January 16th, 2021

Casa continues to cautiously open

By Woodard, Dale on August 22, 2020.

A distancing marker provides the foreground to works on display as part of the Summer Salon multi-artist exhibit which wraps up today at Casa. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

After gradually opening their doors back in June, Casa seeks to continue opening up even more to the public this fall.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shutting its doors in March, the downtown arts facility still managed to keep a busy summer schedule for local artists and students.

“Like everybody else in the province, we had a hard shut down in March when COVID really exploded and as a City facility we closed,” said Suzanne Lint, executive director of the Allied Arts Council. “We began a soft opening in June where we weren’t doors wide open, but we started on a very thoughtful and safe way to let some folks come back into the building.”

First up was the studio access holders at Casa.

“We set up a schedule where rather than having open 24/7 access they are coming in on a much more managed basis,” said Lint. “They book a stretch of time so that we know people are able to social distance in the studios and still get their work done, but be safe. So there is a bit of restriction in their access, but they are back creating work in a safe manner and it also allows us to clean the spaces in between the groups of people coming in.”

In July Casa opened up a little more for its summer class students, although class opportunities were understandably down due to the pandemic from 42 class opportunities to seven.

“Given the restrictions around COVID, we were only able to offer classes to one cohort per week,” said Lint. “Before, we had multiple classes going with lots of flexibility for people to come for a one-and-a-half-hour class or to come all day. So traditionally, we have an extremely flexible, robust education program and COVID certainly had implications for us. But we did have seven weeks of educational programs that were well attended and managed to work with cohorts of kids and let them have the opportunity to learn how to create art. So that has been positive.”

Also on display until today is the Summer Salon exhibition.

Lint said the original plan was to have an exhibition for the Alberta Summer Games, which were to be hosted by Lethbridge this year, before the pandemic bumped the Games to next year.

“So our curator gallery manager, Darcy Logan, put together a Summer Salon project where the community was invited to submit works to be included in an exhibition. It’s an absolutely fabulous exhibition which occupies all the gallery spaces in the building. It is up until (today), that will be its last day. We open that exhibition up during the day when the children are in the building doing education.

“It’s been OK. We’re being very cautious to ensure everybody is safe, but we also understand and appreciate that having people have real live arts experience is really critical.”

Casa recently released its fall guide and is looking to open up a little more, said Lint.

“It’s significantly smaller than normal because, of course, we’re still being very cautious about how we are delivering our education programming so that we are able to keep spaces clean. That is probably the biggest COVID challenge, ensuring our custodial team, which is amazing, is able to get into spaces and clean. We have a smaller, but still broad, program happening this fall for people to come back in and do visual arts.”

Lint said Casa has not activated its performing arts or dance programs yet.

“We are moving cautiously with that, but we are planning exhibitions. There is a new one opening up in September. We have artists coming back in with exhibitions and classes starting up. The hours will expand and we will have more availability for our studio access holders to come in and work. We are slowly, but surely, moving back to opening and hoping everything goes successfully. Then in our next series in January we will be able to open even more.”

In the meantime, all spaces have been laid out so there will be the ability to social distance, said Lint.

“We have limited numbers compared to what we typically do. We are probably able to accommodate about half the number of students that we normally would. There are protocols around making sure students have their own box of materials they use throughout the class.”

For more information on Casa and its fall programs and hours, visit http://www.casalethbridge.ca.

To register for classes, call (403) 327-2272.

Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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