Alexis Marie Chute creates artistic oasis in Stony Plain
By Paula Kirman
As the darkest days of the year approach, Eternal Summer has come to the Multicultural Heritage Centre Public Art Gallery in Stony Plain, thanks to the imagination of curator Alexis Marie Chute.
"The whole idea is during the coldest month of the year, you can come and get some creative vitamin D from the gallery," Chute told Taproot. "It's going to be like a Midsummer Night's Dream feeling. We've got a little fountain with floating lily pads and little nests with birds and things."
The show, which opened on Dec. 12, features the work of 17 artists alongside herbarium specimens from a group of organic master gardener students. An opening reception is set for Dec. 20.
"For me as a curator, I feel like I'm transitioning into this beautiful new experimental stage where I'm really trying to create an immersive environment for people," Chute said. "So they come in, and it's not just the art, but it's the whole atmosphere that they can soak in and feel like every little detail was thought through and brings the art to life. It's all about the art at the end of the day, but creating an environment for the artwork so that (they're) more than just paintings on a wall."
Eternal Summer is the latest in a long line of immersive and unique exhibits the Edmonton-based writer, photographer, filmmaker, and artist has brought to the rural gallery since she became curator in January 2020.
"It was just a natural fit from the beginning and I felt at home and I feel like the mandate of the gallery here is something that inspires me," she said. "We have a huge passion here for showing local artists, but also to show that Stony Plain is such an interesting place."
Chute's vision helped her keep art happening at the gallery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began shortly after she took the job. By hanging art in the gallery and taking photos and video, she created virtual exhibitions such as Powerful Profiles: Black Women Painters, co-curated with Serena Saunders; Nitssaakita'paispinnaan: We Are Still In Control, featuring three contemporary Blackfoot artists; and Body Beautiful, which celebrated "wrinkles and hair loss, and the roly-poly beautiful folds of real skin — not the sort of thing we see in typical media."
Some of Chute's videos for the Multicultural Heritage Centre have amassed thousands of views and put Stony Plain on the international stage. "So many of the initiatives that I tried during the pandemic were wonderfully inspiring and brought people together, and it helped keep the arts alive, not only just in Stony Plain," Chute said.