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Panel shines spotlight on women in the arts

Cultural leaders Helen Agbonison, Ellen Doty and Nisha Patel form a panel discussion on International Women's Day at the Art Gallery of St. Albert on March 8.

Art allows us to express ourselves and helps us understand issues that can sometimes feel too big to fully grasp. 

As part of International Women’s Day, the City of St. Albert will host the Arts Exchange: Elevating Women in the Arts panel discussion on March 8 at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. 

The 2023 International Women’s Day theme is Embrace Equity. The panel will celebrate women in the arts, aiming to shine a spotlight on their activities and inspiring women to pursue their dreams without bias or barriers.  

The three enterprising panellists are: Helen Agbonison, cultural event producer; Ellen Doty, jazz vocalist and singer-songwriter; and Nisha Patel, poet, author and spoken-word artist. Emily Baker, the art gallery’s curator, will moderate the event. 

“We are asking the panellists to come prepared on how being a woman in the arts has its advantages and challenges,” said Tamsin Brooks, the City of St. Albert's community cultural coordinator. 

She said each contributor would bring a unique perspective to the discussion. 

“Nisha is so cool. She was Edmonton’s eighth Poet Laureate and the Canadian Individual Slam Champion. She’s at the top of her game. She brings a new art that has developed within the last 20 years and she’s excellent at it. She’s a teacher, mentor, public speaker and disabled queer person,” Brooks added. 

Doty, meanwhile, briefly worked for the City of St. Albert department of culture for a year before she was headhunted by the University of Alberta. 

“The thing that struck me about Ellen is that every Christmas she releases a new song in tandem with a coffee supplier and donates all the proceeds to charity. She’s an inspiring jazz singer. She studied at Carleton and received the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Outstanding soloist award. And she has a record deal with Alma Records.” 

And as founder of African and African Descendant Friendship Club of St. Albert’s extraordinarily successful Taste of Africa, Agbonison has expanded the city’s cultural mosaic in just three short years. 

“Helen is a lovely person and an important cultural leader. She works tirelessly to put the spotlight on Black artists in St. Albert. Through Taste of Africa, she familiarizes African and Caribbean culture through dance, music, storytelling, and the culinary arts, and she does a great job.” 

The discussion will take place against the backdrop of Tethers, the gallery’s latest exhibit. Tethers is a compilation of paintings by Yvonne DuBourdieu and Margaret Witschl. Although the two visual artists’ paintings are stylistically different, they both express fears, anxiety, and instability. 

“Before their paintings were curated, they didn’t know each other,” said curator Baker. “But their work fits together. It explores their inner lives. They get their fears out on canvas. When they put their fears on canvas, they became solid. The role of art also helps them maintain health and wholesomeness.” 

The event is free; however, participants must register at 

The event runs Wednesday, March 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, 19 Perron Street. The panel discussion will start at 7 p.m. and run about an hour. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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