New Direction at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art

I recently met with Lorna McParland to talk about her new appointment as Director for the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art. The gallery has been in a state of flux over the last year or so with changes in staff and board, and it is really great to see some stability for the organization.



Lorna, originally from Kelowna, moved to the UK in 2001 to pursue studies in photography, graphic design, and visual communications. She lived in Glasgow where she taught at the Glasgow School of Art for 8 years, and decided to move back to Canada with her husband this past spring to be closer to her family. “We had always wanted to come back to Canada,” says Lorna, “We enjoyed living in Glasgow, but the lifestyle is quite different, and the weather is miserable.” She talked about how pub culture was fun, but got tiresome. After traveling back and forth for visits with her family for so many years, and dealing with the emotional, financial and physical exhaustion, they decided it was time to head to Canada.


After taking some time to adjust to life in Kelowna, Lorna started volunteering with the gallery in the fall. We talked at great length about how the gallery is moving forward, what she can bring to the gallery and to the arts community, and the importance of this organization here in Kelowna.


At the Glasgow School of Art, the programs were multi disciplinary, so having this background, Lorna sees the alternator moving more in the direction of not being defined by one discipline (visual arts) but having the big scope for the Alternator to act as a hub for visual artists, media artists, musicians, dancers, writers, and other creative types. The gallery has a lot to offer the community; this is the perfect place for people to congregate to meet, to discuss art, to engage, to critique, to have fun.


Lorna did point out that Kelowna can be a hard place to break into, new people that move here often have a hard time meeting people, so her hope is that the gallery can become that place where people can become part of the community.


I asked Lorna what she thought her challenges would be with this position, “Galleries often struggle with being recognized in communities, so we do need to work on developing what we are doing and become a more visible part of the community.” There have been a number of changes within the gallery recently with the board and staff, and as mentioned before, the gallery has been in a state of flux for the last couple of years. Lorna sees this as a great opportunity to reinvigorate the gallery; she will be working on programming that was set before she was part of the staff, but there is definitely room for her to bring in her own ideas and ways of doing things. Funding is also a challenge for any artist run centre, and with changes in government funding over the last few years, the gallery is going to be looking at other ways of generating financial support for the gallery.


To help create this “hub” of activity, the gallery is looking at ways of partnering with the students in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC-O. The gallery has four professional exhibitions per year, and during the times that the gallery is empty; they will have students volunteer to have an exhibition in the space, or to curate an exhibition of student work in the main exhibition space. “We need to support people while they are in their study period, and keep connecting with the local art students. If we don’t do this, then you would have to question why we are here”, says Lorna.


Lorna will also be working with the board to re-evaluate how the current members are benefiting from their support of the gallery, and figure out what the priorities are for members. What do members want to see at the gallery? What do members see as the role of the gallery in the artistic community and the wider community? There are currently six board members, and the gallery is actively looking for board members with diverse backgrounds to become involved in the gallery. There are opportunities for people who do not necessarily think of themselves as creative people, but can offer their knowledge and guidance for the gallery. The current board is very open to more people becoming involved and making the gallery what they want it to be. “I was amazed at the time and dedication form the gallery board and volunteers. It is phenomenal how people support the gallery, and without these volunteers it would be impossible to get everything done.”


As a past board member myself, I know that this is a great organization to be involved with, there is so much happening, and has so much potential to be the “hub” that Lorna is looking to create. I am really looking forward to see how the gallery will continue to evolve.


For more information about the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, visit


If you are looking to get involved with the gallery, send Lorna an email to

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