I was certain we had broken the rules. Could my three toddlers and I really have visited an art display without stepping out of bounds? However, when I reread the welcome sign, it was clear that we had kept within the suggested guidelines. From my toddlers’ smiles, I knew they had enjoyed their first art exhibit at Altona’s “Gallery in the Park.”
As we drove into Altona, the roadside signs piqued my curiosity. What exactly was Gallery in the Park and was it a family-friendly option for us? As we neared, the open gates and sculptures immediately bid a warm welcome. I parked near the sign stating the hours of operation and “the rules.” I knew some art parks request that sculptures not be touched in order to protect the finishes. Some also ask that voices be kept low and to not run along the paths.
However, that was not the case in Altona. It was quite the opposite as the sign welcomed guests to enjoy the park, including spreading a blanket on the lawn. They welcomed guests to take souvenir photos so I was glad I had brought my camera. But the last statement on the sign excited me. “You are welcome to bring your children but they must be accompanied by a responsible adult.”
So little feet jumped from the van and ran to the gate and down the brick path. They squealed with excitement as they saw polar bears, Jack’s story time, and a skeleton of a man with binoculars. “Look Mom!” they yelled as they dashed to discover the next sculpture beside the winding trail. There were also beautiful fountains at both ends of the park and a water path running the length of the brick walkway.
Standing guard over the sculptures was the large Schwartz House originally built in 1902. It served as their residence for many years and was later used as a dormitory for a local Bible school before it became a heritage home. More recently, it housed a bed and breakfast which closed its doors in 2004. The Town of Altona took over the house in 2005 and together with Friesens, a premier printer in Canada, they created an art gallery and sculpture garden. The Gallery in the Park marked Friesens’ 100th anniversary in business with hopes of leaving a lasting appreciation of art and culture in Altona. With support from businesses, foundations and hundreds of volunteer hours, the park opened in July 2008.
The park features work by many Canadian and U. S. artists like Brook Drabot, Ken Loewen, Peter Sawatzky and Luther Pokrant. Each sculpture in the park contains a plaque stating the name of the piece and the artist.
Photos of my children enjoying their first introduction to sculpture art will be treasured for years to come.
Gallery in the Park is located in the northwest corner of Altona, directly across 10th Ave. NW. Once you are in Altona, simply follow the signs. For more info visit www.galleryinthepark.com.
– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba