“A Day in the Life” with Calgary Visual Artist Sandra Vida

It is difficult to reflect on the visual arts in this city without the name Sandra Vida coming to mind. She is a true original who explores important and timely concepts and innovative combinations of media. With an activist and optimistic approach to art and life, Sandra has been an important contributor to the coming of age of performance, video, and multimedia practices in this country. Her degree from U of C was in English as well as Art, and she often weaves writings and text into her works, along with thoughts on her Celtic/Norse ancestry, psychological theories, and spiritual aspirations. Her works are often performative, perhaps reflecting her parents’ involvement in the early Calgary theatre scene. Sandra’s most compelling recent work is a series of multi-media installations that bring together her talents in painting and collage, and her dexterity at combining images and objects into visually stunning finished works. She’s also known to be a tireless supporter of other artists and of Calgary’s artist-run centres. In recognition of her contributions to the arts community, she has received an Epcor Established Arts award from Calgary’s Mayor, as well as local and provincial arts grants to facilitate her ongoing practice.

-Written by Sharon Stevens, artist colleague and executive director of Alberta Media Art Association (AMAAS) July 2014 – February 2024

Sandra Vida
Filming the video for new work, “In the Time of…” at The Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage near Nanton, August 2023. Photo by: Emily Promise Allison
Sandra Vida
Video The Crossing Place on a block of snow at the International Festival of Winter Cinema, Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, January 2023.
With Kadra Jusuf, Artistic Director, at EMMEDIA reception for Way Station exhibition, November 2023. Photo by: Phil Bowen
Viewers explore the multi-media installation Fall/Flow — at EMMEDIA Gallery, Calgary, June 2018
Sandra Vida
Performance, Vigil: Field of Crones, in the 7a*11d International Performance Art Festival, Toronto, September-October 2018. With Lillian Allen, Cat Cayuga and Anne Marie Bénéteau. Photo by: Henry Chan
Sandra Vida
Portal, multi-media installation (shadows of viewers) at EMMEDIA Gallery, Calgary, June 2016. Photo by: Sharon Stevens


Which ‘hood are you in?

I moved to a condo in Dalhousie in 2018, after growing up in inner-city Sunalta and spending a few years in Vancouver and Toronto. I have a lovely spacious studio here complete with a fireplace and high south-facing windows. I love being surrounded by the giant spruce trees in the complex, and I like strolling the many walkways in the neighbourhood or wandering on Nose Hill nearby. The LRT is only a few blocks away, which makes getting to arts events around town pretty easy.

What do you do?

Throughout my career, I’ve combined artwork with arts administration or teaching. Since 2018 I’ve enjoyed working full-time on my independent multi-media art practice. I like the expansive and inclusive medium of art installation, as it allows me to combine many different means of expression –live video and photography, music, sculpture, watercolour painting and digital collage. As I move into my 70s, I consider how ageing is experienced and perceived, especially by and about women. I’ve become interested as well, in the operation of dreams in relation to memory as well as to life choices and attitudes, and all these musings find their way into my art. I enjoy reading and travelling, mainly in relation to art projects, and in my rare free moments, participate in dance groups and sing in a choir.

What are you working on?

In 2020, I received an Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant to work on a new installation project called “In the Time of…” It reflects on the isolation of COVID-19 and distressing world events like environmental disasters and wars of aggression. I sought out a peaceful place to work, and it was the Alberta prairies where I grew up that provided inspiration and a perfect location. During six seasonal week-long residencies at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage near Nanton, I filmed video elements, wrote poetic text, and made on-site paintings. The lush gardens, surrounding fields, and the original homestead house appear in the piece; as well, I may be seen moving through and performing in these spaces. I plan to have a premiere showing at the Coutts Centre in the spring, as well as exhibiting the finished installation in a Calgary gallery, featuring the large-scale projected video with sound, along with constructed costumes, and objects that might include a framed mirror, divining rods, salt, flowers, candles, and an old wooden cradle.

Where can we find your work?

Since it takes me quite a while to produce a complex piece, I exhibit major works only every couple of years. In 2023, I showed the video installation Way Station at The Works Festival in Edmonton in July, and at EMMEDIA gallery in Calgary in November. I’ve recently had success exhibiting solo video works in local and international film & arts fests. You can see one of my public works (images of walking feet) on a signal box at the corner of 26th Avenue and 29th Street SW in Killarney. And the best place to find an overview of my projects is on my website.


About Stephanie Prentice 21 Articles
Stephanie Prentice, originally from Southern Ontario, now calls Alberta home, where she thrives on embracing life to the fullest. As a dedicated grant writer, she uses her expertise to support non-profit organizations in making a difference. In her spare time, Stephanie crafts sustainably developed mittens to combat Canadian winters. A true people person, Stephanie enjoys building connections and engaging with diverse communities. She's an adventurous soul, equally at home exploring new destinations or cherishing cozy moments. With a passion for travel and a crisp new passport, she's always ready for her next adventure, whether it's discovering warm beaches or hidden gems in the Rockies. Join Stephanie as she continues to advocate for causes close to her heart and make a positive impact wherever she goes.