Griffith Aaron Baker

THE ART GALLERY OF GRANDE PRAIRIE’S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Written by Joanna Moen

It is not hard to offer a warm, Peace Country welcome to Griffith Aaron Baker, the new Director/Curator of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie. In fact, it is very easy to become comfortable with this affable, knowledgeable and enthusiastic new citizen of the Peace because he is ‘on fire’ with delight at his new position in the art gallery venue. Though he just joined the AGGP staff in the first week of September, he is already setting new directions for his “phenomenal new job.”

So who is Griffith Aaron Baker? Griffith, is a son of the Prairies. Born in Saskatoon, he has curated and directed galleries including most recently the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. At the Mann—a collecting gallery—where he served as both Director and Curator, he assisted in acquiring more than 700 pieces in three years. The result is an impressive art collection of Canadian art as well as works from international artists. Currently, while Griffith assumes the helm at AGGP, his partner (Sculptor and Art Educator Twyla Exner) is assisting with the transition to a new Director in Prince Albert.

Griffith Baker in front of Herb Sellin's exhibition 45 Years - A Journey Through Realism to Abstraction.

Griffith Baker in front of Herb Sellin’s exhibition 45 Years – A Journey Through Realism to Abstraction.

Prior to the Mann Art Gallery, Griffith was Director/Curator at the Estevan Art Gallery in Saskatchewan; where he learned a lot about methods of procuring and mounting high quality exhibitions. Estevan was perhaps where he took the knowledge he gained from his BFA (University of Regina) and MFA (Concordia; in sculpture) and put it into practice.

Now at the AGGP, Griffith spoke of his faith in the clear vision that the Board of Directors has described to him. He also graciously and gratefully acknowledged the contributions made to the AGGP by his predecessors, including but not limited to Robert Steven (now the Culture and Heritage Manager for the City of Grande Prairie) and Trenton Perrott (previous Executive Director of the AGGP); whose remarkable efforts resulted in the seven gallery architectural phenomenon we now call the AGGP.
In addition to the direction set by the board, Griffith has more than a few ideas of his own. To begin, he will carry on the previous Director’s vision that the AGGP become the “Best small city gallery in Canada.” To achieve this, he wants to create greater accessibility to the AGGP with the hopes of higher numbers of people attending on a regular basis.

Griffith wishes to promote and increase AGGP art tours to groups as small as families and to larger visiting groups associated with seminars and conferences being held in Grande Prairie. For example, when the AFCA (Alberta Fire Chiefs Association) recently visited here, participants were given an AGGP tour. It was so successful a letter of gratitude and commendation was written to the AGGP.

Already Griffith has set this new direction in motion. He is in the process of creating a ‘Call for Submission’; an invitation not just extended to artists within Canada but also to those in the international art world. In this way, Griffith is hoping to find the works of new and innovative artists who may not yet be known outside their immediate communities. ‘A Call for Submissions’ as he explained, is convenient, cost-effective and opens opportunities up a greater selection for curators perusing for new shows. At the same time it offers the opportunity for Griffith and his curators to keep their collective finger on the pulse of both the emerging and established art worlds.

As a dynamic and approachable Executive Director, Griffith plans to make his presence known in the community. He has already visited the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie and attends openings at the Centre for Creative Arts. He hopes to attract guest speakers and provide Professional Development opportunities for artists. An example of this would be a seminar series devoted to assisting artists in Grande Prairie and the Peace Region learn about self-promotion: how to apply for grants, write artist statements, apply for exhibitions and in general, allow their works to be seen by galleries on a provincial and national scale. As well, he will continue to enhance the online newsletters and promote the spring 35th Annual Art Auction held annually in Grande Prairie (April 25th, 2015).

In meeting with Griffith, one discerns that he has the energy, drive and sense of mission needed to accomplish his goals of enhancing the accessibility and visibility of the AGGP. He clearly values collaboration and inclusion both in terms of his staff and the community; his enthusiasm and excitement about the AGGP is palpable. Griffith knows that “there is so much great art out there” and he wants to find and exhibit it with the participation of his professional curatorial staff.

Griffith Aaron Baker is at once humble and at the same time a visionary. He is accessible, friendly, talented and knowledgeable. The AGGP is in good hands. One muses after visiting with Griffith if perhaps, like the sculptures he molds and forms to his internal vision, he will also sculpt and mold future positive directions for the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie.


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