Behind the Scenes of Refinery Parties at the AGA


I have the sincere pleasure of planning the Art Gallery of Alberta’s signature events as part of my annual line-up of projects. These events include the well-known late night art parties, Refinery.

I get to spend the six months of planning working alongside Meaghan Froh, who is on the Art Gallery of Alberta’s curatorial team. She’s a dream, a joy and has a similar workflow and work ethic as I do. Working with her is the BEST!

With mere days until the next Refinery, I am in the middle of ticket give away emails, confirming vendors, reviewing the floor plans for anything missed, putting together phone lists and recruiting volunteers.

I thought this may be a fun time to give an inside peak into how these notorious parties come together. As I was putting together this journal entry, I couldn’t help but laugh at how clean and lined up everything looks typed out. As most events go, there is always a planning schedule but things don’t always happen that neatly.



Five to Six Months Out

The planning process begins six to five months out of the event where the theme will begin to be developed. In some cases, Meaghan spends time researching and brainstorming themes that relate to current exhibitions, or the curatorial team, or an exhibition curator will put forward a theme she is excited about. This part of the process can change depending on the Refinery – it can also take a number of weeks of back and forth before we land on a theme that we think is a good fit.

Four Months Out

Once the theme is confirmed and the accompanying graphics have been created, we are off to planning the night! Meaghan and I work on gathering a list of artists whose artistic practices align with the theme, meet with them and get an idea of what they would be interested in presenting at Refinery in relationship to the theme. This right here is my favourite part of the process! Working with the selected artists to create an evening that celebrates their work and the overall theme.

In this time, we also do marketing timelines and planning any creative marketing initiatives.


Three Months Out

Three months out is when we really start to pick up steam!

During this time we confirm the details of the artists’ projects and begin promoting their plans. Once the projects are decided, we begin working on the floorplan to make it all fit! This part usually involves walking around the different floors a number of times, taping project footprints out and getting a feel for the flow of the night.

In this time we are also connecting with Edmonton’s local vendors to bring in rentals, lighting, sound and any other suppliers we need.  Working with the Art Gallery of Alberta’s in-house catering team, we develop a menu that we feel connects with the theme of the night.

Two Months Out

Two months out to the event, it becomes real and tickets go on sale!

We spend most of this time meeting with any of the AGA’s internal stakeholders to confirm the details of the night and how it affects their area of responsibility. These involve meetings with the security and exhibitions team as well as work with the guest services team.

We continue to work directly with artists on the logistics of their projects and promoting them through a variety of ways.

And of course, the edits to the floor plans continues!

One Month Out

Crunch time! Finalize, finalize, finalize! No more planning, dreaming or aspiring – this time is spent finalizing the details and confirming the plans.

You will find Meaghan and I will be slow on all other emails during this time as Refinery starts to take major priority in our work loads. The big tasks for this time are final ticket sales pushes, booking volunteers and staff for the night of, delivering the copy for signage to the designer, weekly production meetings with the entire team, confirming the detailed schedule.

Then… its go time! 

Want more information about the next Refinery? Visit the AGA's Refinery website!


Image Credits:

OMM Photography

Mat Simpson Photography Co