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Walter Phillips Gallery Reopening

By Banff Centre Communications Posted on September 16, 2020
Installation view of Rita McKeoughs exhibition with red roses

September 17, 2020, Banff, AB – The Walter Phillips Gallery at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity will reopen to the public on Saturday, September 26 with the extension of Governor General Award-winning media artist Rita McKeough’s exhibition darkness is as deep as the darkness is. Visiting the gallery will be by appointment, offering a uniquely intimate opportunity to experience the exhibition together with a limited number of visitors.

Appointments can be made online at beginning on September 23.

About the Reopening:

Banff Centre is taking increased measures to ensure the safety of both our guests and staff in reopening the gallery during COVID-19. This includes hosting a limited number of visitors based on the physical space available within the exhibition, applying social distancing protocols, increased cleaning of the space, providing hand sanitizing stations, and implementing the Town of Banff bylaw requiring people to wear face masks in all public indoor spaces. For more information, please visit

The Walter Phillips Gallery will be among the first art galleries on a post-secondary institution campus to reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding ways to healthfully and viably reopen spaces on our campus that support artists and leaders, culture, and our community remains our priority during this period. We are thrilled to be taking this first step towards having our beautiful campus facilities open to staff and guests.

Janice Price, President and CEO for Banff Centre

About the exhibit:

Nationally recognized for her complex installation-based works integrating electronic media, sound and performance, McKeough’s darkness is as deep as the darkness is invites viewers into an imagined subterranean environment just below the ground’s surface. A space where darkness connotes a richness of lived entanglements between beings above and below the soil, the exhibition also references contested sites of urban development and resource extraction that penetrate into the burrows, roots and remains of animals and plants. 

Rita McKeough has an almost 40 year history with Banff Centre, first exhibiting at the Walter Phillips Gallery as part of Installations in 1983. This early work described a world where humans – having depleated the planet’s resources – resurrect ruins of demolished houses buried underground as the building materials for the future.

darkenss is as deep as the darkness is speaks to our collective impact on the deepest layers of the earth – the encroachment of the built environment and the effects of resource extraction on  plants and animals above and below. Rita McKeough’s work is imperative to consider at this nexus of global uncertainly and environmental change. We are thrilled to be able to extend this exhibition, which had to be closed to the public shortly after opening in February.

Brandy Dahrouge, Director of Visual Arts for Banff Centre

Installation view of Rita McKeoughs exhibition with video projections of wildlife

About the artist:

Rita McKeough is an installation and performance artist based in Calgary. Her work incorporates audio, electronics and mechanical performing objects. Since the late 1970s, McKeough has been committed to creating chaotic and immersive installations that reconfigure contradictions and tensions in our everyday lives. She uses interactive technologies to represent complex interspecies relationships and to create links between her installations and sound and music practices.

McKeough consistently works from a feminist perspective. Her recent work focuses on the environmental impacts of land development and the industrial extraction of natural resources. This recent work demonstrates her desire to use sound to create a rhythmic voice of agency and empathy to articulate forces of resistance in the natural world.

McKeough’s work has been featured in Radio Rethink: Art Sound and Transmission (Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, 1994); Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (YYZ Books, 2004); and Rita McKeough: Works (EMMEDIA Gallery & Production Society, M:ST Performative Art Festival, and TRUCK Contemporary Art, 2018).

McKeough feels fortunate to have the support and assistance of her friends and community to produce her work. Following teaching appointments at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Mount Allison University, McKeough currently teaches at Alberta University of the Arts. She is grateful to have worked with many extraordinary students and colleagues throughout her teaching career.

About Walter Phillips Gallery:

Walter Phillips Gallery is exclusively committed to the production, presentation, collection and analysis of contemporary art and curatorial practice. For contemporary artists, particularly those engaged in alternative forms of practice, Walter Phillips Gallery remains an essential and principal site where visual art is presented for critical reception and engagement with audiences. 

Established in 1976, Walter Phillips Gallery bears the name of a distinguished printmaker and painter who, from the 1930s to the 1950s, played a seminal role in the development of the visual arts program in the Banff School of Fine Arts. Esteemed alumni and Walter Phillips Gallery artists include H.G. Glyde, Walter Phillips, A.Y. Jackson, Takao Tanabe, Janet Cardiff, Rebecca Belmore, Ken Lum, Brian Jungen, Ragnar Kjartansson, Shary Boyle, Mike Nelson, Heather and Ivan Morison, Guy Maddin, Andrea Buttner, Neïl Beloufa, among others.

About Banff Centre’s plans for further reopening of campus:

Banff Centre is at the intersection of a number of different regulatory constraints governing its many activities, including as a post-secondary institution, gallery, theatre and performance venue, fitness centre, hotel, restaurant, and a conference and hospitality centre.

Banff Centre is currently working on plans to reopen additional campus buildings to serve the Bow Valley community, support artists and leaders pursuing on-campus programming, along with hosting conference and hospitality clients. In the meantime, Banff Centre is offering select programs and events online.

Further announcements will be made as plans are finalized.

We are working thoughtfully and deliberately to ensure that our facilities are reopened following health guidelines, protocols and regulations set out by Alberta Health Services, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and all other federal, provincial and municipal regimes, and in a way that preserves the long-term viability of the institution.

Michael Code, Vice President of Operations

We share a deep belief that Banff Centre has an unparalleled opportunity to live into its full potential as an arts and leadership educational institute with a mixed revenue model, which centres itself around the diverse artists and leaders who participate in Banff Centre programs. We are working very hard towards the restart and relaunch of this nationally and globally recognized institution so it can serve its educational and social purpose long into the future.

Janice Price

Installation view of Rita McKeoughs exhibition with green ferns