What’s it Like to be a Volunteer at Medalta?January 24, 2018
sophia bartholomewFebruary 16, 2018
Xanthe sure has got us blushing over here with her very flattering portrayal of Medalta (But perhaps not a great portrayal of bathroom carpeting). We love hearing these first-hand accounts from those who have spent a significant amount of time here – our heritage may start in the early 1900’s, but it continues to materialize in the people who call Medicine Hat home, if for a few months, or what they think is a few months and ends up being a bit more permanent!
Xanthe Isbister is currently the Program Manager and Curator for Travelling Exhibitions at The Esplanade, but her Med Hat roots started within the Medalta walls. We don’t want to give too much away, so read on below.
In 2010 I moved from Winnipeg to Medicine Hat to start my one year residency at Medalta. At the time, the Shaw Centre had just recently been completed and the staff outnumbered residents; Aaron Nelson was the artistic director, Jenn Demke-Lange was the studio manager, Les Manning was busy making work in his studio (for a solo exhibition at the Esplanade), and their first full year artist in residence, Jim Etzkorn. The studio was VERY clean, aside from Jim’s corner (I tease cause I love) and energy permeated the building; it felt like I was going to be apart of something very special.
I lived in the small orange brick house across the street from the Shaw Centre for the first few months of my residency. How do I say this politely… the house was… “interesting”. I still have dreams about the green-carpeted bathroom (original from the 1960’s and don’t you dare drop anything on it, cause it will have to be incinerated). Joking aside, it was so convenient. I walked about twenty-five steps from my studio at the Shaw Centre across the street to the house. Medalta didn’t own it, and I eventually had to move out and into Jim Etzkorn’s basement. His place was a 30-minute bike ride away, and unfortunately I’ve only ever owned a cruiser, which doesn’t lend itself to biking up hills in Medicine Hat.
Little did I know that after my residency I would end up getting my dream job with the City’s Cultural Development Department, buy a house and be a part of our little city’s cultural evolution; a movement focused on the importance of how art and culture impact our everyday lives.
What I’m about to say should probably be left unsaid as my bias should lie with the Esplanade (where I work and it is an amazing place) but maybe it’s a “first love” kind of thing; it’s hard to forget and you always compare. I hold a special place in my heart for Medalta. It is more than an artist residency, it is more than a museum, it is more than a cultural meeting place. There is no other place like it in Canada; Medalta is woven into this community’s history, contributing to its identity. It is special, and if you have visited or been in residence you probably feel the same way about it.
Over the past eight years I’ve been witness to Medalta’s rapid evolution. It has been quite extraordinary, its progress almost unfathomable, but when you have a team of dedicated, ambitious individuals running the place, you get results…you evolve.
Flash forward to 2018. Currently Medalta is in the midst of developing onsite housing for resident artists, which they’ve titled The Artist Lodge. This expansion is a game changer. It will provide an instant community for Medalta residents (no more green-carpeted bathrooms from the 1960’s, no more biking up hills). It will provide the comforts of home, conveniently located on Medalta’s historic site. Artists will be able to live and work together, forming a micro-community within our community.
In order to achieve this goal Medalta has started a campaign to raise funds to complete The Artist Lodge. Ask yourself this: Am I a member? If you’re not, then you should be. So many of us donate to charities around the world, and that’s awesome, but what about nurturing people and places within your own community? Do this by subscribing to a Medalta membership and invite ten of your friends to do the same. And if you see me in person, tell me you subscribed to a membership and I’ll tell you some humorous stories about the orange brick house with the green-carpeted bathroom 😉