Monsters perched in trees, surveying anyone who enters the yard, as vibrantly painted window frames and mirrors dangle from the branches and dazzle in the sunlight. You don’t need to fall down a rabbit hole to experience Wonderland — just go to Lowlands.
Nestled in the historic neighbourhood of Highlands, surrounded by mature oak trees and charming houses, the indoor-outdoor Lowlands Project Space, created by Steven Teeuwsen, uses the natural layout of the backyard for exhibits.
“I was really inspired by the unique environment created by the overhangs of trees, and the older houses and converting, for example, two ramshackle fences into mural walls,” says Teeuwsen. “It’s really inspiring, bringing in artists to the space and walking through the yards, and just discussing where their work will fit and how they can respond to it.”
Teeuwsen opened Lowlands Project Space by happenstance after he and his partner, local mural artist Jill Stanton, moved into the house next door. The neighbouring house was available to rent as commercial space and Teeuwsen jumped on the chance to open an art space.
Teeuwsen spent years in the arts industry, editing an art zine called Notebook Magazine from 2006 to 2010, and curating art shows across the city, which fuelled his desire to own his own space. Given the chance, he would use his space to give underrepresented artists a spot to show their work. He never had a business plan or model, but he felt the location was a perfect fit.
“I had these ideas for so many years, but couldn’t really figure out the right venue and the right model to actually make it work, and so I had kind of given up on the idea of running an art space until this situation presented itself,” says Teeuwsen. “[The space] being next door to where we live allowed us to tear down the fence and really create this great outdoor space to show art during a pandemic.”
Lowlands Project Space held its first show during the summer of 2020 — a time when COVID restrictions closed most galleries. The first show, Castles of Butter, was a response to the pandemic and gave artists a chance to show their work in a safe, outdoor environment. With much success, the show attracted both well-known and newer artists to Lowlands. So far, Lowlands Project Space has hosted nine indoor and outdoor shows since its opening, including an indoor exhibit showcasing Lauren Crazybull’s work (as featured in Edify’s October 2021 issue) and two Halloween-themed shows.
Lowlands focuses on conceptual, not commercial projects, but otherwise has no strict mandate for the work it hosts, allowing artists of all backgrounds and experiences to submit proposals. As far as group exhibit themes go, Teeuwsen likes to keep it broad. The process starts with reviewing the submissions and choosing artworks that complement each other and allowing the theme to develop from that. The most important aspect for artists to know, though, is that the weather will impact their work in some way as the outdoor exhibit space doesn’t have any overhead protection.
“I don’t want an artist to take a piece that was meant for an indoor gallery and bring it outdoors and expect it to exist in the same way,” says Teeuwsen. “It needs to be adapted to exist outdoors or to be prepared for the fact that the sun and the rain will change the artwork while it’s there.”
Lowlands will even host a winter exhibit, running into December, put on by Intermedia students from the University of Alberta who worked with artist Yong Fei Guan. And it will host popup art markets throughout the month so you can stuff your stockings with local arts and goods.
Rumour has it that Santa will be stopping by, and, if he looks familiar, it’s not because he’s the jolly man who comes down the chimney. Teeuwsen’s artistry extends to posing as Edmonton’s own “kinda hot Santa.” His social calendar is booked up throughout the holidays with private events and a gig at West Edmonton Mall.