Date Night offers virtual travel experience

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A photograph of Genius Loci, an installation by artists involved in Red Earth. This photo shows a circle made out of woven branches, through which a tree and a building are visible. Dunlop Art Gallery

Dunlop Art Gallery connects people through art

For those looking for a fun way to connect with friends and family, the Dunlop Art Gallery is offering a monthly free event, Date Night, which takes place next on March 26 at 7 p.m. online.

“If you have nothing to do on a Friday night (due to the pandemic), there’s this idea of travel in our Date Nights. We try to pull artists or art works that are from around the world,” said Sarah Pitman, an education assistant with the Dunlop Art Gallery.

In October, the first Date Night the gallery hosted had 27 participants. In January, there were 56.

People who sign up for the event don’t have to live in Regina or Saskatchewan. Organizers say it’s hard to determine where people come from because the gallery doesn’t keep track of those details. The gallery wants to keep people’s identities anonymous to ensure confidentiality and to encourage honest feedback in the art critique sessions.

The participants study and discuss 10 to 15 art pieces relating to a particular theme. This month’s theme focuses on land or environmental artwork. Artists will include Andres Amador, Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Nils Udo.

American artist Nancy Holt took three years and multiple trips to the Utah and Nevada desert to complete her definitive work “Sun Tunnels in 1976. Critics say her Dutch partner, Robert Smithson, overshadowed her career until his sudden death in 1973. Smithson is best known for his work “Broken Circle/Spiral Hill”. This month’s Date Night will examine pieces from this couple.

In the first program, participants learned about the elements of principles of design, like complementary colours. Participants also learned some of the language commonly used in critiquing art. Pitman would give examples of artwork that demonstrate each of these elements.

“I’d say ‘I’m seeing a lot of complementary colors in this artwork, and that really makes things pop.’ So I try to help give them the language before they need to use it,” she said.

She reviews these basic principles of design so the participants will be able to recognize and notice these elements in the artworks being discussed. In each of the sessions, she gives some background information relating to the artist and the artwork. Then, she asks the participants for their feedback.

“What do you like or dislike about this artwork? What do you see in this artwork? What do you think this artwork is trying to represent?” she asks. 

However, participants do not have to speak if they don’t feel like it. There’s no pressure to speak during the class. People can sip from their glass of wine or juice while immersing themselves in the Date Night experience. People who do want to share their thoughts are welcome.

“If you’re really yearning for that discussion and you want to participate and talk with other people and share your opinion, you’re welcome to do that.” 

Pitman’s favourite part of the evenings is when people share about their stories relating to artwork. 

“It’s really nice to see folks engaging with these artworks,” she said.

A couple shared their story about their observations of a Spanish building. In particular, they were fascinated by how the way the light hit the building. That building was Case Batlló, which was considered as one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces.

According to Wikipedia, Casa Batlló is a building in the heart of Barcelona. The locals called the building Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) because of its visceral, skeletal and organic quality. It is part of a row of houses known as the Illa de la Discòrdia (or Mansana de la Discòrdia, the “Block of Discord”). This house was constructed in Art Nouveau or Modernisme style.

The couple had stayed in a hotel across the street from this building. They marvelled at the way the sun rose and set on this building and how in the morning, when the sunlight hit the windows, it just “sparkled.”

“They would just sit and watch this building because it was so magnificent in the changing light,” said Pitman.

In the past, when the gallery held art history events, there was not much in-person attendance. Organizers brainstormed ways to get families to gather virtually and connect through art.

“We revisited this idea of looking into different historical artworks that are contemporary,” she said.

And that’s how the idea for Date Nights was born.

These events are one way people can virtually escape their daily lives by seeing the world through artwork. 

“We all have this urge to get outside, to move, to travel, to see places. I think this program brings a little bit of that spirit to that as well,” said Pitman. 

Even though the event is called Date Night, it is open to anyone. It’s not just for romantic couples. It could include friends, relatives or partners. Or, people can attend by themselves, too. People are encouraged to share the Zoom link for others to join the event.

“So there’s really no restrictions on it. We just want folks to be able to connect with their community. That’s why we open it up for them to invite whoever they think would enjoy that program with them.” 

Although Pitman would prefer to hold these events in person, she is happy to see people gathering virtually with their friends or family to immerse themselves in art for an hour. 

“We’ve had a couple of times where folks have been on one camera, and it’s a full table,” she said.

To register for the next Date Night, visit https://www.reginalibrary.ca/register

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