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EAGM welcomes new curator/director

Amber Andersen isn't about to rock boats and make radical changes at the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (EAGM) but she does intend to make her imprint as the gallery's new curator/director.

Amber Andersen isn't about to rock boats and make radical changes at the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (EAGM) but she does intend to make her imprint as the gallery's new curator/director.

Andersen has been hired by the EAGM's board of directors to take over following the departure of Griffin Aaron Baker who has accepted a similar position with the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert.

"I grew up on a farm northeast of Brandon, attended the University of Regina where I received my bachelor of fine arts degree in visual arts, then completed a master of fine arts degree at York University in Toronto," she said, outlining her academic background.

Her work at York was completed in 2005 and she returned to Manitoba to accept a couple of summer positions at the Gallery at Wasagaming in Clear Lake National Park. Her other seasonal job was with the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in 2007 where she served as art educator, moving up to the position of exhibit curator for exhibitions and education in 2008.

"I then left the art world for awhile, completed a course in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), but I discovered I really wanted to stay in the arts, so I heard this position was opening up so applied for it and got it," she said with a laugh.

Andersen enters the picture in a good position. The exhibit schedule that had been established by Baker is set until the end of 2012, so Andersen will be putting her touches to each exhibit by checking with the various artists as their time in the gallery gets closer, and she will be booking exhibits for 2013.

"There are lots of challenges when you enter a new job in a community you've never been in before, so I'll see what is acceptable and enjoyable for the local residents in this area," she said.

The first thing she discovered was that the tight housing situation in the Energy City was no rumour, it was fact.
"I finally found some housing, beginning in August. I never realized how hard it was going to be to find a place to live here," she added with a smile.

Andersen said the chosen medium for her own work is print making and drawing and she was just getting back into it in a serious way before the Estevan job opened. Now it's on the back burner again as she devotes her energy to the new job.

"I expect to focus a lot on writing. It's one of the curatorial practices and I can bring some of that to the gallery by working on some catalogues and related things," she said. "That could prove to be good for the gallery down the road. I also want to extend the outreach program, take the gallery to the community. Cheryl (Andrist, curator/director prior to Baker's arrival) and Griff it seems did great work at making structural changes within the gallery and helped the board with fundraising so anything I can do to make the gallery more accessible to the community will be my goal."

Andersen said one challenge for the gallery is its location. The facility is quite visible on the city's main thoroughfare, but since the vehicles are well up to speed when they pass by, there is a sense that the EAGM needs something to compel them to slow down, look, and maybe drop in for a better look inside.

"The traffic that goes by here is huge, but they're not dwaddling and I want to make more people aware of what the gallery offers, so that means getting out into the community," she said.

"I am learning about the transient nature of the population, so the gallery is new to a lot of people even though it's been here for years. We have some excellent exhibits lined up including one by Clint Neufeld from Osler, Saskatchewan who has re-created vintage vehicle parts in ceramics. You can see a classic Ford flathead in a new perspective," she said with a laugh. Andersen is hoping to get some local interest outside of the traditional sponsors for this exhibit that begins July 22 with an artist's reception at 7 p.m. She said the local antique auto club or even the Estevan Motor Speedway crews might be interested in this exhibit and event.

"I understand this is a community that likes its vehicles," she said, indicating that she's catching on pretty quickly even though she's been on the job less than a month.

Andersen is joining the gallery's educator Karly Millions who is continuing in that role while summer internships are being filled by Amanda Olsen, who is returning for her second year as she pursues a degree at the University of Regina, and Megan Smeltzer, who is joining the staff this summer, following her year of studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

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