Thursday, September 1, 2011

Twenty-five Years at The Avens

(You can click on any of the photos to see them enlarged)

Arlene, a weaver and a founding member of the CAAG
at a Christmas Fair, December 3rd, 1982 

In 1981, when Bill and I moved back to the Canmore area, I joined the then one year old Canmore Artists and Artisans Guild (CAAG) and met Arlene Curry.  She and I became fast friends.  Side by side we raised our children ...

Kathy's 4th birthday, July 10th, 1983

Dale and Denise, Kathy Arlene, me and Laura September 16th, 1989

... and when Arlene had a vision to open a gallery we planned it together.  On June 13th, 1986, the doors of the Mountain Avens Gallery opened for the very first time.  Initially it was only to be a summer venture in a small, rented house at 730 - 9th Street beside the Peppermill Restaurant which is now The Trough.

Arlene on opening day, June 13th, 1986
Yours truly inside the Mountain Avens Gallery, June 13th, 1986

It was important that the name of the gallery include the word mountain.  The Mountain Avens flower grows only at high elevation and the plant has leaves that are evergreen.  On the gallery's first birthday I gave Arlene this painting:

There Will Always Be An Avens   1987   oil   10" x 8"

In 1987 Arlene (and her then husband) purchased an old house on Main Street.  After extensive renovations the gallery seamlessly moved and opened October 10th, 1987.  Here it continued to flourish and be further cemented in the community.  For years it was where our families viewed the annual Canada Day parades.

Canada Day 1991 - Denise, my Dad and Arlene in the doorway.
Bill on the left (in blue) and me with the yellow beret and palette

There were countless group shows and I participated in all of them but it wasn't until November 1994 that we presented my first Mountain Avens Gallery solo show ... Mountain Intimacy.  I had decidedly hit my stride with mountain imagery; I now had a few years of painting outdoors and bagging peaks under my belt.  The back country had captured my soul and was now shining through in both my studio works and plein air paintings.

The gallery's tenth anniversary exhibition hosted works by past and present artists.  At the opening reception, June 15th, 1996 special remarks entitled The Blossoming were given by Bob Sandford.

Arlene, Bob and me at the 10th anniversary celebration 

Arlene sold the gallery to John Borrowman in December 1998, and for a time she remained on as gallery manager.  John also owned The Quest in Banff and so the Mountain Avens Gallery was given a new name; The Quest Avens Gallery.  When John sold The Banff Quest he entered into a business arrangement with Arlene and together they planned a grand, new building.

Down with the old to make way for the new

The little house/gallery closed in September 2000 and while the construction of the new building was in progress the gallery operated out of a rented, temporary space above what today is the Main Street location of the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company.  Here is the completed masterpiece before the current, simplified name - The Avens Gallery - went up on the exterior ...

The new Avens building, September 11, 2002

The new interior space of The Avens was/is magnificent; very conducive to solo shows and I was ripe and ready to have one of those every spring.  There were six annual exhibitions in all beginning in 2003 with Under the Influence; French Impressions and concluding with Wild! in 2008 ... but these are stories in their own right and best saved for future posts.

The Aven's 20th birthday, me with John and Arlene, June 10, 2006

When we moved to Claresholm, in September 2008, I eased out of working as much as I had and excused myself from the high pressure of what major shows involve. 

By December 2010, when John sold the gallery I had really settled into semi retirement.  In the transition Curtis and Andrea kept a few of my paintings but I wasn't committed to providing new art to the new owners.  On August 29th, 2011 I removed my paintings from The Avens Gallery.  This marked an unceremonious end to a vital, twenty-five year, chapter in my life and with it came a multitude of feelings.  Gratitude for the great years working with Arlene and John.  Relief that the weight of obligation to produce and provide is lifted.  And, as you would expect, some sadness, but also delight that The Avens, like the perennial flower it is named after, continues to grow and blossom every year.


  1. Dear Alice, it is the end of an era and one clearly holding many special memories. As you have counselled me, what may appear as an ending may herald a new beginning in another guise. I wish you well for the future.

  2. Thank you Dea, as I take your counsel to heart I know there is more awaiting me in my future, just as there is much more for you in yours!

  3. Alice, what a beautiful, beautiful article, (just like you). I've gone through many transitions and while sometimes a bit sad, what waits around the next corner is sure to bring the same promise of wonder as the first foray. I tip my paintbrush to you with love, friend.

  4. Dear Alice,
    Thank you so much for the walk down memory lane. You've done a fantastic job of our shared memories. Nice to see where one has come from and where they are headed. I am now painting myself and I am enjoying sharing your blog, you do such a fantastic job, I can see and feel your passion for life. Friends forever....