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International art exhibit making GP its only stop in western Canada

Grande Prairie will be the first Canadian city in more than 20 years to play host to an internationally renowned exhibit of Japanese kimono. Itchiku Kubota’s “What do the Mountain Spirits Ponder?” was last in this country in 1995 when it was on display at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

This will also be the first time the 45 kimono make their way to western Canada. Art Gallery of Grande Prairie Executive Director Jeff Erbach says it’s an honour and privilege for the local gallery to house them.

“We’re getting work that is extraordinary and has been seen all over the world and has never really been in Canada at all. It’s something that we should all be super proud of and honorific of.”

A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is often worn for festivals and other important occasions. The kimono in the exhibit are much larger than what is typically worn and are covered in designs depicting Japanese landscapes.

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The late artist Itchiku Kubota created them using an ancient fabric dying technique called tsujigahana that was used in the 1600s. Kubota also has a connection to Alberta, as Erbach says he was inspired by a trip he took to the Rocky Mountains.

“You’re getting to see a Japanese artist inspired by what happens in this part of Canada creating pieces in a way that hasn’t been seen for hundreds of years; I think that’s quite a moving experience for people.”

The kimono are grouped together in sequences that make massive images. Before the exhibit opens from November 22nd to February 20, 2019, one will be unveiled at a special event called “When East Comes West: A Celebration of Japanese Culture”.

“Wherever these kimono travel, they’re just an extraordinary thing to see. The event that we’re doing is something atypical for us, it’s something our community doesn’t necessarily do a lot of… welcoming a very special, irreplaceable artwork into our community.”

The event will be held November 6th at the Four Points by Sheraton Grande Prairie. It will also feature Japanese fusion cuisine and Taiko drummers from Edmonton. A limited number of tickets are available online.

The exhibit itself has been all over the world, drawing crowds in the tens of thousands. Erbach says he’s hearing from people all over North America interested in attending and getting their hands on the rare catalogue. He also believes it may be the first major international art show in the Peace region.

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