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Taber Arts Centre looking to boost membership

Posted on October 19, 2023 by Taber Times
Times Photo Courtesy of Nancy Kerr Dedication: Nancy Kerr and other members of the Taber Arts Centre bought a planter and made a plaque to honour Betty Oudman for her dedication and contributions to the Taber Arts Centre.

By Heather Cameron
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Long-time Taber Arts Centre patron Betty Oudman bequeathed Taber Arts Centre a substantial amount of money from her estate and in response, the Centre bought a planter and intend to put a memorial plaque on it to honour Oudman for all her years of dedication and her donation to the Arts Centre.

“My mom, Betty Oudman, was an avid crafts person,” BJ Oudman, one of Betty Oudman’s daughters, said. “From carding, spinning wool and weaving to pottery, visiting the Arts and Crafts Centre was a regular activity for her as far as I can remember.”

Oudman also says she recalls going with her mother to watch her or build things beside her when she was little, helping her at craft sales and her pride in the things she made or could share with others.

“All ten of her children and her 17 grandchildren own at least one ‘Betty bowl’ as we all call the bowls she made with us,” Oudman said. “I am sure this tradition will continue with the generation of her great grandchildren as these special dishes are passed on.”

Janice Hart, another one of Oudman’s daughters, likewise has memories of her mother being involved with several different crafts and never stopped even as her mother was diagnosed with dementia and it progressed.

“I hope that people in Taber realize the importance of the Arts and Crafts Centre,” Hart said. “It brings joy to people.”

The Taber Arts and Crafts Centre, according to a written History of the Taber Arts and Crafts Society, started as an Arts and Crafts Club in 1971 in the basement of the old Court House in May 1971 and consisted of mostly weavers and potters. The history states that the club only used the building in the fall and winter, so it served as a drop-in centre for transient workers in May and June. The history states that in June 29, 1979, the Club spoke to the Town of Taber about implementing an Arts Council so that all crafts people would have a voice with the Town. According to the history, the Taber Arts and Crafts Society was officially registered on March 7, 1980, and their purpose was to promote visual arts in Taber including weavers, potters, painters, and China painters. 

The history also states that on Sept. 5, 1983, the Taber Arts and Crafts Centre was officially opened by Mayor George Meyer and was located just south of the Parkside Manor. At the time, the history says, potters, weavers, China painters, and Palette Clubs occupied the building, and each club was charged $350 for quarters plus $25 per person per year.

In addition to the club, the history says, the Arts and Crafts Society worked with the Further Education Council to sponsor several classes including classes in photography, flower arranging, fly-tying, stained glass, macramé, stitchery, quilting, basket weaving, and heritage dolls. 

The history states that the Taber Arts and Crafts Club hosted their first show, tea, and bake sale in October 1979. In 1993, the history says, the Centre added a 12×32’ expansion due to help from a 50/50 Community Enhancement Grant and half the fee from the Arts and Crafts Club. The expansion was completed by 1995.

Currently, membership is open to all 18 and older who live within the M.D. of Taber, but people under 18 can come if they are accompanied by an adult. Nancy Kerr, a long-standing member of the Taber Arts and Crafts Society, says that the Taber Arts and Crafts Centre has sadly dwindled down to just 20 members in recent years. Kerr says that the most recent courses the centre has done include wax resist with water colour, pottery hand building and wheel class and encaustic art  with bees wax. The centre, Kerr says, have even done a few children’s classes like wacky paper machete birds and flamboyant giraffes.

Kerr emphasizes that the Taber Arts Centre has been promoting themselves for years and people are actually not aware of it, what it has available in the way of exhibits or courses, or who it’s open to.

“The thing is that we’re struggling right now is because we have so few members and it’s really hard to get classes going because we have so few members,” Kerr said. “And I think if we could build the members, we could also get more classes. It’s hard to organize classes, and then if you try to bring somebody in from out of the club, it costs a lot of money that people don’t want to pay. So, we’re trying to build and the Town’s working with us, trying to find some grants and things that would maybe help us.”

For more information about the Taber Arts and Crafts Society, visit: 

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