Home to a remarkable six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Canadian province of Alberta is steeped in culture – evidenced in the many museums that can be found here.
Its majestic landscapes encompassing mountains, prairies, desert badlands and vast coniferous forests have served to inspire many-an-artist who have lived or passed through Alberta down the years. Indeed, if you visit any of the province’s museums you’re likely to find exhibitions that showcase such awe-inspiring natural wonders in all their glory. What’s more, Alberta’s cultural institutions are also renowned for celebrating the region’s rich man-made heritage. Here are 10 exhibitions to look out for across Alberta this summer.
Powwow! Ohcîwin the Origins
The celebration of American Indian culture known as ‘powwow’, in which people from diverse indigenous nations gather for the purpose of dancing, singing, and honouring the traditions of their ancestors continues to carry major importance in Canada. This exhibition features seven powwow dance styles, complete with full regalia and craftwork. Organised by the Red Deer Museum + Art GallerIy, the exhibition’s creators have gathered the stories, worked with the artisans, and carefully built the regalia alongside a diverse team of Indigenous Artists from Western Canada and the US.
Art Gallery of Grande Prairie / 15 June – 8 October 2023
A one-of-a-kind mash-up of interactive and immersive art and science, Wonderspaces features nine conversation-provoking works of art and science, each designed to draw the guest in and distort reality by giving new light and perspective on the mundane. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Los Angeles, among the project’s artwork on display at TELUS Spark throughout the summer are Body Paint by Memo Akten, Sweepers Clock by Maarten Baas, Plume by Ian Brill, Blooms by John Edmark, and The Last Word by Illegal Art.
TELUS Spark Science Centre, Calgary / Through 30 June 2023
Driving Thru the ’70s
From the Oil Crisis and the Environmental Movement to Pop Culture and the Death of the Muscle Car, this interactive car-themed exhibition is an exploration of what took place during the often contradictory and always controversial era of the 1970s. Set against a backdrop of cars hailing from that period, the exhibition showcases the music, the movies, and ‘the vibe’ of what the evocative decade was all about. Highlights include the chance to play a 1970s game show, and to take a guided tour of the museum’s warehouse featuring an incredible collection of rare, unusual, and one-of-a-kind automobiles.
Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Wetaskiwin / Through 14 October 2024
Gathie Falk: Revelations
Providing a glimpse into one of Canada’s most creative minds of the 20th century, this exhibition explores legendary Canadian artist Gathie Falk’s expansive career, highlighting her work’s incredible breadth and depth. An experimental artist internationally-known for exploring different art forms, including painting and ceramic sculptures; she is also a pioneer for installation and performance art in Canada. Seeing beauty in ordinary objects, Falk transforms common items into art that sparks curiosity and whimsy. From stacks of fruit and men’s shoes to the night sky, Falk has created an extraordinary body of work.
Glenbow Museum, Calgary / Through 15 October 2023
For the Birds
Birds have featured in art as far back as 17,000 years ago when they appeared in the Lascaux cave paintings, with their stunning variety of colours and patterns making them perfect artistic subjects. Celebrating our fascination with birds through various disciplines such as ceramics, sculptures, and paintings, this exhibition features the work of 15 artists spanning a wide range of mediums and artistic styles. Each artist shares their unique perspective on the subject from the pragmatic to the spiritual to the barnyard friend, shining a light on how and why these creatures have succeeded in capturing our imagination.
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff / 16 June – 15 October 2023
Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE
Through video, painting, sculpture, photography and text, Ukrainian artist Taras Polataiko explores the Russian-Ukrainian conflict associated with land, language, migration and independence. Each artwork featured is tied to the confrontation of truth and meaning, challenging viewers with questions about who we are and our relationship with power against the backdrop of the conflict. Among the exhibition highlights are several head-shots of injured Ukrainian soldiers photographed at a military hospital – at least one of whom is known to have been killed after returning to combat. Each patient gave an interview prior to leaving hospital, with these transcripts making for compelling reading in the gallery.
Founders’ Gallery, Calgary / Through 24 September 2023
From Warhol to Banksy
Known for its commentary on consumerism, social consciousness, and, more recently, activism, Pop Art is more than a phenomenon of the 1960s. The movement’s evolution, from Andy Warhol’s infamous Marilyn Monroe screen prints to Banksy’s guerilla street art, has completely blurred the lines between high and low art. Through a selection of prints, paintings, sculpture, and ephemera by some of the art world’s most iconic figures including Warhol, Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein, this exhibition chronicles how Pop Art continues to critique our world and challenges us to think about the issues that persist in our daily lives.
Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton / 14 June – 15 October 2023
Mountains of Change
Canada’s mountain national parts are a landscape in profound transition, with many putting this down to climate change. In this science-based exhibition, visitors will discover how climate change is thought to be affecting the nation’s national parks, the response effort taking place, and how parks and healthy ecosystems can offer “natural solutions” to climate change. If you’ve go time, be sure to check out the museum’s 5,000-plus vintage botanical and zoological specimens — from bears and bighorns, to birds and bees.
Banff Park Museum National Historic Site / Through end 2023
Play Hard, Fight Hard: Sport and the Canadian Military
This nationally-touring exhibition turns the spotlight on the relationship between sports and military service dating back to the late 19th century. A wide range of sports played by military teams and athletes from the 1880s to the present day, from hockey to football to the uniquely military game of Broom-i-loo are featured, along with the Soldier On program, which uses activity and sport to support wounded military members and veterans. There are also exhibits that chronicle the origins of the Paralympic Games and Invictus Games, as well as videos containing oral histories and Second World War newsreel footage.
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Calgary / Through August 2024
Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the study of ancient life is home to one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs, along with a variety of creative, fun, and educational programs that bring the prehistoric past to life. Among its permanent exhibitions is Cretaceous Alberta, which was inspired by work conducted by scientists at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and is based on evidence gathered from a mass grave. Providing a rare glimpse of Alberta over 69 million years ago, the exhibition’s centrepiece attraction is a family of four Albertosaurus moving across a dry river channel.
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller / Permanent