Enjoying the View: Mowry Relishes a New Role at the MacKenzie Art Gallery

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Crystal Mowry is adjusting to a new environment amid the pandemic as Programs Director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina.

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When Crystal Mowry moved to Regina last summer, the unfamiliar backdrop of a vast prairie horizon wasn’t the only thing that caught her eye.

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The Toronto native was also inspired by the opportunity to contribute to another landscape gem, one that has earned a reputation beyond its regional borders.

“At some point in everyone’s life, you need an adventure; you need something different,” offered the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s new program director. “The decision to pursue this adventure becomes so much easier when you believe in the vision of an organization.”

Working in Eastern Canada for nearly 20 years, Mowry developed a distant admiration for the MacKenzie. She took notice when the gallery launched an equity task force in 2020 – seen as a progressive effort to help foster a more diverse agenda.

“I always watch what other institutions are doing,” she said. “I was so inspired by the gallery’s bold vision for equity within its walls. I couldn’t help but say, “This is the kind of place I would like to work. ”

Crystal Mowry is the new Director of Programs at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.
Crystal Mowry is the new Director of Programs at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Chief’s Post

Mowry, 44, is an influential voice on the Canadian art scene. Along with her previous role as Senior Curator at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, she has also served on advisory boards for various national awards.

Mowry has a wide range of responsibilities in Regina, working closely with CEO John Hampton. She oversees conservation and education initiatives and helps the organization continue to expand its cultural horizons.

“The intention is to try to steer all of our efforts in the same direction,” she said. “We’re kind of in this transition period within our strategic plan, so it’s an exciting time to be a new person in the organization. I’m expected to see how things have worked so far and try to imagine what the future direction might be.

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Before coming to Regina, Mowry was already aware of MacKenzie’s reputation for her “groundbreaking” work and promotion of unique Aboriginal art.

It’s one of the many reasons she was drawn to the job.

“My (previous) colleagues were always talking about the foresight that is shown in the walls of the MacKenzie and the way the building was envisioned,” she said. “He had a reputation that preceded him. I was so honored to have the opportunity to join this team and learn from everyone here.

Running a gallery has become more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As some people continue to work from home, there is a physical distance between team members that is difficult to bridge.

“I try to be in the gallery as much as possible because that’s how I get to know the culture and personality of the organization, but I don’t see most of my colleagues face to face,” said Mowry, who cherishes the opportunities to collaborate in the creative process and share space with the artwork.

“I love being on the ground with the people who make this magic happen. I’m so inspired by what artists do. I think we all need more of that in our lives…especially in these trying times. If it’s not the visual arts, it’s music, it’s cinema, it’s literature. It’s art in one way or another that helps us get by. .

Mowry is a trained artist who was previously involved in sculpture and installation. Her work appeared in various galleries, including the MacKenzie, before finding her calling as a “co-conspirator or advocate” who works with artists on their projects.

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“At some point I realized that what I could bring to the field was much more meaningful on the other side of the equation,” she said. “Part of this work was made possible because I am trained as an artist. I could accept ideas that maybe seemed a little too risky or improbable because a part of me – a residual artist part of my brain – could believe it and see that it was possible.

Mowry’s passion for art dates back to her childhood, when she developed an abiding love for picture books. His first creations were born from a fascination for “marrying the written word to the image to create this brand new form”.

“I keep tinkering with creative pursuits in one way or another,” she said. “I don’t do that much anymore, but I love to sew. I love craftsmanship. I have a child, so my experience learning how to craft things has come in handy in a different way.

It also pairs well with her role at the MacKenzie, where new exhibits continue to be installed amid the pandemic. There are also various online offerings and artist talks available through digital residency programs.

“I would challenge our community to rethink who they think we are,” Mowry added. “I say that because we do so many different things. One gets the impression that museums are places that are sort of elitist institutions, that they care less about the public than about the objects they collect. The MacKenzie is the kind of place that will challenge those assumptions.

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