SPARK Exhibitions

For the 2017 festival SPARK curated a series of five visual art exhibits across Calgary, each exploring themes of Art & Disability from a variety of perspectives and in all media. Of the 176 submissions received, the Festival featured 111 pieces from artists pan-disability representing Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom:

  • SPARK: ACAD Main Mall (Lower Level) | 1407 14th Avenue NW, Calgary AB | Nov. 27 - Dec. 1

  • SPARK: Arts Commons (Tiny Galleries) | 205 8th Avenue SE, Calgary AB | Nov. 27 - Dec. 8

  • SPARK: cSPACE King Edward (Main Level Gallery) | 1721 29th Avenue SW, Calgary AB | Nov. 27 - Dec. 8

  • SPARK: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (Lower Gallery) | 1415 14th Avenue NW, Calgary AB | Dec. 1 - Jan. 15

  • SPARK: Studio C | #235, 1721 29th Avenue SW, Calgary AB | Nov. 27 - Dec. 1

The Festival was curated by Colin Menzies, Daniel Cristini and Roxanne Taylor, with special thanks to the Jury Committee: Alisha Marie, Carrie Brummer and Will Copps.

SPARK Satellite Exhibitions

In addition to SPARK's juried exhibitions, the 2017 Festival included an exciting lineup of satellite art shows presented in partnership with the University of Calgary, including student work on display in the Sculpture Gallery on the theme Adapt... Ability... Disability. At Nickle Galleries (located on the University campus in the Taylor Family Digital Library), a significant retrospective exhibition RAGE HOPE addressed the theme of mental wellness and featured the work of Edmonton artist Richard Boulet. Boulet’s artworks included highly crafted textiles, text-based art, drawings and artist books created pre and post his diagnosis with Schizophrenia. These works ranged from large‐scale wall hangings to intimate cross-stitch and collaborative book‐works spanning almost thirty years. Estimated attendance for Boulet's exhibition—including an artist talk, reception and relaxed reception for individuals with sensory challenges—exceeded 2100 guests. An illustrated catalogue with a curatorial essay and several public programs further helped to contextualize Boulet’s artwork in the fields of disability arts, social practice, cripping and contemporary art. Details about RAGE HOPE and Adapt...Ability...Disability below.

  • Adapt... Ability... Disability | Sculpture was displayed in the Sculpture Gallery and public spaces throughout the Department of Art, 6th floor Arts Parkade, University of Calgary, 2975 University Way NW | Nov. 27 - Dec. 1

  • Richard Boulet - RAGE HOPE | Nickle Galleries, TFDL, University of Calgary, 410 University Court NW | Oct. 6 - Dec. 16


At Arts Commons, SPARK was pleased to promote the exhibition Recognition... Validation... Reassurance featured in the Lightbox Studio in conjunction with artist Dick Averns' neon sculpture (titled the same). As a public art project Recognition… Validation… Reassurance…  Art + Mental Wellness adopted the form of a social practice, presenting a prototype framework to improve both personal and collective mental health. The title for this initiative appeared as a kinetic neon sculpture which acted as an alluring, rhythmic, illuminating beacon, suggesting ways to address topics that are at times hard to speak about. Specifically, recognition, validation and reassurance were considered keys to ‘belonging’ in that they are social processes that address the invisibility and feelings of isolation that so often accompany mental distress. The exhibition space also included an evolving display of artwork generated through community workshops: collage, drawings and text-based art were exhibited comprising personalized depictions fostering mental wellness.

  • Recognition... Validation... Reassurance | Lightbox Studio, Arts Commons, 205 8th Avenue SE, Calgary AB | Nov. 3 - Jan. 2


In collaboration with the Alberta College of Art + Design, SPARK was pleased to promote the ACADSA Hear/d Residency, a pilot project developed by the ACAD Students’ Association. The residency had its own central theme of resilience, relating to the journey of mental health issues currently experienced by many post-secondary students. Drawing on this theme, the Hear/d Residency program invited participants to explore concerns that affect post-secondary students in a creative and innovative way. Artistic outcomes were exhibited alongside SPARK artwork the week of November 27 - December 1 (full exhibition dates below) with a joint reception hosted at ACAD November 30.

  • Life Jacket - a product of the Hear/d Residency program | ACAD Main Mall (Upper Level), 1407 14th Avenue NW, Calgary AB | Nov. 23 - Dec. 7

Special thanks are extended to the following University of Calgary Art Department faculty who worked closely with SPARK this year: Dick Averns (Instructor, Department of Art) and Michele Hardy (Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Art, Curator, Nickle Galleries), as well as artist Richard Boulet and the many students, technical and administration staff who made this collaboration possible. At the Alberta College of Art + Design, thanks are extended to Jeannie Gorrie (Health + Wellness Program Manager, ACADSA), Sarah Grodecki (Executive Director, ACADSA) and Chantal Hisey (Administrative Coordinator, Board of Governors + President’s Cabinet) for their support and partnership.

SPARK Public Programs

Beyond exhibitions there were other ways to participate in the SPARK Disability Art Festival for 2017. In the Lightbox Studio artist Dick Averns collaborated with SPARK to utilize spaces in and around Arts Commons in order to engage public audiences on the topic of mental wellness. Free workshop opportunities related to Recognition... Validation... Reassurance... Art + Mental Wellness enabled participants to create their own framework for exploring and narrating personal experiences, facilitating self-expression through collage, drawing, and text-based art. Workshop and exhibition opportunities related to Recognition... Validation... Reassurance... Art + Mental Wellness continued into 2018 including the showcasing of community artwork on transit buses throughout the city. This project was funded by the City of Calgary Public Art Program and Calgary Arts Development.

SPARK also partnered with the Nickle Galleries in hosting a panel discussion on Mental Health in Museums and Art Galleries. The panel was hosted at Gallery Hall in the Taylor Family Digital Library (moderated by Michele Hardy, Curator for the Nickle Galleries) and included Dick Averns, Paul Freeman, Tamara Pringsheim, Richard Boulet and other special guests who discussed the relationship between mental health, museums, art galleries, art and artists.




©2019 by SPARK Disability Art Festival