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Banff Centre announces reopening of Walter Phillips Gallery

"Finding ways to healthfully and viably opens spaces on our campus that support artists and leaders, culture and our community, remains our top priority during this period."
MG3 darkness
Rita McKeough, dig as deep as the darkness (2019). Video still. RITA MCKEOUGH PHOTO

BANFF – The Walter Phillips Gallery will reopen to the public Saturday (Sept. 26) – by appointment only.

Located on the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity's campus, the gallery closed its doors at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, along with the suspension of many of the centre's programs and services. 

Increased measures to ensure safety of visitors and staff will be in place for the reopening. That includes visiting the gallery by appointment, which offers an intimate opportunity to experience its current exhibition – Rita McKeogh's darkness is as deep as the darkness is

"Finding ways to healthfully and viably opens spaces on our campus that support artists and leaders, culture and our community, remains our top priority during this period," said Banff Centre president and CEO Janice Price in a press release. 

"We are thrilled to be taking this first step toward having our beautiful campus facilities open to staff and guests." 

In addition to limiting the number of people allowed in the gallery, social distancing protocols will be in place, increased cleaning, hand sanitizing stations and the requirement to wear a mask in the public indoor space as per the Town of Banff's bylaw. 

McKeough's exhibit has been in place since earlier this year. The installation and performance artist from Calgary incorporates audio, electronics and mechanical objects in her work. 

Her recent work focuses on environmental effects of land development and the industrial extraction of natural resources.

“Rita McKeough has an almost 40 year history with Banff Centre, first exhibiting at Walter Phillips Gallery as part of Installations in 1983," said the Banff Centre's director for visual arts Brandy Dahrouge in a press release. "This early work described a world where humans having depleted the planet’s resources, resurrect ruins underground as the building materials for the future."

In January when the exhibit was first opened, McKeough told the Outlook she wanted to inspire audiences to unpack their place on Earth and think about how their actions affect the world around us. 

“The piece is very much about caring for the land and having empathy for the plants and animals that are affected by developments and extraction,” McKeough said at the time.

“Their [guests] hearts will be full of concern and empathy and connection to the plants and animals and just thinking about what we’re all doing – I’m implicated as well in all this.”

The installation uses video, audio, electronics, performance and sculpture for an immersive journey in the gallery space. McKeough said darkness as a concept is deep and multi-faceted. In her piece, darkness is the Earth itself, shrouded in mystery and brimming with life and history.

“It’s this incredible place where everything comes together,” she said. “It’s dense and it’s wet and it’s layered, its history is immense. There’s something so beautiful about it.”

Many of the set pieces and ideas were created while McKeough was participating in a Banff Centre artist residency program. Her first show at the centre was in 1983 and darkness is as deep as the darkness is is her first solo show at the gallery.

"I think that it’s an opportunity to jump out of living the everyday experience," she said. "It’s something very, very different and I've shared a lived image in my mind of what this environment would be and I’m sharing it.”

Appointments to attend the Walter Phillips Gallery can be made online through the Banff Centre's website

–with files from Chelsea Kemp


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