When the two of us decided to partner up on a project that would later become PrairieSeen, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We knew we wanted to create something that would keep us connected to the visual arts community after graduating from the U of A (we both have degrees in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture), but weren’t quite sure how to go about it. After a healthy amount of brainstorming, ranting and novel-length instant messages, we realized that we still had a lot to say and learn about visual art in Edmonton. Our initial blurry vision of PrairieSeen would finally settle into a community visual arts blog, consisting of a collection of musings, resources and updates on the visual art in our home city.
A little over a year after our initial launch, PrairieSeen has grown into more than just a collection of rants from the two of us. A number of talented guest writers (also Faculty of Arts alumni) and our monthly featured artist contribute to the blog’s content, which is delivered in a written or video interview format. Additionally, we blog about visual arts-relevant news, event features and job postings, which helps keep both our readers and ourselves informed on happenings within the city. However, by no means do we position ourselves as a “one-stop shop” for the visual arts in Edmonton — Art Rubicon and Akimbo (for example) are great existing resources for artists in the province; we try to only focus on events and news happening specifically in Edmonton, as well as the smaller events and exhibitions that don’t necessarily get the same coverage.
Some of the most exciting outcomes of PrairieSeen have come from outside of the blog, when we get the chance to collaborate with other Edmonton bloggers, artists and designers to host events like roundtable discussions, lectures, art appreciation events and even our first-anniversary exhibition, Inventory (September 2013 at The Drawing Room). We’ve tried to come up with events that we would want to be a part of anyways (but didn’t always see happening), and in doing so, we hope to engage more people and start conversations about the visual arts in Edmonton.
Graduating from a program like Art History meant that we’re trained to write about art, not necessarily make it. In today’s written world, it made sense to create an online space that would become a repository for comments on the visual arts in Edmonton, as “seen” through the lens of two Art History graduates. We feel that the blog is a reflection of the post-graduate condition that so many of us on the other side of University are familiar with — a simultaneous feeling of unbridled ambition and freedom, coupled with the identity crisis of separating yourself from the student mindset (it’s all very dramatic). Most of the featured artists and guest writers on the site are also drawn from our peer group, making it feel like we’re all figuring this out together.
PrairieSeen is a duo of Edmonton-based art advocates who recognize and respond to the value of local art and what it has to say (and what we have to say about it!). Coming from an art-historical background, PrairieSeen seeks to provide a unique perspective to start conversations about Edmonton arts.
Tori McNish completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) with a major in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture in June 2012. She completed an internship through the Alberta Smithsonian Internship Program at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden immediately after graduation, and currently works at the Art Gallery of Alberta as a member of the Interpretive Staff and at the Musée Héritage Museum as an Education Programmer.
Chelsey Van Weerden is a recent graduate from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture. She continues to be an avid volunteer and supporter of the visual arts in Edmonton, and currently works for the University of Alberta as an Administrative Assistant.
Photo: Jeremy Ross Photography