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AGA Refinery party proves Edmonton’s arts scene is thriving

Posted by on 12/08/2018

EDMONTON – When you think of art gallery events, lumberjacks are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But on Saturday night, hundreds of plaid-clad Edmontonians packed the Art Gallery of Alberta for the sold-out lumberjack-formal themed Refinery party.

Loosely modelled after Andy Warhol’s famous Factory parties, Edmonton’s artsy affairs have been generating mounting interest in the community. The sixth and latest installment, inspired by the AGA’s current “Up North” exhibition, was record-breaking.

“This was the fastest that the Refinery has ever sold. The members bought the bulk of the tickets. It was for half an hour or something that non-members could buy them, so that was obviously very gratifying,” said the event’s creative director, Fish Griwkowsky.

Griwkowsky, a well known local artist, helped transform the gallery into a mythical northern world, where an army of monsters (in the form of illustrated cut-outs) reigned supreme.

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The event, which he titled “Explorers of the North and the Monsters who killed them,” gave party-goers a chance to enjoy drinks and munch on free popcorn and snow-cones while navigating through the gallery and taking in a range of special interactive projects with the help of hand-drawn “explorer” maps.

Performances by the Capital City Burlesque group also provided some well-received tongue-in-cheek entertainment, and local deejays had people dancing the night away.

What really made the event, though, was everyone decked out in their lumberjack-finest.

“I had to bust out my work boots from my summer in the oil patch and find my old flannel shirt, ” said Councillor Don Iveson. “And I was a little self-conscious, thinking ‘am I the only person who dressed up?’ and then everyone went full-on! I’m just regretting that I couldn’t find my suspenders, ’cause some of the people, suspenders really made the outfit and I’m feeling almost naked without my suspenders right now.”

The 32 year-old councillor, who was attending his first Refinery Saturday night, had fun celebrating Edmonton’s art and culture and seeing how many others are inspired by it and our city.

“The last time I was in this building and it had this many people in it was the day it opened,” he said. “That crowd was a lot of the people that helped build this city, and tonight’s crowd has a few of those people too, but it also has all the people who are going to build the city for the next 20 to 50 years.

“It’s just so much energy in the room, and people are excited to be in a building and they’re excited about the future of Edmonton and that’s infectious.”

Kelsey Roelofs, also taking in her first Refinery party, agreed. “I think it’s a really encouraging sign for the future. Hopefully Edmonton can really build from here and have more events like this because obviously there is a market for it, and people really do enjoy it,” she said. “It’s something that adds a lot to your quality of life when you can do something out of the ordinary on a Friday or Saturday night.”

The man responsible for making the event happen was thrilled by its success, but Griwkowsky credits it to Edmonton’s rich artistic scene, which he said inspires him.

“Our city is filled with so much gold…it’s happening,” Griwkowsky said. “I’m just a northside kid…so it’s gratifying to be in this position and be able to share this kind of experience with people.”

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