community through art.
It is unlikely one would expect to find this gem of an art gallery in the tiny town of Black Diamond, Alberta.
People often travel through Black Diamond as a gateway into the Kananaskis and south Rocky Mountain region, not quite far enough from Calgary to need to stop.
Those who have lingered long enough to wander through the Bluerock Gallery located in the heart of the tiny town, however, know that there is something quite unique to this art spot.
When Karen Gimbel purchased the gallery with her husband seven years ago, the gallery was already a destination for many people in the region.
"Southern Alberta - whatever is in the air or in the water - comes through artists expressing themselves," explained Karen.
Part of what makes the gallery unique is in the proximity of the artists themselves. A majority are within one hundred miles, and all of them are living.
"This is my baby," said Karen.
"I spin a lot of plates, I connect a lot of people."
"The most important thing to me is the actual act of creating.
"People who create are people I resonate with, and people who create because they can't not create, are the kind of artists that interest me and that I am interested in representing."
It is these creations that make their way to the walls of the gallery.
When you visit the gallery, it is clear from the very first moment you step through the door that there is a lot of love in what is curated.
The book collection sitting at the front in and of itself is reminiscent of a small independent book store. If you can make it past the books (and it is hard, because there are a lot of good books), you are immersed in a fusion of diverse art that has taken many forms and appeals to many eyes.
It is difficult not to be moved just by the sole presentation of what the surrounding area's artistic presence has to offer.
"What holds the collection together, I think, is these artists are working in the same time and space. ..there is a kind of ethos that comes through, whether you are painting or creating jewelry or making a bronze sculpture, that is the prairie ethos, or foothills," explained Karen.
"That doesn't mean that all of the art actually shows literally that subject matter, it is more this time and this space that holds the collection together."
“The next best thing is when people fall in love with that thing that an artist has created - that is my joy, to be at both of those intersections with the artist who is making the work, and the people who are falling in love and wanting to take it home with them or wanting to gift it to someone."
The eclectic feel that the art presents all harmonizes to a particular feeling, and the word "resonate" is one that Karen is mindful to uphold while orchestrating the gallery.
"In music, resonance is that when one string vibrates, other strings that are related to it will pick up those vibrations and begin to hum.
"Those strings that don't hum along aren't in the choir.
"I see representation of all kinds of visual landscapes or critters of objects that are really familiar.
"I think we find comfort in what we recognize, or what we relate to. Often that is a representation of flowers or horses or something that reminds us of a familiar place."
Karen describes some of that art as being easy to access in the familiar sense.
"But then there is also art that is not as easy, and is simply colour, or pattern or more nonrepresentational playing with shapes and textures.
"Even with those pieces, you will find for the most part themes that resonate with this area.
"Even the pieces that are non-representational might have a landscape feel."
Karen recognizes that the localness of the art represented in the gallery plays a role in a bigger picture.
One that draws upon an unexpected art scene in the small towns and farms of this region.
"I think there is starting to be more of a critical mass of practicing artists within the area.
"Which then leads to other things like having more art that again sings that song of this area."
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