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Shayna Giles

(Images provided by Steven Teeuwsen)

“BLESSING” by Nickelas “Smokey” Johnson. (Source: Steven Teeuwsen)

If you passed by the Lowlands project space this Halloween, you might have broken out in a cold sweat. Specifically, a Cold Sweat 2: the Sweatening. 

Located on 11208 65th street NW in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Highlands, the Lowlands art space began in the summer of 2020, and has known a pandemic existence ever since. Born in the yards between a home and a commercial space, Lowlands has been putting on outdoor art shows since it’s opening and has since expanded into an indoor gallery space and residence as well. Lowlands’ recent Halloween showing, A Cold Sweat 2: The Sweatening, ran between October 9 and 31 and marked their second Halloween showing since the project space was established last August, in a time of pandemic uncertainty. 

“During the pandemic, everyone’s shows were getting cancelled, and all the galleries were closed,” says Steven Teeuwsen, the director of Lowlands. “It just made sense that we could try to do this outdoor exhibit. And that ended up being the most interesting thing about our space, is that we can do these exhibits in the yard.”

Since it’s opening, Lowlands has expanded into an indoor gallery space, but it’s main appeal is it’s capacity for outdoor sculptural pieces.

“We’re largely a sculpture space for the work that’s in the yards,” says Steven. “A lot of galleries, although they will show sculpture, many of them are geared towards wall art.” 

Having spaces outdoors means that the art featured at Lowlands tends to be specific to the site itself and built into the environment of the space, but it also means that the pieces are subjected to environmental factors like wind and rain.

“We’ve definitely had artworks that weren’t quite built for the wind,” Steven says. “And so, it looks really great on install, and then I’ve had to call the artists back, sometimes even the next day.”

“On the Antlers of a Dilemma” by Paul Freeman. (Source: Steven Teeuwsen)

But although environmental factors can create a challenge, it’s one that artists are able to adapt to, and even to predict.

“Sometimes the artists anticipate their work changing with the weather,” Steven says. “If something’s made of paper maché, we know it’s gonna deteriorate and that entropy has sometimes been something that was intentional and part of that piece.”

For Steven and Lowlands, this year’s Halloween showing was an opportunity to bring a dynamic and fun theme to artists and audiences alike, without the intimidation of a formal gallery. 

“When you’re in a gallery, it’s like you’re always talking in a hushed tone, and you’re really worried about saying something wrong or interpreting the work wrong,” Steven says. “Having art outdoors really breaks that boundary.”

Lowlands director Steven Teeuwsen speaks on what makes Lowlands unique among Edmonton’s art spaces and touches on the recent showing A Cold Sweat 2: The Sweatening.

Lowlands’ unique space lends itself well to larger sculptural projects, with the art space being formed in the yard between two properties rented by Steven and his partner. A Cold Sweat 2: The Sweatening was no exception, featuring 11 different art pieces in it’s outdoor space.

“There was a work that was this oversized Transformer,” Steven says, mentioning one piece in particular. “And the concept of the piece was that it’s this bloated, post-Imperial weapon of war, and he’s, like, worn out and he’s tired of the whole thing. But it’s also a great entry point for kids because they’re just really excited about this giant Transformer.”

For Steven, there’s also the hope that seeing unique pieces in Lowlands will be inspiring to young artists.

“There’s a lot of points of inspiration here,” Steven says. “They can see a lot of different things as art– something they might not have considered as being an art project.”

With A Cold Sweat 2: The Sweatening over, Lowlands will be shifting with the weather to feature more indoor showings, including pop-up artwork sales leading up into Christmas. Steven is also working on hosting the space for an intermediate class from the University of Alberta that will run from November 25 until December 12. 

“They’re making work that’s some sort of response to the environment, whether that’s environmental themes or like, the environment of the space,” Steven says. And at Lowlands, the environment is an asset. 

“I’m excited about all the possibilities that we have,” Steven says. “We have this big outdoor space with really big trees, and this old house. We have a really good canvas to build on top of.”

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Find the Lowlands Project on Facebook and Instagram @lowlands.projects for information on current projects and upcoming calls for submissions.

Images provided by Steven Teeuwsen. 


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