New cultural facility in Mayland Heights

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Today a gym (Fitness Plus) in the community of Mayland Heights has an auction selling all of its exercise equipment located there. According to the sign on the door, they closed this location on October 5 due to their inability to “maintain the financial viability of (its) north location”.

Why is this arts related news, you may ask?

It is not.

However, what is news and relevant, is that the new occupant of the space will be Evergreen Theatre which I believe is currently located on the former CFB Calgary base. I know from the news that area will be undergoing redevelopment in the near future.

Some time ago, probably around the time that ArtBOX on 17E opened in the summer of 2013 and potentially in conjunction with a discussion of public art as well, I mentioned the fact of the paucity of dedicated art spaces located east of Deerfoot Trail.

I find this a rather fascinating observation. Here is why.

In the 2014 City Census , as seen here, it shows that 1,195,194 residents of all ages who live in the City boundaries. It also shows that there are currently 14 electoral wards for the office of Councillor officially representing those approximately 1.2 million people.

In those 14 wards, it would appear as if five wards are largely located east of Deerfoot (wards 3, 5, 9, 10 and 12). I can already hear it. I know what is going to happen is that someone will take exception to my choices of wards (especially with regards to ward 9). I am okay with that, because I see from the map on page 28 of the link provided above that there is no indication of major thoroughfares on it and where population actually resides. Ward 9 goes to the eastern city limits, but I also know that the Councillor is also considered to represent the inner-city by some. It is a moot point. I have probably erred somewhat. As a result I had to guess based on an approximate speculation of where Deerfoot is located on this map.

If I use the wards indicated above (3, 5, 9, 10 and 12) and add up the population in those wards as indicated on the map located on page 28, I see that approximately 442,479 people reside east of Deerfoot. That represents 37.02% of all residents of the city.

This is a significant amount of people, no matter how you cut it. From the following link we can see that a similar percentage of the popular vote (39.6%) was all that was required to bring the federal Conservative Party of Canada to a majority government in the last election in May 2011.

The question follows.

Given that this geographical area represents nearly 40% of the City population – why is it that this area has been so severely misrepresented with art spaces, for so long?

Regardless of whether you the reader, like my choice of electoral ward selection, it is nevertheless a valid question to ask.

I need to also state in all fairness, that Calgary Arts Development is aware of this deficit and has started to take steps to introduce cultural equity into places where none currently exist. One of those attempts is the ArtBOX on 17E project that is a limited time project in partnership with the International Avenue BRZ. So at least there are some attempts being made to try and rectify this oversight. Yet another cultural space is the long-overdue, but recently announced Calgary Film Studio that had the sod-turning yesterday (October 31) that will be located in the Great Plains Industrial area.

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From what I understand the new Evergreen Theatre space will open in early 2016. I also understand that some of their space will be available to be sublet or for special events. This should help alleviate somewhat the demand for cultural space east of the Deerfoot (even if it is within view of, and a short walk away from Deerfoot Trail).

Having this space here makes me happy. 

Bear with me as indulge myself on this circuitous detour to explain why. I will attempt to be short and unfortunately it might be even sickly sweet. It is possible that the dry heaves may occur.

 A_junior_high_school_crush

At the risk of dating myself and because it is my blog I can do things like this. I once had a junior high school crush on a girl. I know, I know, I am sure that I am probably the only one that ever had something like that happen to them during junior high when the hormones were rushing. This is the only picture I have of her which was taken from a larger group photo as you can see from the buttons on the person standing behind her. She used to live on the street directly above this new art space. Around the same time, I also remember riding an inner tube with friends (who knows, maybe she joined us, stranger things have happened) down the hill behind this space and probably right through the middle of the space that Evergreen will soon occupy. I am sure that I did this at least a couple times when it was covered with snow. I have always wondered whatever happened to her as I don’t recall hearing anything about her after the time that this photo above was originally taken. I guess it will always remain one of those great mysteries in life.

Visiting the space when I took these photos brought back these remote and distant memories that I rarely think about anymore. It made me happy for that reason.

Fond memories as I travel down that dusty nostalgic lane.

Back to business now. 

I wish those involved at the Evergreen Theatre much success in their new location.

 

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One year anniversary of this blog, with review

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Today is the blog’s one year anniversary.

In my original post the discussion centred on digging out rocks from what was to become a new garden. I talked about hard work and finding interesting things amongst the rubble. So it seems appropriate that I revisit the same image from a year ago.

I closed out my first post with this:

That is one of the things I want to do with this blog – search amongst the rocky ground of our cultural landscape and find interesting things.

I think I have done that.

Now, a bit of history

The primary reason why I created this blog back then was that I had just applied for a job. In my mind, it had my name all over it. The only weakness that I perceived was that depending on who interviewed me, there possibly could be an assumption that my skill sets were focussed on the commercial gallery world only and not enough knowledge outside of that small word – whether this was correct or not.

However, I knew this assumption was wrong, as would anyone else who had dealt with, or talked with me previously to any extent. Those people would know that my interests are actually quite broad and encompassing.

Regardless, the end result was that I did not even receive acknowledgement of my application – much less an interview. Stuff happens and I am not complaining. However, my interest the subject carried the blog forward nevertheless and it still does.

I still don’t have that job in the arts community, but as seen here my interest still remains. Sometimes being an informed outsider is more interesting, because one can reflect my interests and as a result there is no axe to grind.

I will however continue to carry on with my blog when time allows, as I have done since that time.

* * *

As I look back on this past year there have been some very interesting developments in the cultural landscape in Calgary, not to mention exciting programming which various places have done that I am not even going to talk about.

Some of these things I talked about during the past year. Others I did not.

In some cases I now wish that I did.

Either way, I mention the interesting developments below, and depending on how things go for the upcoming year I may even talk about them this time around.

We have seen the following cultural items between August 2013 and August 2014 (and I am sure that I am missing something – probably significant. So forgive me in advance:

  • Of course it is necessary to mention (as it was the big story locally for the year) that during June 2013, many artists and arts organizations were affected by the flooding in the city. This time last year (two months after the fact) things were starting to get back to normal. I probably mentioned it before, I spent the month of July 2013 for the most part in High River helping those who live there, to get back on their feet again. This is something that is quite close to my heart as a result.
  • Calgary Opera started its initial summer outdoor opera festival in conjunction with East Village. It is called Opera in the Village.
  • A new arts facility opened in Forest Lawn last August. It is a partnership between Calgary Arts Development Authority and the International Avenue BRZ, which is called Art Box on 17E.
  • Beakerhead, after a soft opening and trial-run in 2012 and held its first full-scale event last September.
  • Nuit Blanche had its initial and highly successful iteration in September 2012. It was originally envisioned to be an annual event. However, for reasons unknown, this was changed to become a biennial event at some point during the spring or summer of 2013. To meet programming obligations that a few public galleries and organizations had made for the Nuit Blanche weekend in September 2013, a new festival was formed to fulfill these commitments called Intersite Visual Arts Festival.
  • In September to kick off Beakerhead, Calgary Mini Maker Faire had its first event
  • ArtWalk limped along to celebrate its 30th year. In this city that is quite an achievement. I made a post about it, but for whatever reason it was never published and has been saved as a draft only. I only realized this fact much after the fact. Maybe if and when my blog gets published, I will include it.
  • Also in September, the folks at cSpace Projects initiated a similar type of follow-on event to the highly successful Wreck City event held in the spring of 2013, calling upon many of the same people involved. This project they called Phantom Wing.
  • The New Gallery moved from its location in Art Central to its new location in the heart of Chinatown.
  • The old Seafood Market building which was a vacant building since 2004 was used as artist spaces for a two-year period between 2010 -2012. In the summer/fall of 2013 it was finally demolished at some unknown point. Although it was already scheduled for demolition, it probably was affected by the flood as many buildings in the area were. The demolition occurred to make way for a new condo development in the East Village.
  • A new public art gallery using a different model was introduced called the Art Forum Gallery Association. The two key personnel were previously closely affiliated with the Triangle Gallery of Visual Art and are doing what made that organization successful, keeping its costs down and its options open. One was a former president of the board, Michael Rae and the other was a former director, Jacek Malec.
  • The Blue Ring sculpture by inges idee was unveiled in the midst of the city election. Remarkably, it has remained a topic of discussion and occasional subject of a letter to the editor since that time. I guess in a way it will most likely bear a striking resemblance to the Peace Bridge situation. If I was to speculate, I would expect to soon see it in use in tourist advertising for the city, just like the Peace Bridge now is. Maybe that will be what it takes for it to grow on people, hearing how wonderful it is from people in other parts of the world.
  • Demolition began on the King Edward School to make way for the new arts incubator that cSpace is developing in the community of South Calgary.
  • The chapter at the Art Gallery of Calgary which involved the Valerie Cooper fiasco finally came to a close in November, when she was sentenced to a year in jail for her actions. What that means is with good behavior, she should be released at any time now, if not already.
  • Calgary Arts Development Authority and Studio C both move out of the lower floor of Art Central. Both organizations now occupy separate spaces on the same floor of the Burns Building connected to the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts.
  • The Firefighters Museum of Calgary put its collection into storage in late 2013 and is available by appointment only until it reopens sometime in the next year or so in renovated premises.
  • For the second time in approximately a decade, the Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art (IMCA); the Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts (aka MOCA-Calgary); and the Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) all tried to hookup and jump into bed with each other. This was something that they originally tried to do when I was sitting on the board of the Triangle. This time, unlike the previous occasion the result was a successful consummation and marriage. The new organization is now called Contemporary Calgary.
  • The former vacant building which at one time housed the former Calgary Planetarium; Calgary Science Centre; The Children’s Museum; and TELUS World of Science was put up out to tender by the City which owns it (or owned it), for use as a cultural or heritage space. The successful applicant was Creative Calgary.
  • The amazing sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim’s Device to Root Out Evil was quietly removed after the end of its five-year lease in January 2014. It was situated on the Dominion Bridge Building grounds with much fanfare during Jeff Spalding’s tenure as head of the Glenbow Museum during June 2008. This relocation to Calgary, was partly a direct result of NIMBYism and the surrounding controversy that occurred during its two and a half year residency near Coal Harbour in Vancouver. Of course this whole situation is highly ironic. I have confidence in how smart my readers are, so I don’t need to fully explain where the irony originates, however I find it peculiar that inges idee was commissioned and created a popular new sculpture in the general vicinity of Coal Harbour. It was installed about a year after the Oppenheim piece left for Calgary. This only further illustrates how fickle tastes can be when it comes to public art and how these tastes can vary widely from city to city.
  • In the absence of the Oppenheim piece at the Dominion Bridge compound, a new programming space called Passage was developed and has shown a rotating schedule of exhibitions, usually video, installation or sculpture. Having heard quite a bit about it before it was operational, I believe that it is exposed somewhat to the elements which limits the type of work that can be shown.
  • Stride Gallery which was deeply affected by the flood, spent most of the fall and winter temporarily sharing space with Truck Gallery. In the early part of 2014, they moved back to the space next door to where they used to be, on the other side of the railway tracks two blocks away from City Hall, on Macleod Trail.
  • Back in the summer of 2012 a new organization called Gorilla House Live Art held its first art battle. It continued hosting weekly art battles until around January when they were informed by their landlord that the building they occupied was destined to be converted into a sushi restaurant. Recently, the building was surrounded by metal protective fencing. Presumably this means some sort of development will be taking place soon. Whether the Gorilla House will be resurrected remains to be seen. If it does, I am sure I will write about it.
  • A small and ambitious pop-up gallery space was introduced into the community of Bridgeland called the Tiny Gallery in early 2014. It is unique for its use of a stand-alone gallery space that occupies the footprint of a postal box.
  • After years of uncertainty, the former York Hotel which was originally intended to be incorporated into a purpose-built cultural space, the façade of which was put into storage in 2008, was finally put on indefinite hold. In that news story, the space it was to occupy will now be used as an open plaza instead. Various anchor tenants were proposed for this space from the time it was originally proposed as part of The Bow development, most notably the Portrait Gallery of Canada. The Portrait Gallery, like the York Hotel, also was put into abeyance by the Federal Government which made the announcement via a news release issued late on Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.
  • The old King Edward Hotel (aka the King Eddie) had the sign and bricks removed from its site. Presumably, and it is my understanding that they will become part of the architectural design, once the exciting new National Music Centre building is built on its site and the site across the street. Both sides are doing structural work above grade.
  • Alberta College of Art and Design, after years of trying, finally received approval to offer its first graduate degree program, a Master of Fine Arts in Craft Media beginning in 2015.
  • After a couple years of consultation the #YYCArtPlan came to fruition which resulted in a new Public Art Policy and a document called Leading a Creative Life
  • The last tenant at Art Central finally left at the end of June. The building was closed probably around the time Stampede happened, which corresponds to the time when the announcement that the space would be redeveloped as the new Telus Sky building which was made during Stampede 2013.
  • The Calgary Centre for Performing Arts expanded the amount of display windows for the visual arts, creating new display windows for both the Alberta Craft Council and the University of Calgary. I hear a rumour from a usually reliable source that there might be another new window on the way. From past experience with all rumours, it usually best to wait until the announcement is made to know with certainty if the rumour is actually either truth or fabrication. If it is true, I am sure I will write about it.
  • Alberta Printmakers Society moved to a new location about a week ago. I plan to write something about this in the near future.

As can be seen above, this was an exciting year for the arts in Calgary.

Palais_Idéal_May_2014_from_Wikipedia

To return to the concept of building a rocky environment – just as I dicussed a year ago.

In that regard, I am reminded of the French postman, Ferdinand Cheval [1836-1924] who spent thirty-three years building Le Palais idéal in Hauterives.

He is someone I feel a special affinity to in this regard. His work was championed by the Surrealists more or less after he had died. I hope that is not the case with me. I hope that my passion and building in the arts community will be recognized while I can feel appreciated and that my work was worth all the trouble.

Cheval built a beautiful naïve palace one stone at a time. Every day for thirty-three years, he brought home at least one stone that he found in his day to day work.

In time his pockets were not enough to carry what he found. So he brought a basket to carry the stones.

When that was not enough, he used a wheelbarrow.

It is my hope that this blog will be like that beautiful structure Le Palais idéal.

BRZs and the arts

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Calgary’s Fast Forward often has some interesting stories in its weekly edition – especially as it relates to the arts.

I picked up the very thin newspaper today and brought it home.  A small booklet fell out of the centre of the newspaper.  I did a quick glance at the title Shop Local Guide 2013 and quickly tossed it into my recycling bin.

Then after a couple minutes I thought to myself, “maybe I should look at the table of contents before I toss it for good.”  Sure enough there is a four-page story on Business Revitalization Zones (BRZs) in Calgary – there are ten of them.  I used to pay dues to a BRZ when I had my own business and have some business history with another one and a past client relationship with yet another.

Right on the masthead is mention of two things I have discussed in this blog previously – ArtBOX on 17E and Beakerhead.  OK, so now I think to myself, “I am very happy I did not toss that booklet and forget about it.”

Inside the article as someone who has been interested in organizational structures since childhood, is an interesting sentence that leads off paragraph eight, which is not fully explained later:

Annie MacInnis is executive director of the Kensington BRZ and current chair of CBIZ, which represents most Calgary BRZs (International Avenue and Victoria Park have chosen not to be members).

Also not explained is the acronym CBIZ.  I guess they were not expecting someone to care.  So I did some research.  I love research, and found out it stands for Calgary’s Business Revitalization Zones and when I checked earlier tonight their website is temporarily down.

This is a rather interesting piece of what at first glance would seem like an unremarkable snippet of information.  This is especially so from a blog perspective which talks about the arts; and from the perspective of a writer who has a lot of knowledge in this area.

Here is why.

  1. About a year ago just before Christmas, Market Collective had to vacate a space located in the Kensington BRZ district and found a temporary location shortly thereafter within the International Avenue BRZ district.  As a casual and non-participatory observer, let’s just say this was somewhat of a fiasco in the press as I recall.  I have no idea who was fault or even if anyone was; what the circumstances surrounding the move were; etc. – and it doesn’t matter.  It is all water under the bridge now.
  2. Within the week before the flood this past June, Victoria Park BRZ partnered up with Sled Island, which is kind-of-a-big-deal.  In conjunction with Sled Island’s arts festival which occupied spaces in the BRZ, the BRZ planned to do a MarketWalk (except the flood happened instead) and had to get re-scheduled.
  3. In August(?) the Victoria Park BRZ MarketWalk was rescheduled and held in conjunction with the annual PARKSale (which is something like Market Collective, except outdoors) which was held in the Haultain Park.
  4. In August, International Avenue BRZ partnered up with Calgary Arts Development Authority to convert an empty warehouse into an arts space.  There have been a number of events held as a result including a theatre performance during Beakerhead, recitals, exhibitions and much more.  It is going to be an exciting project when it is fully operational as it is still in the early stages of development.
  5. In September, Beakerhead had the rocket ship located within the Victoria Park BRZ district, which I wrote about earlier.

Then I look at what the other eight BRZs have done involving the arts in that same timeframe.  Outside of the occasional thing during the summer in the Downtown BRZ especially on Stephen Avenue Mall – not much.  You have things like:

  1. The Pride Parade
  2. Cowtown Opera pop-up performances during lunch hour
  3. The monthly artwalk held on First Thursdays during the two or three months of summer which is ironic since First Thursday was cancelled about a year ago and the Cultural District has been a virtually non-existent entity for a few years now.

I would like to think that because of the density of people during the work day and the nature of these type of events they would happen in the centre of the city regardless of whether the BRZ is involved or not.

Earlier I quoted from the FFWD story.  Here is the remainder of that paragraph eight as quoted earlier:

MacInnis says all BRZs in the province have worked together to update the description of their role, which will be considered as part of changes to the Municipal Government Act. If approved, it will state that BRZs are established “to advocate, promote and create a vibrant commercial area where community and business flourish.”

I also could go to great length about the connection between creative industry(ies), business and community.

There actually are a whole bunch of things that can be discussed in this context – things such as quality of life; livable cities; energizing street activity at non-peak hours; encouraging partnerships and relationship building; gentrification; arts as an agent of change; innovation; managing chaos and flux in changing times; creativity in organizations and planning; etc.  It just goes on and on. . . there are so many benefits to encouraging the arts in modern society.

So I am now really curious why the two BRZs that seem most focused on doing this (encouraging the arts) in the last short while, are not part of this larger consortium of BRZs.  All BRZs it would seem are working toward the same goal in different geographical areas.

What is the deal there?

I am sure there are other questions too, but I will leave it at that.

Art Box on 17E

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If one looks at a map of Calgary which is populated with cultural amenities marked on it, one fact will be readily noticeable.  There are significantly less spaces for the arts on the east side of Deerfoot Trail, as compared to the rest of the city.  Of course this information can get blurred somewhat if one uses a broader definition of the word cultural to incorporate things outside of the arts.

This past week there has been a fair number of stories in the press about Forest Lawn.  As long as I have lived in Calgary, I have noticed it is a community that has a strong sense of pride, but it also deals with some challenges as well.  It is a blue-collar community with all the strengths normally connected to that type of neighbourhood – hard-working, stand-up, straight-forward, no BS, tell it like it is community.  Although I have never lived there, I must admit there is a lot to be said for these qualities which can sometimes be referred to as grittiness.

Author Candace Bushnell once commented about the gritty roots of New York City this way, “the city was different back then—poor and crumbling—kept alive only by the gritty determination and steely cynicism of its occupants. But underneath the dirt was the apple-cheeked optimism of possibility.”  This could also be applied to our city if one looks back with a long enough vantage point.

Two community organizations that are trying to change this disparity in cultural amenities on the east side of Deerfoot, combined with their “apple-cheeked optimism of possibilit(ies)”, are the International Avenue BRZ along with the International Avenue Arts Centre.

If one travels down 17th Avenue it is possible to see the various murals championing the cultural heritage of the community.  Also the BRZ came to the rescue of Market Collective not long ago helping them find a temporary space in the community with short-notice.

This past August 1st the International Avenue BRZ and the Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA) together, hosted an open house to unveil a new arts facility.  It is called Art Box on 17E.  I attended this opening and was happy to see the newly appointed President & CEO of CADA, Patti Pon make her first official appearance there on the same day she stepped into her new role.

Like the Seafood Market in East Village a few years back, this space is a short-term space available for a year and a half.

Some of the ideas that are currently achieving traction in cultural thinking are the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement; the use of pop-up spaces; and creative placemaking as an agent of change in urban planning (see http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/place073013.aspx).  All of these ideas are present in the Art Box on 17E project.

As the facility is still in its early stages, it will be interesting to see how this facility evolves and what type of projects take advantage of the space made available.  At the unveiling an announcement was made that in cooperation with Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre, there will be multiple performances of I-Robot Theatre in that space during the Beakerhead Festival which occurs middle of September 2013.  The space, with its high ceilings and large footprint, lends itself to theatre, dance and rehearsals.  In addition there are smaller spaces upstairs which could be used for various purposes such as studios, offices and the like.

It is always interesting to see these projects develop and change in response to demand and interest.  I wish them well and am interested to follow what will happen there.  Knowing some of those involved, I am sure something interesting will come from it.