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.