On December 8th, Anne Pickard-Vaandering wrapped up the latest edition of her three-part lecture series, Introduction to Contemporary Art at The Rooms with a session on abstract art.

 “One of the messages I’m trying to get across is, if you’ve got eyes and feelings, you can understand art,” artist and educator, Anne Pickard-Vaandering said.

Pickard-Vaandering has been developing and facilitating art education programming at The Rooms for eight years. For a lot of that time, she focused on engaging school-aged kids, however she became increasingly aware that there was a hunger in the city for more art education programming geared towards adults.

“As I started to get to know my job and the people in the community a bit more, it became obvious that people wanted more meat on the bones of understanding contemporary art,” Pickard-Vaandering said. “Having a lecture series with a little bit of an academic component really seemed to fit that need.”

With the support of  Art Gallery Director Anne Chafe, Pickard-Vaandering launched the Contemporary Art at The Rooms lecture series last winter, with monthly three-hour sessions. Each session explores a different topic in contemporary art including; People and Portraits, Land Landscapes, and Abstract Art. The series sold out, inspiring Pickard-Vaandering to launch a second hugely popular installment.

Anne Pickard-Vaandering self portrait

Pickard-Vaandering begins the events with a lecture, using images and humour to discuss different ideas having to do with art theory. She stresses the importance of understanding art as a response to a particular historical and political moment.

“I’ve created powerpoint presentations with great big, delicious, juicy images of historical art. I’ll show an image and then discuss in my lively lecture manner what the image is, why we’re talking about it, and where it sits in the timeline of art history,” Pickard-Vaandering explained.

After the lecture portion of the session, Pickard-Vaandering leads participants to the Gallery to apply what they’ve learned to a current exhibition. In some cases she works with Curator Mireille Eagan and Registrar Chris Batten to pull relevant pieces out of The Rooms’ vault, giving participants an opportunity to take in work they might not otherwise get the chance to see.

“When we go into the Gallery after the lecture, and the visitors explain what the art means to each other, it’s really beautiful,” Pickard-Vaandering said.

In the upcoming lecture on abstraction, Pickard-Vaandering and her audience will talk about the political circumstances that gave birth to abstract expressionism, as well as some local, more contemporary artists who work with abstraction. She’s excited to discuss the work of Jordan Bennett, Peter Bell, Don Wright, Anne Meredith Barry, and Elena Popova.

Since confirming her hunch that folks in the city are craving more opportunities to learn about art theory, Pickard-Vaandering has committed to offering the Contemporary Art at The Rooms lecture series on a regular basis along, with other one-off lectures on topics that relate to work being displayed in The Gallery.