Exhibit explores the fine art of putting a bird on it

· The Pulse

The birdwatching trend kindled by isolation gave people a much-needed distraction during the pandemic, created a wealth of data for researchers, and now has inspired a gallery full of craft art objects.

The Alberta Craft Council's Albirda: Put A Bird On It exhibition features more than 60 pieces from Alberta craft artists, celebrating the winged creatures that captured our imaginations and lifted our spirits during COVID. Originally conceived as a way to aid artists struggling with the loss of markets and revenue, the call for submissions drew interest well beyond the craft guild.

"We've never had a more successful response to a call for entry before. We had hundreds of applications," said Jenna Stanton, executive director of the Alberta Craft Council.

"During COVID, we noticed that there were a lot of people, our artists included, starting to follow the Birds of Alberta page on Facebook and getting more into birding. And so we put out a call for entry that didn't require anyone to be a member of the craft council with a really open theme. We didn't ask for artists' statements or anything like that. We wanted people to feel like they belonged at the craft council and could contribute to being part of an exhibition."

Stanton said the chosen submissions represent a wide range of media from diverse regions of the province. The exhibition runs until Oct. 29 in Edmonton, with an opening reception on Aug. 20. The gallery will also be offering complementary programming alongside the art displays, including guided birdwatching tours around the city.

A bronze sculpture of an owl-headed human; a clay bird wearing a top hat with ribbons on its talons; a little round bird made of paper and wire

Among the pieces on display at Albirda are (clockwise from left) "Guidance" by Teena Dickerson; "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy" by Teresa Johnson; and "The Visitor" by Caitlin Sain Richards. (Supplied)

"We've done birding tours before, when we had the call for entry for the show out," Stanton said. "And we're going to continue to do those during the run of the show, and also do some hands-on workshops with artists, so people can come in and make their own bird in different mediums throughout the run of the exhibition."

The name of the exhibition is a nod to its lighthearted and fun nature, Stanton said. It's one part thematic pun and one part reference to a Portlandia skit that has kept Stanton laughing since she was a grad student studying ceramic design in the UK.

"We thought the pun was funny and added the reference to Portlandia just to really get the idea across that we have a sense of humour. That shows don't always have to be academic. We want to be supportive of craftspeople from different backgrounds, and open to the public as well with an open and friendly theme."

The exhibition is on display at the Alberta Craft Council feature gallery at 10186 106 St. and will move on to Calgary in January. You can shop the exhibition as well.