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Lac La Biche Art club plans draw on community support

Local club would like to find permanent workplace for workshops and displays

LAC LA BICHE - After displaying their work at many art exhibits showcasing local creative talents over the years, the Lac La Biche Art Club (LLBAC) is looking to solidify its own permanent space to support and promote artists, said club President Sandy Makokis.

In recent years, the profile of the club has been expanding, thanks in part to partnerships between Portage College’s Fine Art Department, J. A Williams High School (JAWS) and local community events, she said. The recent Festival of Trees weekend included a very well-attended club display called ‘the North Art Exhibit and Show’ at the Bold Center.

“This is the first time we’ve done it on this scale..we had 300 people visit in two days. I'm really hoping to make this an annual event and get more of the schools and artists involved in creating an event for northern Alberta.”

The positive feedback and community engagement, said Makokis, is what is pushing her to explore more opportunities for emerging artists through a consistent and permanent space in the community to learn and get creative first.

“Until now, it was just the art shows, but so many people loved it. I would like to have a space where we can conduct workshops, art shows and start to include the community more by bringing the art out of the community,” she told Lakeland This Week.

A permanent space would also help increase membership in the club, which has seen a decline since pandemic measures have restricted gatherings.

Challenges

The art club has been active in the community for more than 50 years. Although over its decades, the club has been responsible for helping to create eye-catching community murals, and stirring the imagination of school-aged students at art displays, the club does have a reputation as being for older people, admits Makokis. And while the club’s  most recent membership includes a large percentage of  senior women who have utilized the group as a means for engaging with one another through a shared common interest, Makokis would like to see a more varied age range. 

“When I joined 10 years ago, it was an old ladies club. When they started they weren’t seniors but they were the only ones. They were mainly interested in getting together and planning art shows, talking about art—not so much getting into lessons or doing workshops,” she said, explaining that a new focus is starting to emerge. “Now, there is definitely a new direction for the art club.”

In recent years, the art club held regular workshops at a local restaurant, creating acrylic paintings and lessons for the community. After that business permanently closed and COVID forced the club's members to work from home, the group's members dwindled from 20 to five, said Makokis. Solidifying a space has become that much more important for the club.

Funding for the club would also benefit from having a physical working space, she said, explaining that as a non-profit organization, it can be difficult to secure funding without a  consistent space to provide programs to community members interested in the club.

“When we have to rent a space and charge people to come, we can’t necessarily guarantee that we’re going to cover expenses. If we had our space—because of the grants that are available—we would be able to put on some workshops that are both lessons and for fun.”

Having their own space instead of renting someone else’s area would also, possibly, let the artists make more of a creative splash, she added, with a laugh.

“Then people could come and I wouldn’t have to worry about messing up someone else's space–because painting can be really messy.”

Join the club

Currently, Makokis and Carmen Elliott—who are both long-time artists—run the group's initiatives, during their spare time, to expand the local art scene and the club. They say new members are always welcome, and can learn from some valuable local artists.

“We really want to have a strong core group so that we can do some serious planning for getting a space and creating activities we can afford … we want to get to a point where we can continue doing things for the community all-year-round and be self-sustaining. I have all these ideas but I need people that know how to put them in motion.”

This January the Lac La Biche Art Club will be hosting their annual general meeting to continue developing the club's future. 

For more information about the club, email laclabicheartclub@yahoo.ca or visit their social media page.