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STEP INSIDE: A tour of Habitat for the Arts

Take a tour of Jasper’s Habitat for the Arts with this virtual tour from Marianne Garrah | Supplied photo

So what is at the top of those stairs inside the Library and Cultural Centre’s entrance? 

An impromptu visit can often catch the doors open to all kinds of creativity.

Visitor: Hi, we were just checking out the building. What a beautiful space.

HAB Volunteer: Thank you. Would you like the five minute tour?

Instructor: Excuse me – I just have a question for Marianne. Would it be possible to put the piano in the classroom today and move out the giant white board? Sophi would like to play as part of the arts program. 

HAB Volunteer (obviously Marianne): Not a problem. We will move the white board into the small classroom as soon as I get the clayworks from the small classroom into the kiln – the artists from JPL want their clay art pieces before Christmas. Will be tonight after the clay class.

Visitor: This is quite unexpected to find a space like this in such a small community. 

Marianne: Yes, it is. So to continue our tour, in the big room that the piano will go in you can often find anything from a music night to a poetry gathering to a film. The grid in the ceiling allows us to hang all kinds of tech, screens, projectors and sound equipment.

Tech guy: Excuse me, and welcome to the Habitat for the Arts. I am David, I connect cables, move heavy things and run the media arts component here. I just want to ask Marianne when the classroom will be empty so I can hang the new projector. I can put the new software into the edit suites while I wait for the class to end.

Marianne: Class is over at 5 p.m. but the theatre kids are coming in at 6 p.m. – so maybe the projector can wait another day?

Visitor: Does Jasper have a good theatre community? 

Marianne: It comes and goes. Jasper is a bit of a transient community. If you look over here you can see the cast of The Christmas Carol that was done a few years ago. There were 16 on stage, makeup and costume and stage crews – and over here we have the cast of Cariboo Magi we did the following year. It had a cast of five and even one of those has moved on now. But we had a group of JPL employees up here last week for a team building art evening and got some great interest in the play that we hope to bring to life in the spring. Change is the only constant in the arts.

Clay artist: Marianne – do you know where the mop is? The pottery class is in half an hour and I just want to clean the room up a bit.

Marianne: In room 210 behind the door.

Visitor: You have a pottery room!

Marianne: We do. It is kind of the cherry on top of all the wonderful spaces up here. Besides the big room and the media arts room we have a soundproof booth for music lessons or recording. And in this corner we have the Jasper ClayRoom. As you can see it has overflowed into the small classroom but no one has complained yet. The Jasper Book Club meets on this side of the room, in the big comfy chairs, once a month.

Visitor: Well we should leave you to your work, thank you for the quick tour.

Marianne: Oh you are most welcome – but I don’t work here. This space is run entirely on volunteer power. 

Visitor: Really, so how does that work?

Marianne: Myself and David volunteer through a nonprofit organization we founded in 2009. I have worked in the arts in Jasper since 1992 and David moved into Jasper around 2001. His media arts background seemed like a good match for what I was hoping to do with art and artists. We combined our energies to create a space for people to engage, experience and explore all things art regardless of age or discipline or skill level.

The municipality saw what we were doing and invited us to be part of this new building. We took some arts management education with Grant McEwan and NAIT and the Rosza Foundation and here we are. 

It is year three in this new space and we had more than 1,200 workshop participants last year at more than 100 events and workshops.

We have a core of strong volunteers who assist in keeping the doors open when there are classes or events. Otherwise we continually seek creatives (and volunteers) to come up and teach or share whatever their passion is. 

We believe in the power of the arts in creating community, and know how they enhance the quality of life for those involved or even the audiences.

Visitor: That’s very progressive thinking for a small town. 

Marianne: Yes it is. 

Oh hello, is it time for theatre rehearsal already? Let’s check on the room.

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