BANFF – Art tells a story.
Jacqueline Bell, curator at the Walter Phillips Gallery is excited to highlight the stories uncovered by artist Deanna Bowen, whose exhibit, A Harlem Nocturne, focuses on the histories of Black experience in Canada. The exhibit was curated by Kimberly Phillips and organized and circulated by the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.
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“This exhibition exhibits many important histories to look at with a really critical lens and also allows us to go through what forms of systemic racism are present in our contemporary lives,” said Bell.
“It speaks to the experiences of systemic racism that many of these individuals [featured in the gallery] were subject to.”
The exhibit is comprised of recovered civic documents, newspaper clippings and numerous personal and organizational archives, many of them part of Bowen’s family – who were part of the Canadian entertainment community from the 1940s through the ’70s in Vancouver.
The solo exhibition was installed in May and opened to a unique kind of virtual tour. Rather than a recorded tour or 3D imagery of the space, the gallery offered guests a one-on-one personal tour via Zoom.
The 30-minute tours are led by gallery assistant, Zoe Yang – who guides guests around the space using a mobile device attached to a handheld gimble while explaining each piece at the guests' pace.
“It’s very intimate because it is a one-on-one tour. I can provide a lot of context to the exhibit, which is important because it delves into some difficult subject matter, and it is such complex work,” said Yang.
With the latest ease of public health restrictions, the gallery was once again able to welcome visitors to the galley space on Friday (June 18).
“We are thrilled to be allowed to reopen, especially to share this exhibit with visitors in person,” said Bell.
The exhibit features several multi-media works, which Bell said can only be viewed in their entirety in-person. Despite the gallery reopening to visitors, the virtual tours will continue thanks in part to their success but also due to the number of people the gallery can reach through an online presence.
“Looking into the future for future exhibitions we are hopeful that we will be able to continue the virtual tours. It’s so important for us to connect with audiences in person but at the same time we’re also trying to engage with the public across the country, and these tours help us to do that.”
A Harlem Nocturne will be on display at the Walter Phillips gallery until July 18, and virtual tours will run on Thursdays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. hosted through Zoom.
Bell recommends in-person visitors pre-book a time slot to view the exhibit on Fridays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., as the gallery space will have a capacity limit of five people.
Visit banffcentre.ca/deanna-bowen-a-Harlem-Nocturne to register for a virtual or in-person tour.