These Places We Built

By Alexandre Pépin, Exhibit Production Assistant


Every artwork needs a space to exist, to be experienced. As a production technician intern at The Works Art and Design Festival, I worked with a team of other artists to create spaces for various artworks to be displayed. Building up these white gallery spaces required knowledge, effort, energy and commitment. These often long, exhausting installations got me to start thinking more about the important role these white, almost invisible gallery spaces play in the artistic practice.

I love the generic nature of this space.  The presence of lights, of masking-taped and drawn lines and of patched and cleaned walls indicates that everything is ready to be experienced but the art. In the absence of art, the space emphasizes the purest form of artistic regulation, informing any viewer that what was there or will be there is art—regardless of what will actually happen to the space. This context begs the question: Does the value of art lie in its presentation–the strategies we use to elevate art–or in the work itself?

As both an artist and a production technician, I found the experience of building a space to be very similar to the process of creating an artwork. If many artists are finding inspiration directly from what is in their studio, I wonder how important the hidden aspects of gallery norms influence an artist’s work.


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Volunteering at The Works

By Vanessa Mastronardi, Curatorial Coordinator


I really believe that one of the most important things that The Works gives to its volunteers is the opportunity to lead public tours around the city to talk about our art exhibits. If you’re a person who isn’t in the midst of a fine arts degree, or heavily involved in the city’s art community, it can be really daunting to find a venue to think and talk about art. The Works Training in Art program (TART) empowers individuals who have an interest in art to take on a facilitator’s role in engaging with the public about work in the festival. There are no prerequisites needed in order to become a tour guide, you just need to be interested and attend the orientations.

Personally, I can be pretty shy when it comes to public speaking, so I was surprised at how many volunteers jumped at the idea of leading tours. Then again, I surround myself with other fine art students and spend an absurd amount of time talking about art. It made me realize the need for people who aren’t in my position to have a space to have the same important experiences. There are 39 tours throughout the festival, and almost all of them were filled with volunteers guiding. It was so exciting to here about different conversations and even healthy arguments that happened during these tours.

I hope that the tours helped volunteers to realize that conversations with strangers about art can create realizations in both parties that neither would have come to on their own. Maybe next time we won’t whisper to each other about our opinions in the art gallery so that the people around us won’t hear; instead, we’ll challenge each other and end up with conclusions we hadn’t expected.

Find out more about volunteering at The Works here:

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The Conversation of Art

By Nathan Levasseur

imagePhoto: Sara French as Reena Smith at Buying and Selling

The Works to Work Internship has given me the opportunity to meet and work alongside professional artists, both local and national, up and coming artists, students, volunteers and the public.

During the internship I was fortunate enough to discuss many topics including systematic oppression, Canadian colonialism, male privilege, power and hierarchy both pre and during festival. The pre-festival discussions were facilitated by Stephanie Bailey and ran through May for four hours a day. During this time our group had many class discussions and workshops, some facilitated by artists, the most notable being Dawn Marie Marchand. Marchand discussed pan-indigenizing, Canadian colonialism, residential schools and multi-generational violence. I found the discussion to be very positive and I hope to engage in more discussion and become more active in community.

 During festival I had positive conversations with performance artist Reena Smith and my supervisor Olivia Chow. Reena and I discussed alternative housing styles and personal fulfillment through ‘home’ and space. Her exhibit, Buying and Selling,  in collaboration with the Department of Unusual Certainties (DoUC) provides insight into these themes. Olivia and I discussed gender and performance through video and installation. This conversation was sparked by Tony Olivares’ performance at The Works Gala.

 In conclusion it was the people I met, the relationships I formed, the discussions and the sharing of information that made the internship meaningful.

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On the Politics of Festival Design

by Ali Louwagie, Production Assistant


A couple of years ago the layout of The Works Art & Design Festival changed in order to separate the art market vendors from exhibiting feature artists, raising the question of where the line lies, if it exists at all, between the two.  Oddly enough, it was my landlord who first asked me this one evening as he was fixing a pipe that had burst in the basement. Amidst sodden towels and dripping ceiling tiles, I found that I could only explain my own opinion of why a line should be drawn.

As an artist I often receive feedback based on marketability; whether a viewer approves or disapproves of my work is oftentimes communicated by a remark of “I would buy that” or “That would never sell”.   There is an expectation that art is a product to be bought and sold, perpetuating a perceived value in the demand of consumers.  Highlighting exhibits like Matthew Walker’s Device for the Emancipation of Landscape and Sara French’s Buying and Selling encourages the public to interact with work that challenges these expectations.

My general impression is that the former layout of the square seems to have been popular among the attending public, with Churchill Square resembling something more of a market place in comparison to the current layout.  I recognize the appeal of wandering about and perusing stalls; however, I am of the opinion that one’s experience with artwork should be greater than a simple appraisal of commodity. This is where the line was drawn, where the value lies in seeing and experiencing the work instead of  “I would buy that”.

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Why Edmonton?

By Lucille Frost, Marketing Coordinator

This is a question many locals ask themselves while they bear through the long cold months of winter and one that I have answered many times in the years I have lived here. The feeling of triumph every spring when the city blooms back to life and the bleak grey sky transforms to the kaleidoscope of color. I choose to stay in Edmonton because of the way the sky and the city transform itself into living art every year, this is what I draw my creative inspiration from. Without the stark contrast in the seasons I would not be able to appreciate the transformation for its brevity and for its sublime power.

As an artist I find myself bonded to this meeting of sky and land, to the proportions of our horizons. When I have traveled and returned I find that I must reacclimatize to the overwhelming size of the sky stretching above, to the vast expanses of this intangible beauty that is always evolving. I fall in love with the combination of color and form that are created in the sky-scape, I fall in love and moments later the masterpiece I adore has drifted away and a new composition sits before me. The way the sky decorates our city is one of the things I love most about Edmonton being the home to The Works Festival, it is like having a performance piece constantly transitioning over the festival and engaging an experience entirely unique to this place and time. 

Behind-the-Scenes with a Production Intern

By Kaida Kobylka, Production Assistant

This summer, my main job as a production assistant was to make sure nobody noticed the immense effort that goes on in the months and intense weeks prior to the beginning of Festival. Throughout May and June, we spent long days making sure that our work was never seen at all. When I was a member of the public, I never gave a thought to how the walls in the big tent were raised, how each room was measured out to fit the artwork hanging in it, or even how the walls themselves were constructed. I never noticed the wiring that was hidden throughout the big tent to light the exhibits, or that there are a completely different kind of walls that stand differently in other venues, like city hall. I never thought that somebody was behind-the-scenes building and painting and placing about 70 stanchions (which have the same purpose of pylons) around the square. But that is all a production intern’s job: to make sure that people never even think about how the art got to the venues and how it is hanging there.

When I was a member of the public last year, of course I never noticed the production team’s efforts, but I also missed something else—the artists who are present on the square. Many artists help set up their exhibits and assist the volunteers during the festival to explain it. Some artists are even there every single day! I applaud the commitment displayed by the artists and I really admire all their efforts. Now, as an intern, I see everything at the festival, and it only makes it more amazing in my eyes.

Dawn Marie Marchand at The Works: a place to hang your stories

By Cassandra Northrup, Marketing Assistant


Details: Photograph of St. Paul’s Residential School in Cardston, Alberta

This year The Works Art & Design Festival is displaying 51 exhibits. One of the exhibits that I am especially interested in is an installation by Dawn Marie Marchand titled a place to hang your stories.

Marchand’s installation is an extension of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is offering an opportunity for those affected by Alberta’s Indian Residential Schools to have their voices heard. As you walk through the installation, you see paper tiles all along the walls that hold the stories and experiences of survivors and family of survivors of the Residential Schools. There is an area of Marchand’s installation where a child sized desk is set up. This desk is meant to represent just how small the Aboriginal children were when they were taken from their homes and sent to the schools. There is also a section of the installation that has a blackboard for those who have experienced Marchand’s work to be able to express how it makes them feel or to write about their own stories related to the Residential Schools. With her installation, Marchand is aiming to raise awareness about the systemic oppression that occurred for hundreds of years and plays such a big part in Canada’s history. She is hoping that her installation will provide a kind of healing for those who have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Residential Schools.

I know that Marchand’s installation will be sure to get people talking, so I am interested to see what sort of impact will take place on the patrons who visit her installation. 

Marchand’s installation can be found in the Big Tent on Churchill Square. Find out more here:

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A Sneak Peak into the Life of a Design Assistant

By Bianca Ho, Design Assistant


My reasons for wanting to join The Works stemmed from my interest in fine arts, desire to actively design throughout the summer, and the need for practical design experience. I felt it was a good way to place myself in an unfamiliar environment and learn to interact and work with others through design. There are numerous things that school has prepared me for, but there are also as many things that school could not. In school, I have been taught how to think conceptually and apply technical skills, but the opportunity of working with non-designers or variety of departments are rare or non-existent. Moreover, instructors can simulate projects and deadlines for students in the classroom setting, but a deadline in the professional design world is not the same.

I knew I was not completely prepared for the intense workload, especially the festival guide and media kit, but I am not sure if there has ever been a time I felt that way. It was my first time having to work with written content that I had not prepared. At first, the anxious feeling of waiting upon others before I could do my job was nerve-racking. Later on, I learned to accept the situation, relax, and trust my co-workers. The festival guide and media kit are not novel features to The Works Festival. Despite the unavoidable setbacks, these deliverables had been completed in previous years and I knew that this year would be no different. There were definitely times when I doubted my abilities. Thankfully, I had experienced and supportive staff around me to lead me.

The best part comes after the design work is done and a physical copy is in my hands. Time after time, I don’t think the feeling ever changes. It doesn’t matter how miserable, unconfident, or tired I may have felt before, the final product is always rewarding. It was terrifying to be working on a project that I didn’t completely understand, but I think that the only way to understand it was just to do it.

Check out our Festival Guide here:

Photo Credit: Bianca Ho

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Media Launch at The Works

By Kristin Watt, Marketing Assistant


Media Launch: Works staff participate in Françoise Thibault’s I See You, which will be displayed on Churchill Square (June 19-July 1, 2014)!

As part of the marketing team at The Works Art & Design Festival, I participated in all the long hard hours that went into the preparation of the Media Launch which took place on June 2nd at the Matrix Hotel. The media launch had a great turn-out with a lot of support from the media, volunteers, staff, and vendors. The production and curatorial staff set-up some art work for display, giving media a glimpse into all the amazing work that will be shown at this year’s Festival. (You can it out for yourself in our Festival Guide: Meanwhile, the marketing team and I confirmed the media contacts for the event, built the media kits, and welcomed and thanked all who attended the launch. As in previous years, the cartoonist and illustrator, Gerry Rasmussen, captured the event and everyone who attended in his signature humourful style.

Last weekend we also took part in the Pride parade by handing out our festival guides and postering the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Saturday “poster blitz” was a great way to kick off Festival season! For the weeks to come, I will be focusing more on Festival special events, which includes collecting contracts from artists for our main stage–The Works Street Stage. The opportunity to be in contact with so many interesting performing artists is a fantastic experience, and I look forward to working with them as I assist with coordinating the stage activities during Festival.

June 19 - July 1: Music and performances from noon-9:30PM on Churchill Square. For a full schedule, check out our Festival Guide or!

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