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Cool Arts Society

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ArtsMart: Cool Arts Launch



Kelowna’s favourite (and only) art vending machine is back for its final edition of 2019! 


This time they're doing something special: a partnership with Cool Arts! The incredible members of the Cool Arts Society have been working for months to create colourful sculptures and objects for the ArtMart. Every piece is one of a kind.


Works are available from approximately $5 - $12 each and feature soft abstract plush sculptures, pocket paintings, fibre friends, and more!


The ArtsMart launches on Friday, November 8 from 6-8PM at the Alternator Centre (#103, 421 Cawston Ave - Rotary Centre for the Arts) and will be on view in the RCA atrium until January 4, 2020.


4 Women - Artists


The exhibition 4 Women - Artists highlights women with disabilities in the arts. The focus of the work is what motivates, drives, and inspires these women and their creative journey.


Featured artists are:


Jenn Duncan - paintings, drawings, movement with marks and colour

Leigh Knapp - illustrations of Sponge Bob

Heather Robison - fibre art, featuring various techniques

Sarah Philion - blank line doodle art with texture


Please join us in celebrating these women and their art at the Opening Reception, Saturday, November 16 at the Cool Arts Studio (#201, 421 Cawston Ave - Rotary Centre for the Arts) between 3:30-5:00PM.

Layers - FINA Art Gallery Exhibition

The FINA Art Gallery (1148 Research Road, UBCO) will host the third annual exhibition in partnership with Cool Arts Society in their gallery space this fall. The exhibition, Layers, will run from September 30 thru to October 11 with an opening reception held in the same space on October 4 from 3:30pm to 4:30pm. The exhibition and reception are free of charge to attend and will celebrate work by adult artists living with developmental disabilities in the Central Okanagan.


Layers aims to introduce more disability and outsider art to the general public. Though there are many gifted animators, sculptors, and fibre artists living with disabilities in the Okanagan, too often their work is considered amateur or unprofessional. With the increased popularity of the disability and outsider art movements around the world, Layers attempts to bring more visibility to the work created by artists who have traditionally been on the fringes of the art world. All work is representative of each individual artist, with video animations, wall hangings, and yarn-bombed furniture featured in the exhibition.

RE:RECORD - Artscape Exhibition

RE:RECORD was a collaboration between Cool Arts member artists and art educator, Shimshon Obadia. In this project, artists listened to dozens of vinyl records donated by Milkcrate Records. Once a favourite album was picked, each artist undertook a guided artistic journey with Obadia to bring their individual interpretation of the music to life. The result is was stunning series of re-imagined album art, re-bound as if re-recorded yesterday. RE:RECORD endeavoured to share the powerfully unique perspectives each of the artists involved in this project has on these well known tunes; taking a new look at some old music. 


The art was on display through July and August at the Kelowna Community Theatre and was part of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan Artscape program. Cool Arts wishes to express their sincere gratitude to these partners and supporters for their part in making this exhibition happen.

2 Exhibition with the Portland Art & Learning Studio

Cool Arts Society partnered with The Portland Art & Learning Studio (PALS), based in Portland, Oregon, to celebrate work created by artists living with developmental disabilities. Both studios hosted simultaneous receptions to mark the opening of the exhibition 2. Both exhibitions featured art by individuals from both studios. The Cool Arts-hosted opening will took place on Sunday, June 30 at 12pm – 3pm at the Rotary Centre for the Arts (421 Cawston Ave), where a live-stream of the simultaneous PALS opening was shared with those in attendance.


The theme for the 2 exhibition was developed by guest curator, BC-based artist, Rachel Mercer who was inspired to represent the broad diversity of artworks and artists featured in the exhibition. “The intention here is not to emphasize the differences between two communities, but rather to reach out to a new friend and celebrate what can be achieved together,” says Mercer. “While the works may have come from separate cities, the art all fits together like two peas in a pod. This harmony of aesthetic speaks to the successful connectivity of this partnership.”

Cool Cats Project Exhibit Tour


The Cool Cats Project was a partnership between Cool Arts Society and the Okanagan Cat Coalition (OKCC). The project was aimed at increasing awareness about the estimated 18,000 feral cats living in the Central Okanagan. The OKCC assists by spaying and neutering cats, then re-homing or releasing them to live out their lives without perpetuating the overpopulation problem.


Cool Arts artists created art, using cats as a theme, in various mediums (painting, clay sculpture) under the mentorship of local artists Lee Claremont, Sharilyn Kuehnel, Sarah Parsons, Potters Addict Ceramic Art Centre, and Rena Warren.


The project culminated with the hosting of four public exhibitions of the artwork, each with an educational element focusing on increasing public awareness of feral cat issues in our community and how the OKCC is working to address these issues.


A Different Lens at the FINA Gallery


The A Different Lens exhibition was held at the FINA Gallery, Faculty of Creative and Critical Arts building at UBCO September 23 - October 6. There was an opening reception held on Saturday, September 23 from 1 - 3 pm.


The exhibit featured 27 large photographs taken by Cool Arts members in collaboration with artist photographer and BFA Alumna Kelsie Balehowsky. Works featured compositions captured while on two excursions throughout Kelowna's Cultural District.


We Are Citizens Art Exhibit at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art
Citizenship is a very important theme in the disability world today, because it is about who we all are and the rights we have.
The "Keys to Citizenship" show that we can all be different and equal by becoming citizens and helping one another to be citizens. Simon Duffy and Wendy Perez explain the concept of citizenship using 7 "keys" - Life, Love, Freedom, Money, Home, Help and Purpose. All the participating artists in this exhibition have worked to explore these themes.
"We are Citizens sprang from a desire to reach out to neighbouring communities, to connect with new friends, to create dialogue around ideas of what it means to be a citizen locally, nationally or globally. It came out of a desire to share in the creative experience and to share with our communities a multitude of voices and interpretations." Rena Warren, Artistic & Program Director, Cool Arts Society


Cool Arts gratefully acknowledges the support for this pilot project from the City of Kelowna.

Bio Diverse Ability Project Art Exhibit at the Vernon Art Gallery

Walking, Looking, Collecting and Creating

"Bio Diverse Ability is a truly collaborative exhibition. The Cool Arts artists have partnered with Kelowna-based artist Shannon Wilson, and with the CRIS Adaptive Adventures; with Okanagan Xeriscaping Association and the students from Myron Campbell's media studies class at UBCO. Most of all, they have partnered with each other and with the beautiful and fragile Okanagan landscape to create this multi-layered response to the indigenous plant species whose home is in this valley."

Carolyn Machardy

Associate Professor, UBCO



We Are Artists

We Are Artists was an exhibition that opened in November 2009 at the Kelowna Art Gallery. It was a collaboration between the Kelowna Art Gallery and Cool Arts Society. This exhibition celebrates artists with disabilities and works to raise awareness about the arts and disability. 

Since the end of the exhibition (March 2010), the artwork has been shown at several different venues including the Unitarian Church and the French Cultural Centre in Kelowna. 


Historically, people with developmental disabilities have not enjoyed the same access to the arts as non-disabled people. The We Are Artists exhibition is important because it promotes diversity, accessibility and equality in the arts. The intent of the exhibition was to be as accessible as possible; part of the project included an exhibition catalogue with plain language text. 

The theme of this work is identity. People with disabilities are often seen first (and sometimes only) as disabled people instead of being seen as individuals. The artists in this show are claiming an identity when they say, "I am an artist". 


The exhibition included twelve self-portrait installations. There are three parts to each self-portrait - a canvas, a chair and a pair of shoes. The art workshops to create the work for these installations were led by local artist and art teacher Dawn Emerson.


Although many people think of a self-portrait as being an image of a person’s face, a self-portrait can also be a work of art that is about the artist in other ways. There are examples of both kinds of self-portraits in this exhibition. The mural shows the twelve artists who created the self-portraits. Also included in the show are drawings by a thirteenth artist – Pat Easley.


All the artists in this exhibition have a unique style and way of working. They have all chosen to represent themselves in the self-portraits in an individual manner. It is important to remind ourselves that artwork by all artists (including artists with disabilities) reveals their "voice", or what they have to say about themselves and the world around them.


Past Exhibitons

  • Marmalade Cat Café Exhibition, 2016
  • International Association Of Special Education (IASE) 13th Biennial Conference, Vancouver, B.C. July 2013
  • Superheroes Exhibition (film stills) Kelowna Community Theatre/ Artscape, April 2013
  • Superheroes Claymation Screening, (film) Alternator Centre Gallery, Kelowna, B.C. (February 2013)
  • Rotary Centre for the Arts – Shane Cook Exhibition, June 2012 and Cool-laboration, January 2013

  • Beyond the Spectrum – Autism Program, (mixed media) Streaming Café, Kelowna, B.C.
  • Yarnbombing Installation, Culture Days, Kelowna, B.C. Sept 2012
  • Yarnbombing Installation, Parkinson Recreation Centre, Kelowna, B.C. May 2012
  • Eco-Art with Annabel Stanley, (eco-art installation) CONDUIT Fertility Festival, Summerhill Winery, Kelowna, B.C. May 2012
  • Diversabilities, exhibition Streaming Café, (mixed media) Kelowna, B.C. April 2012
  • Lake Country Artwalk Exhibit (acrylic paint on canvas) – Lake Country annually (2005 - 2012)

  • Papergirl Exhibit (mixed media) Rotary Centre for the Arts – annually Oct 2010 and 2011
  • Beebox Project Exhibition – (installation, photography and film) B.C. Orchard Industry Museum (current) 2011
  • Life Drawing at the Ballet (mixed media) – Kelowna Community Theatre/ Artscape - July 2011
  • Waking Warhol Exhibition – UBCO  Disability Resource Centre exhibit at the French Cultural Centre – April 2011
  • Waking Warhol Exhibition (linocuts) – Okanagan College Centre for Learning/ Artscape - Jan 2011

  • Sand Spiral Ephemeral Art Project (eco-art installation) – City of Kelowna Public Art – Aug 2010
  • We Art Artists exhibition- National Canadian Association for Community Living Conference in October 2010, Whistler
  • We Art Artists exhibition – French Cultural Centre 2010
  • We Art Artists exhibition – Unitarian Church 2010
  • We Art Artists exhibition- in collaboration with the Kelowna Art Gallery and curated by Sara Lige (November 2009 - March 2010)