The History of Sugar
The Sugar suite of galleries began in at the turn of the century as a union between the Sugar Gallery, run by Lisa Brawn from her silver bullet trailer and The Estate, run by Angela Inglis and Miloslav Dlouhy from their home. Lisa and Milo had previously connection with their mutual involvement with the United Congress, a subversive art group in Calgary in the early 1990s. Both galleries were unorthodox type exhibition spaces with quirky shows, lots of booze and good times. The union of the two became the “Sugar Estate Art Salon”, which was an odd little lofty space in the back alley between 10th and 11th Avenue and 1st street downtown Calgary. The Sugar Estate had weekly shows/events/movie nights/chess tournaments/live music for about a year and gained popularity amongst local artists. All shows were group shows and were theme related. Exhibiting artist included the like of Chris Cran and John Will along with many other local artists in varying career stages, students from ACAD included. Show titles include Bic Inc., FIASCO, The Old Man Show and also hosted an Art City Event from the city of Calgary’s art collection featuring the work of Carroll Taylor-Lindoe. The Sugar Estate was later invited to show at the University of Lethbridge where works produced by the Patented Rotary Duplicator were displayed. The PRD was a machine that duplicated artwork, but at reduced size, destroying the original in the process.
Then in 2005/06, Lisa, Angela and Milo opened the “Portrait Estate” (also known as the National Portrait Gallery) which was formerly an ATM space in Art Central right off Centre Street train station. The space was very small, about 6 by 6 feet but monthly shows were exhibited for about a year including such notables as the Maximum Capacity, GOD Show, Portrait Estate Exhibition & Stampede, The Nude Show. As rents in Calgary soared, the Portrait Estate, closed. All were group, themed shows, featuring local artists as well as a work of Montreal 1960s artist, Gilmore Hanko, also known as the blind painter.
In 2009, Lisa Brawn approached Angela and Jane Grace about a lovely little 100 year old shack that was available for rent which translated into the residential gallery of the century, the Sugar Shack. All of the shows were group shows and “event” based – a lot of performance, installations, happenings and again lots of booze and good times. Show titles include Debutantes Ball, Nursies, Paper Jam, God Show II (The Resurrection), Love Shack, DioramaRama, Genderblender and Birthday Blowout. The Sugar Shack closed in October 2010 due to the invasion of centipedes.
The closing of the Sugar Shack gave rise to the opening of the Sugar Cube on 17th Avenue which was a little 3 by 5 foot public window space that Lisa Brawn had been renting under the name of Museo Poco for a few years. Lisa invited Jane and Angela to help reinvent this little nook in the heart of Calgary’s party avenue known as 17th by curating some art shows.
The Sugar Cube was launched with a performative drawing over a period of six weeks entitled “drunken paw’s Interpretation of Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Trick” which is a collaborative group with Mark Dicey, Leslie Sweder and Janet Turner. Other shows to follow include Monamania, an exhibition of the 20 year collection of Patricia Dawkin’s Mona Lisa collection; Karl Umber used the Sugar Cube as his home base to perform acts of “Blandalism” on the 17th Avenue fairway by repainting brown benches brown; Tea for One Wrapped in Gold Thread, a dazzling exhibition by Jolie Bird; Clothes Lines, where the space was filled with clothing discards, by Angela Inglis; Peeps Show, a voyeuristic photo display by the Urban Calgary Foto Kollective (UCFK); Playing With Dolls by Jane Grace; a luminescent display by .freehands. entitled battling the linear parade; and currently on display is the Festival of Wrongheadedness presented by the National Portrait Gallery, with an array of provocative portraits painted by Lisa Brawn.