A small sign just inside the front door of Red Art Gallery asks visitors, “Are you from Calgary?”
In general, it’s a visual howdy to the many collectors and regular clients with connections to the Alberta city who walk through the door of the Oak Bay Avenue gallery.
But the simple phrase has taken on a special meaning recently, with the devastating floods that recently ravaged the central sections of Calgary and other Alberta towns.
Cowtown is near and dear to gallery owner and artist Marion Evamy, who spent most of her life there before moving to Greater Victoria seven years ago.
As such, watching reports showing many of her hometown’s icons either destroyed or heavily water damaged – her father, a prominent architect, designed many of Calgary’s older buildings – has been an emotional experience.
“You feel helpless, seeing images of your old stomping grounds under water and thinking of friends that are still there,” she said.
“The house I grew up in is basically a teardown. And there’s a foot bridge I used to walk on, where the water is usually 15 feet below you. It was in matchsticks.”
The gallery’s current show, Calgary Connection, was devised back in March, said gallery director Bobb Hamilton. The notion of featuring Calgary artists’ works during the Calgary Stampede, was a way to celebrate Stampede week and pay homage to Evamy’s roots and those of many of Red’s clients.
“We experience a tremendous connection to Calgarians,” he said. “I’d say probably one in five people who come in either lived there or have a home there and here or some other connection.”
The floodwaters rose in the city June 21 and left many displaced.
Evamy herself was painting a piece for the Connections show to hang in the gallery, but decided to sell it off and donate the proceeds to the Red Cross’ flood relief efforts.
She posted a note about it on Facebook and within a matter of hours the painting was snapped up for $2,000 by a local couple.
Evamy’s mother and sister still live in Calgary, but luckily, neither of their homes were affected by the floods. Both women did take in friends who were evacuated, a common occurrence that week, Evamy said.
“(Calgarians have) definitely got a can-do attitude and people are always willing to help out.”
She said it’s ironic that the flooding happened just before Calgary stages one of the country’s oldest and largest annual community events.
“If there’s anything that gels people together it’s the Stampede. I thought there’s absolutely no way they’ll be able to host it (this year), but it’s come together on time.”
Calgary Connection runs July 4 to 13 at Red Gallery, 2033 Oak Bay Ave. Visit redartgallery.ca or call 250-881-0462 for more information.