Arts Centre Coffee and Conversation brings art community together for a common cause

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Mindy Yan Miller (Left) talks with fellow artists during the Arts Centre Coffee and Conversation on Tuesday, July 25 at the Prince Albert Arts Centre.

The Prince Albert Arts Centre has a pilot Artist in Residence program going this summer with artist Mindy Yan Miller.

Yan Miller took part in a Coffee and Conversation over the lunch hour on Tuesday, July 25. This casual conversation is a chance for artists and art enthusiasts to get together and discuss local art ideas and interests and included many prominent people from the arts community in Prince Albert.

The conversation was led by Jesse Campbell, who is one of the instigators of the program. Yan Miller led a similar artist talk in June and said there was plenty of positive feedback.

She said the chief topic was how artists deal with being isolated and how they motivate themselves. She said some artists struggle with feeling their work is insignificant and struggle to find the motivation to keep making art.

“Jesse and I came up with some questions for last time that had to do with the challenges really of being an artist in a smaller, more isolated community,” Yan Miller explained.

“It’s something that everyone’s facing no matter what kind of work they’re doing, and also, it’s very challenging,”

The goals of the pilot residency are to determine how artists can be supported in the research, exploration, and creation of work, local artists and communities can be provided with inspiration, new perspectives, and learning opportunities from artists-in-residence and the Prince Albert Arts Centre can grow as a place of artistic creativity, honouring its history as a site for artists to gather, exchange ideas, and be supported through residencies.

The results of the pilot will help determine how a regular artist residency program unfolds at the Arts Centre in the future. Through the program, Yan Miller hopes to help bring the Prince Albert art community back to how vibrant it once was.

“I think it used to be really vibrant. I’m 65, so people that are a bit older than me, I think maybe more around 70, when they were younger, there was an incredible arts community here that was really vibrant and all the guilds were going and tons of people were working in this building here and in other buildings and there were programs at Sask Polytech,” she explained. “They taught weaving and ceramics and there were programs through U of S to. and so it was really active. Lots of people were here teaching and then everything shut down.”

She said that art history courses are starting up again education programs are a good step.

“We’re kind of talking about how to get things going again,” she said. “That’s what we’re hoping.”

The Coffee and Conversation had over a dozen artists and interested parties in attendance and everything from creative ideas to working collaboratively were discussed during the conversation that lasted over an hour.

“We just hope to get more people,” Yan Miller said. “I have been doing studio visits with a lot of people, so that’s been really interesting. For me, I feel really lucky that Jesse Campbell set this up because this is my first time here, other than showing at the Mann, and so it’s a way for me to become introduced to artists here and the community.”

The project is supported by the Prince Albert Council for the Arts in partnership with the City of Prince Albert.

Yan Miller works in installation, sculpture, and performance using hides, clothing, human hair and more. She has an MFA from NSCAD (Halifax) and spends her time between Saskatchewan and Montreal, where she teaches fibres and material practices at Concordia University.

“I’m working often more, I guess, sculpturally really more with installations. The installation has to do more with also utilizing space. But I’ve been working a lot with cow hides since I came to Saskatchewan,” she explained.

Miller came to Saskatchewan in 2010 from Alberta but also spends time in Montreal. She is married to Mann Art Gallery Curator Marcus Miller, who also attended.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Jesse Campbell led the discussion during the Arts Centre Coffee and Conversation on Tuesday, July 25 at the Prince Albert Arts Centre.

“I go back to teach in Montreal during the year, and now I’m coming here in the summer because I don’t have teaching work here,” she explained. “If I had teaching work here I would be here, so I teach in fibres and material practices at Concordia University in Montreal.”

Her work was displayed as part of the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2020

“There are large cow hides of a certain kind of breed of cows and they’re sliced in relation to what is basically a weaving pattern. Then I fed Plexiglas through the hides and then I turn the Plexiglas so it’s upright, so it opens up the cowhide,” she explained.

That work was displayed across the prairies.

“I did five of them but I think in Edmonton they only had three. I also showed them in Estevan and in Montreal but here I did show at the Mann Art Gallery and it was five full-scale bales as if they’re hay bales, but they were made out used clothing,” she explained.

“It has a very kind of sculptural presence It I think relates to the locale too, agriculture.”

Yan Miller said if she could find teaching work in Saskatchewan she would make it a permanent home.

“I love it here,” she said.