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Tuesday September 6th, 2011  
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Quote of the Week
"As we grow and develop, we realize where our true passions lie."
- Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed  


Kimberley Massey photo
Calgary artists Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed and Jennifer Akkermans will be in
residency at the Gushul Studio in Blairmore for the month of September.
Throughout the month of September, Calgary artists Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed and Jennifer Akkermans will be taking part in the 6th annual Gushul Studio Artists Residency through the University of Lethbridge and Trap/door Artist Run Centre.
Trap/door President Mike Maguire said the residency serves to grant emerging artists the opportunity to spend a month away from home, allowing them to focus on their practice.
He said the U of L and Trap/door also work to select two artists who will complement and inspire each other’s work.
“When we jury, we try to pick two artists who we think would work well together,” said Maguire.
Akkermans and Pelletier-Ahmed came to the Pass last Thursday, September 1st, to begin their month-long focus on their art.
“We really want to see how being here in the Crowsnest Pass is going to influence our work,” said Akkermans.
Pelletier-Ahmed added that both artists hope to use found objects and sounds which they find in the Crowsnest Pass in their work.
“We definitely hope to be inspired by what’s around us,” she said. “That’s going to be a big shaping point.”
Akkermans describes her work as studying imaginary creatures as if they are real.
Through a project called “The Institute of Morphoid Research”, a visual arts project she started earlier this year following her graduation from the Alberta College of Art and Design, Akkermans creates imaginary invertebrates using various materials and photographs them in natural settings such as the forest.
She just finished a documentary film project where she “studies” the morphoids in their habitat and examines aspects such as diet, appearance and behaviour.
“What I think I’m trying to do with this project is encourage people to think for themselves, and not necessarily take everything as it is presented to them,” she said.
“A lot of the time, how things are presented really influences the credibility of the information.”
Pelletier-Ahmed, who was born and raised in Calgary, focuses on visual instillations using sound.
“I’m really interested in the interplay of sound and image, and how sounds can change the perception of a visual space – how they can change how viewers interact with an environment,” she said.
“Atmosphere, ambiance and mood can really change how you perceive something, and I think sound plays a very important role in that.”
Pelletier-Ahmed said part of her work this month may include implanting speakers into a sculptural structure, changing the way the sounds are being presented.

“That way, it’s not obvious right away that there are sounds involved,” she said. “I think that will be really interesting.”
Pelletier-Ahmed studied Botany at the University of Calgary before discovering that her true interests were in the arts.
“I think as we grow and develop, we realize where our true passions lie,” she said.
“I may still work on the side in biology, but I’ve always had a passion for art.”
Over the past few years, Pelletier-Ahmed has taught English abroad in Europe, participated in a residency in Quebec City at Avatar, an artist-run centre dedicated to sound art, and participated in the 2010 International Festival of Animated Objects at the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts in Calgary.
Akkermans, who was born in Saskatoon and has lived in Calgary for the past five years, completed her BFA in Fibre at ACAD earlier this year, and has been teaching art part-time to special needs classes with Art Central’s Studio C, while also focusing on her arts career.
She also participated in the 2011 International Festival of Animated Objects.
Now, both women say they are looking forward to a month-long focus on their art.
“Residency is an opportunity to do some exploration and experimentation – things you wouldn’t normally do at home,” said Akkermans.
“It’s a good excuse to sort of get away from all the responsibilities of our lives in Calgary, and to be able to focus on doing something a little different for a month will be a good treat.”
Pelletier-Ahmed said residency also helps to build an artist’s confidence.
“One of the hard parts of being an artist is validating that as a profession, validating yourself, and having confidence that you can do it, because it’s not such a straight-forward path,” she said.
“We’ve both struggled with the identity of being an artist.”
“Something like this residency confirms that identity and validates what we do, encouraging us to continue,” she said.
Maguire said Trap/door is also planning an open house later on in the month where locals as well as people from Lethbridge can visit the studio and see what the artists have been working on, although a date has not been set.
In the meantime, local residents, students and fellow artists are encouraged to visit the studio and speak with Pelletier-Ahmed and Akkermans.
“If people want to come see what we’re doing, they are more than welcome,” said Akkermans. “We want to be influenced by the landscape and the people.”
“We’re really hoping we can form a network of interesting people in the Pass, and we hope that we can carry on with the residency and expand and grow each year,” said Maguire.
To speak with one of the artists, call the Gushul Studio at 403-563-3955.
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