Kelowna artists get to the heART of the matter with week-long show

Carrie Harper, owner of heART school on Bernard Avenue, has a special show celebrating our love of paper which just mind help residents of Kelowna show their love about town. - Jennifer Smith
Carrie Harper, owner of heART school on Bernard Avenue, has a special show celebrating our love of paper which just mind help residents of Kelowna show their love about town.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

If Valentines Day has your stomach in knots over finding the perfect gift, the heART school on Bernard Avenue has the event to solve the problem.

All week long the small business, an artist collective-style workspace on Bernard Avenue, is hosting a show celebrating our love of paper and offering totally unique gifts or Valentines for $2 to $200.

"We all have a relationship, or almost romance, with paper and it can carry a lot of meaning for us," said heART school owner and show curator Carrie Harper, whose dreamt of doing the exhibition for 20 years.

The show is hung as a series of paper artworks pinned up on lines traversing the second-floor studio space. Once a bank, Harper and her crew renovated the heritage building to accommodate creative workshop and concert space last winter and opened the doors in April.

Whether one sees a clothesline of creative treasures in this show or Valentines strung like prayer flags, it's certain "heART works on paper" will lift the spirits of lovers all over town, just as the school has opened up a caring community for many of the artists it showcases.

"Valentines is the one holiday of the year that is pretty much all about paper love letters and little themed cards. It just has such nostalgia to it," said Harper, who admits she was a solitary type before the school unfolded.

The business has given her a place to work with like-minded friends and its shows provide the community with an obvious way to get behind the many creative souls trying to earn a living from their art.

While Hallmark may make billions on Friday, the ten locals featured—Jessica Balfour, Katie Brennan, Christina Knittle, Trina Ganson, Jolene Mackie, Jackie Poirier, Liz Ranney, Dillion Ranney, Sean Larson and Harper—will each take home a payment should their work sell.

"This shows people that art is affordable and that you can find original artworks that are of quality, for a reasonable pocket price, right here in our own community," said Ganson.

The printmaker sees paper as the tie that binds in everything she does.

"My small obsession with paper is the tactility of it, just the feel, the texture, the versatility of the product," she said.

At times, it's the paper that really makes a piece, like the lacy feel of a doily she incorporates, and at other times it's simply the medium, as it is in the prints of her copper-plate etchings.

In both cases, it's critical, just as it is key to the business Harper has put her whole heart into.

"There's eight of us working in here and it's just so amazing when everybody is in their studio and we come together," she said.

Last month, when the Twisted Tomato burned down next door, Harper had a chance to reflect on how much this community means.

Hanging on the walls of the main studio was an absolutely irreplaceable show by an artist for whom the event was a bucket-list wish.

Harper is a spiritual person and this is evident in her work, which generally encapsulates feeling and emotion as much as it highlights the amazing beauty she is surrounded by. Had fire wiped out the business, her baby, just nine months after the doors opened, she says she could have accepted its fate, noting everything has a season. But losing the show in question would have been devastating.

The flames came so close to the building there are now soot marks in the bathroom and on the stoop as one starts up the stairs to the school. Thanks to the Kelowna Fire Department, she escaped with just a rough night's sleep and will go on hosting workshops with artists like Marijanel Knight, a potter from Peachland who takes home each participant's piece and hand-fires it in her kiln.

Harper's intention-setting classes each January will continue to collect groups of creatives who want to set their intentions for the year on canvass.

Each winter solstice Harper says a word seems to come to her that describes her intentions for the year. In 2012, her word was "commune" and she created a community of artists in the downtown core the likes and style of which Kelowna has not seen to date.

For 2013 her word is "better" and, while the year has yet to reveal what this means for her, she is certainly starting off on the right foot.

"For artists, paper is almost this place where we work our ideas out leading up to the finished product," she said.

It remains to be seen where the heART school will go this year, but one thing is for certain. There are many shows and concerts in which the artists will work that out.

The heART works on paper show runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 11, 12 and 13 at heART school. Admission is $2. A reception will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13; admission is $2 and drinks $2 each.

HeART school is located at #5 375 Bernard Avenue.

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