By Nick Kuhl on November 30, 2019.
Start with a lush 12-acre garden, complemented by rustic buildings.
Add the backdrop of southern Alberta’s foothills and Rockies.
Then invite dozens of artists to capture that beauty on a balmy
That’s the magic of the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage,
just east of Nanton. And then the annual En Plein Air art exhibition
of the works they’re inspired to create.
Many Lethbridge-area artists have made good use of that opportunity.
They’ve contributed many of the 144 original works on view downtown
in the James Foster Penny Building on 5 Street South.
Open to all interested, an opening reception is being held there today
from 3 to 5 p.m., with an opportunity to meet many of the artists.
The no-charge show will continue weekdays through Dec. 20.
“The En Plein Air exhibition continues to demonstrate increasing
strength and quality as a group exhibition while attracting new
participants and submissions from southern Alberta and B.C. artists,”
says Jon Oxley, administrative manager of the University of Lethbridge
“The Coutts Centre gardens and buildings keep changing each year, and
the artists keep finding new themes and focus all around its lush 12
Donated to the university in 2011, the Coutts Centre has become “a
living classroom,” he says.
Students, faculty and visitors can make use of the natural setting
over the summer to study the history, artwork, ecosystems and
geography associated with the area.
This year, a record-setting 43 artists contributed the largest number
of works for the exhibition. Many works by Lethbridge artists are
among those available for purchase.
Leila Armstrong, whose wildlife images were featured on Lethbridge
billboards this summer, captured more creatures at the centre. Janice
Wilson has created something like a telephoto scene bringing the
mountains closer to Nanton’s preserved grain elevators.
Karen Brownlee is exhibiting vivid new paintings — and so is her
young grandson, Peyton.
And professional photographer Morton Molyneaux experimented with a
basic Kodak “Brownie” camera, then did his own platinum and
palladium photographic processing, to produce something quite
different from his usual projects.
At the university, meanwhile, longtime new media professor Will Smith
has simulated aerial photos of prairie farmland for a large
installation piece, “On the Other Side of the Barn.”
And Lethbridge-area artist Jim Palmer brought a real-life cellist to
the Coutts Centre to pose for this year’s largest framed work,
depicting a summertime performance.
Many other artistic media are in play, including ceramics to magnify
prairies seed pods, real-life flora as part of a three-dimension
bouquet and a fabric representation of a farm outbuilding.
And highlighting a unique Coutts building, a ceramic model of the
“camera obscura” structure invites the viewer to peer into the silo
Co-sponsored by the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Coutts Centre, this
year’s free “En Plein Air” exhibition will be open weekdays, 9
a.m. to 4:30 p.m., until Dec. 20.
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