Fine fashion for child art appreciation

Art, as a hobby and in the form of collectables, can be something of a fickle and aloof trade. Often glamourized to seem accessible to only the most avid and intellectual connoisseurs, going to an art gallery and mingling with the artistic elite can be daunting and tiresome. Art Gallery of Calgary CEO Valerie Cooper saw the dire need for children to break free from this unnecessary fear of enjoying art with the annual ARTwear fundraiser, the product of the AGC’s child-friendly initiatives.

“We do tours of exhibitions where the guide will talk about technique and the artist,” remarks Cooper. “We also do artists talks where we bring in local artists to talk about their work.”

ARTwear is an annual event raising money for art education programs for Calgary children from kindergarten to grade 12, as well as college and university students studying art. Going into its 7th incarnation, the event has sold out every year since its start in 2002. The success can be partially attributed to a common concern for the education of Calgary youth.

“Before I even started working here I was involved in the gallery as a volunteer,” says Cooper. “My friend and I decided we wanted to raise money to educate kids about art. The next year I was hired as president and CEO.”

The gallery’s programs, geared towards primary and grade school students, are a diverse spectrum of hands-on intensive art education courses, while walking tours are available for secondary and post-secondary students.

ARTwear focuses on a fashion show of wearable art, featuring designs from local boutiques including Primitive, Bloke and a line created exclusively for the event by acclaimed local designer Adejoke Taiwo, who appeared on Project Runway Canada.

The night will also feature a silent auction and a talk from Martha Hart of the Owen Hart Foundation, a major sponsor of the fundraiser.

Focusing on local boutiques both new and established, the night will include a fashion show,\ and trunk sale highlighting artistic designs for the inexperienced fashionista. This year the gallery had its first ever model casting call, hoping to find men and women who reflect the face of Calgary.

“We like to see everyone walk away from the night with something,” says Cooper. “We’re interested in creating an environment where people can see themselves in the clothes . . . I think a lot of times you go to a fashion show and see beautiful designs, but at the same time you’re wondering whether that sort of thing would fly here in Calgary.”

With fine dining, dancing and an opportunity to support local designers and charities, the evening promises to be filled with excitement and glamour. Rest assured, the organizers will continue working hard to show Calgarians that art and fashion can be enjoyed by everyone.

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