There’s plenty to explore at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery (MAG) these days as staff gear up for a busy fall season.
Delving artistically into the complexities of farming, The Farm Show – Seeding, Growing, Harvest continues through to Nov. 13. Initially introduced this past spring and divided into three phases, each exhibition includes unique farming perspectives from Alberta artists. The artworks are infused with personal experience, family history, and cultural beliefs about farming. The ‘Growing’ component, featuring some tremendous photos and more unique pieces of artwork, is on display until Sept. 25 to be followed by ‘Harvest’.
The ‘Growing’ cycle explores the issues of the growth of suburbia over farmland, the impact of the people who work the land and the issues of erosion and growth.
Artists featured in this portion of The Farm Show include Arbour Lake Sghool (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), Pat Matheson, Sherri Chaba, Lyndal Osborne and Dawn Saunders Dahl. Artists with the Arbour Lake Sghool created a run-down shack on the grounds outside the Museum that represents the shrinking of some aspects of the farming industry. It’s an actual dilapidated shack that was taken apart and then rebuilt for the exhibit.
Touching on the theme of agriculture as well, with a focus on a well-known local family is an exhibit entitled James Bower and the United Famers of Alberta which runs through to Oct. 9.
Few families have left a legacy quite like the Bowers (Bower Place, Bower Woods, Bower Ponds, the Bower Floor at the Red Deer Public Library are all of course named in their honour). There is also the Sunnybrook Farm Museum nestled in the heart of the City where they originally homesteaded.
As Lorna Johnson, the MAG’s executive director points out, together with his family James Bower built up one of the most progressive farming operations in the province.
“James Bower was also one of the founding members of the United Farmers of Alberta,” she explains, adding that Bower was typical of many of the early settlers in the Central Alberta region. “Land around Red Deer was purchased by the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company and then sold. So it wasn’t like homesteaders coming and staking their claim and getting a homestead. The people that came were generally entrepreneurs who had money and saw business opportunities here. They bought farmland based on their business plans. James Bower was the perfect example of that.”
Another fascinating look into the City’s history is revealed in Fire! This particular exhibit, which explores fires that changed the look and the landscape of Red Deer, includes artifacts saved from such places as the ‘Castle’, a formidable looking, 64-year-old school which burnt down in 1970.
The grand building was set ablaze by an arsonist.
A number of compelling artifacts from the Sacred Heart Church were also rescued from fire as well and are included in the exhibit. Several artistic renditions of ‘the stations of the cross’ were saved, for example, and still have blackened parts from fire damage.
“They will be left that way because they really are a document of the fire.”
Also on display until Nov. 13 is Farming Out Our Future.
As the exhibit points out, farmers and ranchers – people skilled at producing food – are fast becoming an endangered species. The question of who will own the countryside, live in, care for it or produce food from it is far from settled. Farming Out Our Future explores some of the changes that have had an impact on rural life in Alberta from 1950 to the present.
For more information, call 403-309-8405 or visit www.reddeermuseum.com.