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Exploring Multiculturalism Through The Arts at The MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery

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In a community that is rich in multicultural diversity one of the avenues to display and foster that diversity is through the arts, a goal to which the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by Kirschner Family Corporation aspires.

The MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, is a dedicated community art space that hosts several exhibitions on a yearly basis. While most of these exhibits feature local artists, on occasion the gallery will host an exhibit with a more international flavour, such as The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition that was showcased in the gallery in July, 2014.

The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition – which translates as Truth, Compassion and Tolerance – features the works of several renowned Chinese artists. The theme and inspiration for the works is the Falun Gong movement in China, a meditative practice that has proven controversial as several practitioners in China have been reportedly imprisoned after the Chinese government banned the practice of Falun Gong in 1999. The exhibition was well received in the Wood Buffalo region, with approximately 900 community members visiting the gallery during the ten-day exhibition to view the works as well as learn more about the artists and the practice of Falun Gong.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to host this exhibition and bring work of international significance to the people of this community,” said Ana Maria Mendez, Manager of Arts and Culture at the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo. “The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition allowed us to celebrate some of the multicultural diversity already present in our community, to share the work of some remarkably talented international artists and to introduce community members to the practice of Falun Gong.”

The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition has been featured in galleries around the world, with over 800 showings in 50 countries, and was warmly welcomed to Fort McMurray, with the 33 paintings on display clearly depicting the challenges of Falun Gong practitioners in China. During the exhibition Canadian Falun Gong practitioners were available to explain the works to community members as well as share the basic principles of the meditative practice and host short workshops allowing community members to try Falun Gong.

“This exhibition was about much more than the paintings,” said Mendez. “The presence of Falun Gong practitioners in the facility allowed the community to develop a fuller understanding of the practice as well as the challenges faced by Falun Gong practitioners in China, allowing a more in-depth exploration and comprehension of the artworks on display.”

The exhibition is a continuation of the dedication and commitment of the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by Kirschner Family Corporation to featuring the works of local artists but also incorporating travelling exhibitions that bring new cultures and ideas to the region for exploration and celebration by the community.

“One of the wonderful things about living in such a multicultural and diverse community is that we are receptive and welcoming of new cultures and traditions,” said Mendez. “It was a pleasure to host The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition and we look forward to continuing to explore the tremendous multicultural diversity that exists both in our community and around the world through future exhibitions in the gallery.”

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A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.