those soulful individuals who listens to her gut and also manifests positivity around her…so, INDEED, the entire day was a positive one.

PART ONE brought me at 10:30 in the morning to a place I know very well, Rich Theroux’s Gorilla House, located at 1503 15th Ave. SW.  It was an intimate and relaxed venue for us to meet one another and for us to share a cup of coffee and a dreamy piece of coffee cake.  I’m hoping that Wendy will share her recipe!  Felix was there to boot, so I got to enjoy some baby giggles on top of all of the enthusiasm and beautiful art.  The Gorilla House is not simply the home of the LIVE ART battles, but is also a fantastic exhibition space, a collective of studio spaces and a place where artists gather to draw from the model on Thursday nights.  Its diverse purposes makes it one of the unique art spaces in Calgary.

It was great to meet Clover, Jonah, Michelena and Jennifer at this point on the tour. (You can enter and exit on the tour as you wish or need to…turned out I stayed for the entire day!)


Note to self: I need the recipe for this coffee cake.

Straight out of the cookbook.  Thanks, Wendy!  Total Transparency!  lol

Straight out of the cookbook. Thanks, Wendy! Total Transparency! lol



Artist made action figures in the works.


The Rich Theroux Action Figure


A Gorilla House Light Switch in the Works



Gratitude to Wendy for the wonderful beginning…and LOOK!  She researched the parking for the best dealio of the day!  Photographs and all!

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