Calgary art icons to turn Springbank home into art centre

A Calgary couple is in the process of turning their home in Springbank into a contemporary art hotspot.

Fundraiser to be held at Hotel Arts on Friday evening

Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe are the power couple of Calgary's art world.

He's a painter and art collector, she's a sculptor and teacher, and both of them are known from coast to coast for their impact on the Canadian art scene.

Now, the couple is in the process of turning their home in Springbank into a contemporary art hotspot.

The two artists and teachers need $2.5 million to reach their fundraising goal. More than 60 nationally and internationally renowned contemporary artists from across Canada have donated impressive artwork to be auctioned off this Friday. (Supplied)

"Both of our complete careers have been as artists," Ohe told the Calgary Eyeopener. "We feel that we've been privileged and we do not have family, so what do you do with what you've assembled over a lifetime of being artists?"

Ohe and Kiyooka plan to turn a large area to the west of the home into a sculpture park. There will also be a sculpture studio, painting studio and a large art collection.

"It will be very good for all of the artists in Calgary because it builds a reputation of visual art in Calgary or in Alberta," Ohe said. 

Artist Katie Ohe specializes in sculpture, kinetic sculpture, outdoor sculpture and prints. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The couple is hosting a fundraiser Friday evening at Hotel Arts in the hopes of building an "art pavilion" on the property.

"The art pavilion will hold the collection and exhibition and meeting points," Ohe explained. "This place will provide residency for artists, it will be a research centre and it will be a retreat and the pavilion will be open to the public."

It's becoming increasingly difficult for artists to continue simply being artists said Ohe, who teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

This Queen of the Night sculpture by internationally renowned artist Michael Sandle will be housed in the 20-acre park. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"We have many, many students but it's more and more difficult for these students to maintain a studio and continue to do what they are," she said. 

Ohe herself was born in the hamlet of Peers, Alta., about 180 kilometres west of Edmonton. 

"I was a creative being I suppose," Ohe said. "I was always building, making art as a child and as I grew up, it was to have the opportunity to go to art school, to study art and from there on I have had many mentors and [have been] passionately involved in art and that continues to this day."

This Picasso is just one of Kiyooka's "countless" pieces of art in his collection. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Ohe and Kiyooka's extensive collection includes works from Picasso, Goya, Joan Miró and Henri Matisse.

"We're getting a bit crowded," she said. 

Friday's fundraiser will feature an art auction with pieces from more than 60 contemporary artists. 

The pavillion will be open to the public and will display some of the precious artwork collected by Kiyooka and Ohe, which includes pieces by Picasso, Miró and Goya. (Supplied)

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

With files from Evelyne Asselin

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