More than a thousand students to participate Alberta University of the Arts gallery crawl

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On March 8, there will be an unusual spectacle at the Alberta University of the Arts.

Among the hundreds of pieces of art on display Friday at the AUarts Gallery Crawl will be a performance-art piece based on professional wrestling.

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“That is coming from a painting and drawing student, who had never done anything like that before,” says Megan Kirk, an educational arts technician at the university and founder of AUArts Gallery Crawl. “We never know what direction it’s going to go. I believe there will be four or five different performers. Then we have students who will be the announcers and the emcees and the referees. One little idea from one person has now turned into a 15-person team of absolute mayhem.”

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Even as performance art, a showcase of professional wrestling put on by a fine arts student seems well outside the norm at a public arts university. But that is the point of the crawl, which was first held in November 2022. This event will take place Friday, March 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the university. This is the fourth instalment of the event, which takes place in November and March and brings together students from all four academic schools at the university.

Glass technician Lisa Cerr demonstrates glassblowing at the 2023 AUArts Gallery Crawl. Photo by Chris Wedman Photograph. cal

While the crawl is open to the public, the event was founded in part so students at AUarts could mingle with each other and create art outside of their comfort zones.

There has certainly been a substantial buy-in from the student population. More than 500 participated in the first crawl and the number grew substantially in 2023. Kirk says more than 1,100 students will participate on Friday, which is a remarkable turnout given the school has just over 1,200 students.

“(Students) are in their classes for four, five hours a day, sometimes two or three classes within a day,” Kirk says. “So you’re getting to meet a fair amount of people but you’re still stuck within your cohort. If you do painting, you’re in visual art. If you like to do fibre and jewelry, you are with the craft students. While we do have the opportunity for some crossover, I think it’s really easy to get stuck on your floor and your department and your own way of thinking. So I think the really important thing for this event for me, and I think why it has caught on with the students, is that this really forces you to participate head-down, feet-on-the-ground running as fast as you can. You have a limited amount of time to say ‘I want to do this. Are you interested? Let’s do it together.’ Or you can walk through the gallery crawl and see something you never thought of before because you’ve wandered to a corner of the school you didn’t even know was there.”

The university has 16 permanent, student-curated gallery spaces, with two that are run by the school’s student association and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. On Friday, all five floors of the building will be open to the public free of charge. The students will be showing work in the galleries but will also be holding pop-up galleries throughout the school.

The AUArts Gallery Crawl will be held Friday, March 8 from  5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at The Alberta University of the Arts.

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