The Kiyooka Ohe Art Centre (KOAC) in west Rocky View County will honour their late co-founder Harry Kiyooka with a moving memorial on Sept. 16 titled, "La Serenissima."
The second annual event, which doubles as both a memorial and a fundraiser for the Springbank-based contemporary sculpture and art centre, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. According to a press release, La Serenissima will highlight some never-before-seen works from Kiyooka's Venetian series, with displays of his books and sketches.
There will also be a collection of works donated for a silent auction by artists and collectors, accompanied with live classical music, spritz drinks, antipasti, and “the convivial company of friends who appreciate art," according to the release.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to get an intimate and closer look at this incredible art centre, but also the prolific sculptures that exist on our site,” said Alice Lam, a board member for the KOAC.
“The whole purpose is to continue [Kiyooka's] legacy of building a state-of-the-art art centre and sculpture park for Calgarians and people from all over the world to enjoy.”
The KOAC opened in 2014 as the brainchild of Kiyooka and his widow, Katie Ohe. The sprawling nature gallery of artwork is located on 20 acres of woodland and grassland property in Springbank, just west of Calgary city limits. It features monumental sculptures on the front 10 acres of the property and is also home to a sculpture studio and painting studio, where the facility is able to host annual artists in residence.
“We’re really lucky in Calgary and Rocky View County to have a place like the KOAC,” she said. “We’re slated to be the largest outdoor art centre and sculpture park in western Canada, and it definitely has the potential to be world-renowned.”
The Springbank property, purchased in 1973, is also still Ohe's residence, according to Lam.
The Sept. 16 event will be the KOAC’s largest fundraising event of the year. Their release states proceeds from La Serenissima will allow the centre to foster the growth of visual arts of all disciplines, provide educational art programs and workshops, promote a vibrant and inclusive artistic community, as well as sustain the centre's ecologically significant grounds and allow its sculptures to stand as timeless testaments to the power of artistic expression.
La Serenissima is the centre's second memorial for Kiyooka, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 94. Lam said Kiyooka was, and remains, a prominent figure in the world of Calgary-area art, and he left behind an impressive legacy. He was an accomplished painter and art educator who founded the Faculty of Fine Arts program at the University of Calgary.
“He really believed in growing the contemporary art scene in Calgary,” Lam said. “When he purchased this land, his vision was always to create a space of retreat, art development and contemplation, and to allow artists and people coming to the park to really experience art in nature and see the beautiful collaborative relationship nature has with art.”
“Giving back to the community has always been very important to Harry,” added Kiyooka's widow, Katie Ohe, in the press release. “From forming the Triangle Gallery to the Calgary Contemporary Arts Society to the KOAC, we are very grateful to have the opportunity to share with all of Alberta the vitality and diversity of artists from around the world.”
Tickets for La Serenissima are $100 and can be purchased at at 2023KOACMemorialFundraiser.eventbrite.ca.
Lam said she encourages art-lovers and those who have never been to the KOAC before to consider supporting the centre by attending the memorial.
“It’s a beautiful evening to enjoy art in nature while also having the opportunity to bid in a silent auction of great art pieces and sculptures from Calgary’s well-known art communities, and also take an intimate tour of the public park and enjoy food and drink from local sponsors Lina’s Italian Market and Last Best Brewery,” she said.
“Not only are you attending to increase your own art knowledge and be able to bid on some wonderful pieces, but you’re also helping create the story this art centre will leave for Calgarians for years to come.”
For more information on the KOAC, visit koartscentre.org