‘When I came out of university, there was that point where [I felt], ‘OK, I don’t really know where to go from here,'” Brittney Roy recalls. “I know how to make art, and I have that conceptual side down, but after that, how do I manage an art career, exactly?”
Which is precisely the sort of gap in education that The Creative Practices Institute is looking to fill: the artist-run space offers artists a mixture of professional development opportunities, studio and presenting space, and the ability brush up with other creators in what could easily feel like a roommate-type scenario. It is, after all, located in a house: there’s a gallery space in what would be a living room; the upstairs bedrooms are studios, with a print studio with a working press downstairs; there’s also a full kitchen.
The Institute was created by Roy and Connor Buchanan—with founding members Nika Blasser, Joseph Doherty, Mo Ossobleh, Sergio Serrano and Bryce Zimmerman—who met in 2014. Roy had been programming at Harcourt House, while Buchanan, having moved to Edmonton from British Columbia, has a master’s in curatorial studies.
“We had the same thoughts about what was lacking in the community,” Roy recalls, sitting in the CPI’s programming space that would, with other tenants, be a dining room. “What artists were looking for as far as professional development and that hands-on experience.”
What they saw as lacking was, essentially, professional development opportunities: not just in artistic practice, but in the business of managing art. Since 2014, CPI’s offered practice-based seminars, speakers and workshops on things like taxes (CARFAC’s partnered with them on a few) and social media marketing—the sorts of important things that somehow don’t get touched on in art school. Those that have booked the studios are CPI’s “creatives in residence,” Roy notes: studios can be booked for up to two years. Presently, they range from a scatter of visual artists to the Alberta Yarn Project; from a band in need of rehearsal space to a high-schooler working on portfolios for post-secondary applications. The institute offers an hour of consulting to all their tenants every month: anything from artistic critique to looking over grant applications.
“Where do you find a class like that that’s specifically geared towards artists?” Roy asks. “If you wanted to, you could do a business course, or a small business. But to have that specific attention towards being an artist, I think that’s really important.”
As for the institute itself: the organizers were looking through various spaces and eventually found a house listed on Kijiji. They hadn’t really considered the house set-up before touring the space, but once they opened the door, Roy notes, it proved ideal.
“There’s lots of benefits [to the house set-up],” she says. “When I was in university, all of our spaces were all in one area, and we were always there, going into each other’s studios, and being like, ‘Hey, I really like what you’re doing with this painting.’
“This is a little different from that: obviously people have dayjobs, and everyone has their own schedules,” she continues. “But when we do have crossover, it is really beneficial to have your eyes open to other work and see what’s happening in your community, because we’re a shrunk-down version of what’s happening in the Edmonton community.”
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