Calgary artists compete for People's Portrait Prize at arts centre in former Marda Loop school

Calgary artists compete for People's Portrait Prize at arts centre in former Marda Loop school

The faces of Mr. Bean, Fidel Castro, Rihanna and Jim Prentice are some of the most recognizable ones to fill the hallways of a new arts venue in southwest Calgary.

It's part of the first annual People's Portrait Prize, a contest for Calgary artists of all backgrounds.

About 150 local amateur and professional painters and sculptors submitted work for the event, which is hosted by cSPACE at the former King Edward School in the Marda Loop area.

"Everybody has been so excited about this," said Melissa Cole, one of the organizers of the event.

"We've had so many offers of support and volunteering, and it's just an outpouring of support from the Calgary arts community, and you know it just really, really warms my heart."

Artists paid just $2 to enter their work and have a chance at winning a $2,000 prize. The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges. Visitors can vote for a People's Choice Award.

The portraits fill four floors of the new arts centre in the century-old sandstone school at 1721 29th Ave. S.W.

A closing reception is set for 7 p.m. on March 25, when the grand prize will be awarded.

Immigrant honours Prentice 

One of the portraits is of the late premier Jim Prentice, who was killed in plane crash in B.C. last October. It was painted by An Dong, an artist who came from China to practice English and art.

Dong spends his days painting in the Calgary Drop-In Centre, where he lives.

"I respect Jim Prentice," he said. "Because he was [an] important person for this province … all people should remember him."

Dong captured Prentice — smiling the way he remembers him when he served turkey at the centre one Thanksgiving. He says the oil painting is a way to thank him.

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