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Halifax art sampler 

In a city full of brilliant people making beautiful things, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to discovering Halifax’s art scene.

click to enlarge See Marion Wagschal’s “Carnival” at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
  • See Marion Wagschal’s “Carnival” at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Halifax runs on art, and if you've made a commitment to spend a wonderful nine months of your life here (or maybe longer? FLIRTY WINK), make time to experience this city's rich art history. You won't regret it.

There's something for everyone here: avid collectors, people who "hate art" (by the way, you sound fun!), casual glancers and full-on wacky-glasses-and-homemade-shirt- wearers. So which type are you? Allow me to play Art Siri™ to your confounded art seeker.

I really only like experiencing art on my way to do other things.

You sound like you want street art! Street art exists in all kinds of unexpected pockets of the city—a particularly intricate tag, a sticker, some graffiti. JJ Steeves makes Stray Kitties stickers (you've probably seen a few stoic cats speaking their minds on a lamppost or two), is a street art aficionado and she's willing to share some of her favourite spots. "For such a small city, Halifax has managed to collect and maintain some true gems. The building on the corner of Cunard and Gottingen comes to mind, so many great pieces on there. The side of Alteregos cafe on Gottingen is absolutely spectacular and I count myself lucky that I get to see it so often. The parking lot between Maitland and Gottingen is a really great place to check out some older stuff in the north end neighbourhood as well." 

I want to own art and I want to own it NOW.

You sound like you want a commercial gallery! "Local galleries have original prints and photos that are a little less than paintings at times, emerging artists are a great way to start collecting, who knows, they may be famous one day," says Adriana Afford, owner at Argyle Fine Art (1559 Barrington Street). Other notables are Hermes (5682 North Street), Gallery Page and Strange (1869 Granville STreet), Studio 21 (1273 Hollis Street) and Parentheses Gallery (2168 Gottingen Street). Check out Argyle Fine Art's Creative Editions Program, it's like a CSA for art, a monthly subscription gets you a piece from a local artist.

Your dorm will be tricked out in no time.

I like the classics, none of this funny business (OK maybe a little funny business).

You sound like you want the provincial art gallery! The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (1723 Hollis Street) is the largest museum in Atlantic Canada, and best yet, Thursday evenings from 5-9pm are free (and you can catch a daily tour at 7pm as well).

I love it so much I want to get involved.

You sound like you want to volunteer! Nearly every gallery and arts organization accepts volunteers. Too often working in the arts is an underpaid, overworked position, so your help makes a difference, plus, it's a great way to meet people who love art as much as you do. Some organizations like Centre for Art Tapes, The Atlantic Filmmakers' Co-operative and The Khyber accept volunteer hours in exchange for membership, and in CFAT and AFCOOP's case, hours of volunteer work can add up to money towards renting equipment to make your own opus. If you want to put your volunteering into something that puts art in your house, Timeraiser might be a good place to start. Bidding with your volunteer hours, attendees put their dibs on art, silent auction style (October 9, 5:30pm, The Halifax Club, $10). "Throughout the evening, attendees bid on art and then network with nonprofits that are in attendance to see how their skills can help these nonprofits throughout the year," says event organizer Adriana Afford.

I want something close to the library.

You sound like you want a university art gallery! Sticking close to campus is nothing to be ashamed of. You've got stuff to do, that's why you're here. But breaks are essential, and university art galleries (MSVU, Dalhousie, Anna Leonowens, SMU, Port Loggia) are the perfect place to take one. If art openings aren't your thing, many galleries offer artist talks, lectures and other events. The Dalhousie Art Gallery screens films regularly—coinciding with the Atlantic Film Fest is this year's Coen brothers retrospective, leading into a Beat Generation series. Partnering with Centre for Art Tapes, look forward to the Dal Gallery's upcoming (im)mobile, featuring established media artists Edith Flückiger and Germaine Koh, curated by Mireille Bourgeois and Chantal Molleur.

I want something fresh, challenging and contemporary.

You sound like you want an artist-run centre! These hearty non-profits aren't about selling, but they are about artist expression. Run by artists, these centres are the FUBU of the art world, developed as an artist-centric approach to showing work. The Khyber Centre for the Arts (5521 Cornwallis Street) has gone through a potentially temporary move from their historic Barrington Street location, but the new space on Cornwallis space keeps up the creativity. Eyelevel Gallery (5663 Cornwallis Street) has embraced a nomadic model, showing work all over the city instead of in a specific gallery space. Look forward to Eyelevel's upcoming Over the Hill Performance Series, September 24 and 27 at the Citadel, in honour of Eyelevel's 40th anniversary.

What else you got?

Lots. CRITpaper, a Khyber-based paper, publishes critical art writing, interviews and reviews. The upcoming edition of the quarterly will be available in September. For lols and hot tips, follow @hfxartgossip on Instagram or Twitter to see a lot of hilarious piss-taking from and about the local art community. While you're on your phone, subscribing to Halifax's edition of Instant Coffee nets tons of art listings for the Maritimes in one handy email. The NSCAD Microgallery (5163 Duke Street, stairwell) is literally a hole in the wall and one of the nicest, smallest places to see something cool. Go.


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