Collaboration in Calgary arts community (with a potential new participant)

 

 

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Tomorrow, the trustees of the Tate Britain will announce the winner of the 2014 Turner Prize. One of the four nominees is Canadian-born printmaker – Ciara Phillips.

Normally, an event that is taking place half-way around the world would be a non-event for this blog. However, I believe it is timely for discussion in Calgary, regardless of whether she wins or not.

For those who do not know, I am a former gallerist that operated a member gallery of the Art Dealers Association of Canada which dealt primarily with printmaking and prints. As a result, I have a very deep appreciation and understanding of the printmaking process, even though I am not a printmaker myself. For whatever reason, the printmaking medium, gets very little respect and appreciation in the city. It has been that way for a very long time, which is surprising given the strong printmaking tradition in the city and that there is an amazing collection of block prints (in particular) which is housed at the Glenbow. This all is quite unfortunate situation that I can only hope will change in time.

Secretly, (well maybe not so secretly anymore) I am pulling for her to win. I do see that she probably is somewhat of a longshot, although definitely in the running. In the UK, there is an interesting phenomenon in that people make wagers, and bookies make books on the outcomes of major cultural prizes, along with the usual horse races, football games and boxing matches. The Turner Prize is no exception.

When I checked a few minutes ago the average odds at the time of retrieval, the consensus order of payout (or from most-likely to least-likely) as determined by a survey of various bookies, is as follows:

  • Duncan Campbell is the favourite, a win would payout £7 for every £4 bet (1.75x);
  • A Ciara Phillips win would payout £11 for every £4 bet (2.75x);
  • A James Richards win would payout £3 for every £1 bet (3.0x);
  • A Tris Vonna-Mitchell win would payout £7 for every £2 bet (3.5x).

If only people cared that much on the visual arts in this city that they would bet on and for artists. If we did, we would probably have a civic art gallery and actually support the visual arts and its artists – but I digress.

Getting back to business.

Ciara Phillips was nominated for an exhibition that she held during 2013 at The Showroom, London that ended one year ago today (November 30). The exhibition was described as follows, and I will quote at length (there is substantially more, if you feel so inclined) to help put this posting into context for those in Calgary who may not click on the hotlink and to understand the timeliness. Here is what The Showroom had to say about this exhibition:

Workshop (2010–ongoing) is a new installation made up of multiple screenprints on newsprint and large-scale works on cotton. This new work sets an attitude for a two-month temporary print studio that will take place in the gallery over the course of the exhibition.

Throughout October and November (2013) Phillips will be collaborating with invited artists, designers, and local women’s groups (many of whom have ongoing relationships with The Showroom) to produce new screenprints. Guests will bring their different knowledge and experiences of working collectively to the Workshop, whose structure is open for development as the project progresses. These new collaborations will initiate conversations and actions that aren’t contained within specific disciplines of art, community action, design or activism. By making prints in these new collaborative groupings, Phillips will explore the potential of ‘making together’ as a way of negotiating ideas and generating discussions around experimental and wider uses of print.

We know that Ciara Phillips showed in Calgary previously and I was fortunate enough to have seen the group show which she was included in, during the summer of 2013 at the short-lived Haight Gallery (which has subsequently closed, probably right after the group show ended). The photo above was from that show, and the same exhibition was also shown in January 2014 at Edmonton’s Latitude 53 – an artist run centre.

Now to get to the core of the matter.

Why is this relevant to Calgary?

As seen above, we know that Ciara Phillips has shown in Calgary. We also know that there is a significant artistic exchange that occurs between Glasgow (where she currently lives) and Calgary. I could easily rattle off a good sampling of names without too much difficulty.

We also have seen a significant increase in collaboration in the city’s institutional culture. Here are some examples:

  • Earlier this year it was announced that Calgary will host the MassMOCA produced Oh, Canada show which will open in January 2015. This will be a collaborative exhibition spread between Glenbow, Esker, Nickle, and the Illingworth Kerr galleries.
  • Not so long ago Contemporary Calgary co-hosted a portion of the Made in Calgary: The 1990s show and the Nickle currently is co-hosting the Glenbow’s Made in Calgary: The 2000s show.
  • We can also reference the initial Nuit Blanche show in 2012 where they informally collaborated with MOCA Calgary (now Contemporary Calgary).
  • Then there was the partnership between the Calgary Stampede and MOCA Calgary for a 1912/2012 focused show during the summer of 2012.
  • We can also talk about the long-standing (maybe 15-20 year long) relationship between the Centre for Performing Arts and mostly artist run centres in the six +15 window spaces which has recently been expanded to also include the Alberta Craft Council, Tiny Gallery and the University of Calgary. There may be more in the works as I see construction happening in the same general area.

Even other organizations outside of the visual arts like the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is getting in on the act with a performance which involved students in the MADT program at the Alberta College of Art and Design in their performance last night of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila.

Beakerhead is yet another fine example where it was set up to explore where collaboration can exist between the engineering and science communities with the visual arts.

I know that I have only touched upon a few partnerships, but as seen above it is an increasingly important part of the cultural landscape that is developing in the city for various reasons. It is probably a good thing.

In a recent interview in the Ottawa Citizen where she is quoted as saying, “I think it (the Turner Prize) has drawn a lot more attention to my work, and there have been some really nice outcomes of that, especially invitations to make future exhibitions in Sweden and Canada.” This was also repeated a few days later (earlier this week) in a recent interview with Canadian Art magazine.

Alberta Printmakers Society is one such organization that could potentially host this show in their new facility. Although, having said that, I would think the gallery space might be a bit on the small side.

From a personal observation, A/P has become much more active recently and has shown a willingness to program potentially controversial exhibitions such as the recent Joscelyn Gardner show which ended yesterday, entitled bringing down the flowers. . . I attended the opening of Gardner’s show this past October 24th and had a good discussion with her while I was there. It was my intention to write something about it, but due to other more pressing circumstances, I was unable to find the time to do so. It was a very strong show and it dealt with issues that should have a higher visibility and dialogue in this country. Certainly, more so than what is currently the case. I may still, even though it is too late to see the show at the Artist Proof Gallery.

Given this as background, and understand that this is complete and unsubstantiated speculation as an outsider, does that mean we may potentially see Caira Phillip’s Workshop (2010 – ongoing) make an appearance in Calgary in the near future?

Maybe there is a partnership with A/P and another organization such as the Esker, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, the Banff Centre or potentially Contemporary Calgary or the Glenbow in the works?

Let’s hope so.

*  *  *

December 1, 2014 edit

I checked the news to find out who won the Turner Prize this year. The winner was Duncan Campbell. It is not surprising given that the film he was nominated for was previously shown at the most recent Venice Biennale.

It doesn’t change anything about collaboration, which was the primary focus of this posting. Of course that possibility of a Canadian show for Ciara Phillips is still out there and I think that it would be awesome if it took place in Calgary.

New art installed on the 5th Avenue SW underpass

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Recently I wrote about the Burns Visual Arts Society and their 35th anniversary.

As I was doing preparatory research for what I wrote, I encountered a news story that talked about the Neilson Building, and the space crisis for a number of arts organizations that were evicted to accommodate new buildings in 1996. One of those organizations mentioned was The New Gallery which returned back to its original home it had 20 years prior. The building they returned to was a small two-story commercial building facing 9th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, directly behind what was once Penny Lane Mall. If I was to guess it stood about where the East Lobby for the Eighth Avenue Place now is. Long story short, they stayed at that location for approximately 10 years. Most of those years I served as the treasurer for TNG. In turn as is often expected in Calgary for arts organizations, the building sold and they once again were evicted. It is all in the name of progress. It is the reality more often than not and just the way it is.

TNG has in turn occupied three different spaces, each time moving for the same reason significant renovations planned for each of the buildings they occupied – first it was Eau Claire Market (they had two different spaces there); then it was Art Central and now they are in Chinatown.

In addition Penny Lane Mall at various times housed commercial galleries, art exhibitions, pop-up galleries and artist studios over the years. In some ways it was a bit of a dead mall, but that was what sometimes made it possible for these organizations to survive. Underutilized commercial or retail spaces are an important part of the ecology for visual artists and arts organizations.

* * *

After my circuitous and rambling pre-amble . . .

The building that rose from the rubble of these two buildings (and others), is now known as Eighth Avenue Place.

There is a bit of an acknowledgement of the history of what once stood on the footprint of the current building location. It is a nice touch. Sadly so much of the knowledge of our city’s built history has been lost over the years. It is found on the +15 level near where SQ Commons once stood. It was in the midst of where the Art Forum Gallery Association‘s initial show which featured a retrospective exhibition of work by Alberta College of Art and Design instructor Dave Casey, the opening of which was held in October 2013.

It is a very interesting building with intriguing architecture. It is more unique than most in the city. I have intended to write about it for quite some time. I just have never got around to it.

A few days ago (Monday, September 22), I noticed that workmen with masonry drills and scissor lifts were installing large illustrated signs on the cement walls on the 5th Street SW underpass – a place where there has never been any signage or artwork previously (except for maybe the occasional piece of graffiti). This underpass is below the railway tracks between 9th and 10th Avenues. I continued on my merry way, but noticed artwork had been installed upon the large plywood or MDF panels, similar to what was done on the construction hoarding when the west tower of Eighth Avenue Place was being built last year.

At the time I thought the use of artwork on the construction hoarding to be a great way to promote Alberta artists and artworks.

I still do.

Of course this was rather fascinating for me to see, as only a month or two ago I wrote about the temporary chalk figures installed in conjunction with Beakerhead on the 4th Street underpass (on the other side of the block). They were  there earlier this week, but have subsequently been painted over by Friday evening, September 26.

Recently, like within the year type of recent, the West Tower to the two tower Eighth Avenue Place was being built. The exterior construction of the second tower is now complete and the new portion of the complex is in the process of being populated with new office workers.

One of the interesting things that the building ownership group did when constructing the second tower was install construction hoarding around the site. That in itself is not all that interesting, but rather what they did with it was. As described in a small double-fold brochure produced by Hines Canada Management Co., ULC (I would assume was produced primarily for tenants) entitled Images of the Alberta Landscape: Sustainability, Art and Architecture, the area is described as follows:

Beginning on Eighth Avenue, following south on Fifth Street and then east along the busy downtown thoroughfare of Ninth Avenue, a continuous stream of art images engage the eye. Enlarged and reproduced on the construction hoarding at Eighth Avenue Place, this outdoor display of original works of Alberta art is a first for the city. A unique affirmation of Eighth Avenue Place’s commitment to Canadian art.

When this first went up probably about two years ago I was very excited to see some familiar works, some of which I had handled in a gallery sales situation previously. One of the works (a Helen Mackie print) I had even used for the print invitation to a solo exhibition of her work. It was truly a wonderful thing that the property owners (presumably) and/or property managers did to draw awareness to Alberta art. It is my wish that more situations would continue. The visual arts is a very challenging place to gain traction and positive awareness in this city. So any little piece of assistance, however small it may be, is greatly appreciated – not that I am working in that field anymore. This of course relates directly to my previous comment. In all there probably was somewhere in the range of 50-100 images used, with a template of the artists, titles and acknowledgement of collection (if applicable) found on each wall for reference.

The choice of selecting Alberta landscape based art was spot on, as it lent itself to the architecture of the building which features an irregular roofline on each of the two towers. This no doubt was meant to mirror the physical attributes of mountain peaks in an architectural manner. The external architecture and the external design of the construction hoarding worked well together.

I am uncertain exactly when this happened, but if memory serves me correct, the hoarding was removed at some point in the last couple months (maybe around Stampede?). I thought I had photos of the installation. After review, apparently I do not, nor could I find photos online. I would have been nice to have this for comparison purposes.

This rambling conversation leads me to the current installation on the 5th Street SW underpass.

As I looked at the works, I noticed a strong resemblance to those that I recall seeing on the Eighth Avenue Place construction hoarding last winter. In fact as seen in the photo below, four of the sixteen works are illustrated in the small brochure I have in my possession – Annora Brown, E.J. Hughes, Ron Moppett, and Walter J. Phillips.

8th_Avenue_Place_Images_of_the_Alberta_Landscape_brochure_2013 (1024x785)

This leads me to believe that those involved in putting up the construction hoarding at Eight Avenue Place, somehow must be involved in this as well. It would sense as it is practically across the street from where these images once stood.

My curiosity is, what is the connection?

There is a new development called Place Ten which is located between the 4th and 5th Street SW underpasses, facing 10th Avenue (as seen in the picture below with the base of Eighth Avenue Place the primary building complex directly behind the construction site. That would make this new construction site as being bounded by two sets of artwork- the Beakerhead art on one side and the Eighth Avenue Place art on the other.

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Is this the connection? Are both projects owned by the same ownership group?

The 16 artworks by 14 artists whose work is reproduced on the signage placed on the 5th Street SW underpass are:

  • Barbara Ballachey [1945 – ] Butte Two, 1981 oil on canvas (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Annora Brown [1899 – 1987] Foothills Village, n.d. oil on canvas (Glenbow Museum, Calgary)
  • Michael Cameron [1955 – ] Searching for Elvis, 2012 oil on canvas (Elevation Gallery, Canmore)
  • O.N. (Rick) de Grandmaison [1932 – 1985] Grey Road, 1983 oil on canvas board (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Dulcie Foo Fat [1946 – ] Lake O’Hara Shoreline, 2006 (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Roland Gissing [1895 – 1967] Clouds over the Prairie near Cardston, circa 1925 oil on canvas (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Edward J. (E.J.) Hughes [1913 – 2007] Calgary, Alberta, 1955 watercolour on paper (Glenbow Museum, Calgary)
  • Illingworth Kerr [1905 – 1989] Ranch Below Yellow Hills, 1971 oil on canvas board (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Illingworth Kerr [1905 – 1989] Turner Valley Nocturne, 1986 oil on canvas (Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton)
  • Illingworth Kerr [1905 – 1989] Young Antelope, n.d. linocut on paper (Edge Gallery, Canmore)
  • Janet Mitchell [1912 – 1998] People of the Street #24, 1971 watercolour on paper (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Ron Moppett [1945 – ] MoonWaterTree, 2010 alkyd, oil on linen and wood (TrepanierBaer Gallery)
  • Walter J. Phillips [1884 – 1963] Mountain Torrent, 1926 colour woodblock on paper (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • John Snow [1911 – 2004] Near Bragg Creek, 1979 stone lithograph on paper (Collector’s Gallery, Calgary)
  • Jack (J.B.) Taylor [1917 – 1970] Lake McArthur No. 7, 1963 oil on canvas (Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
  • Doug Williamson [1974 –] Not by Our Wisdom, 2011 oil on linen (Edge Gallery, Canmore)

These type of selections always will involve a certain amount of second guessing. It is the nature of a curatorial project such as this, and is as predictable as death and taxes. The questions almost always are: 1.) why did they include these artists, and 2.) who did they miss?

As a result, I will try to keep my comments in this regard to a minimum.

  1. Of course the most obvious question is why was Illingworth Kerr selected three times and someone like Marion Nicoll whose work is included in the brochure photo I have included above, not included at all?
  2. The other interesting question is why was E.J. Hughes included? E.J. Hughes hardly can be called an Alberta artist. He had very little connection to Alberta outside of a short training period on one of the military bases, prior to being dispatched to serve overseas with the Princess Patricia’s (or the PPCLI) during WWII. Having said this, I am of the opinion that he is definitely an important artist worthy of inclusion in a Canadian landscape survey show.

An aside regarding the Hughes watercolour

I have often wondered and this is probably a rhetorical question more than anything else.

  • Was this painting produced as a result of Hughes potentially being on holidays in Calgary during 1955?
  • If so, did he attend the internationally travelling exhibition put together by Seagram’s entitled Views of Canada when it was on display at the old Calgary Allied Arts Centre (just down the street from where it is currently installed) in 1955?
  • I wonder this, because A.C. Leighton (another Alberta artist who should be included) painted a very similar view of the Calgary skyline dated 1951 which is in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal. Recently many of the works were brought out of storage and re-circulated a few years ago. One of the stops in this most recent tour, was the Kamloops Art Gallery in which they illustrated the Leighton painting in this essay. As one can see from the two photos I have placed below for comparison purposes they are both taken from almost the exact same viewpoint on Rotary Park at the top of the Centre Street Bridge.

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(The Hughes watercolour above)

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(the Leighton painting above)

Notwithstanding my comments about Hughes stated above, the work shows how others from elsewhere have interpreted the Alberta landscape.

Summary:

This situation was relatively common from the pre-Confederation era with early explorer/artists such as Paul Kane and William G.R. Hind (along with often forgotten anonymous aboriginal artists who produced petroglyphs and carved effigies found at places such as Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park and other traditional Native hunting grounds) until about the 1960s or 1970s when the provincial art scene could be considered to have begun its “coming of age” as evidenced by the Made in Calgary series of exhibitions hosted by the Glenbow – the final installment “the 2000s” which opened half the show last night at the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary and the main portion of the show which opens tomorrow at the Glenbow.

It could be argued that half the artists featured came from elsewhere (Foo Fat, Gissing, Hughes, Kerr, Moppett, Phillips and Taylor). This has not stopped their impact upon the art history of the province. This is evident from the place both Kerr and Phillips have, since both artists have public galleries named after them at the Alberta College of Art and Design (Kerr) or the Banff Centre (Phillips), recognizing their individual significant contributions to the province.

* * *

Addendum and Correction (2014 October 11)

In the body of this posting I indicated uncertainty about how these works ended up on the wall of the underpass. Quite by accident, when I was looking for something else, I stumbled upon something that helped solve this for me.

The mystery has been solved.

In a news release issued by the City on September 23, it was reported that this is part of the City of Calgary’s Underpass Enhancement Program which is a component of the Calgary Centre City Plan (2007). Elsewhere, it was disclosed that:

In early 2014, the Eighth Avenue Place Ownership Group offered the City of Calgary the gift of a number of graphic art panels that previously adorned the construction hoarding on their site.

In the news release from September 23, it is stated that this was done for the following reason(s):

The Centre City Underpass Enhancement Program is being implemented to achieve one of the objectives of the Centre City Plan: to make the Centre City a ‘walkable place that is safe, secure, accessible, legible, interesting and enjoyable for pedestrians’.

I believe that it does do this. It is also increases awareness and introduces an educational component regarding art from the region in a public setting. This is an important thing that is necessary to grow cultural awareness of the visual arts in the city.

For that I applaud this initiative.

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.

The Beakerhead 4th Street Mural

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As those who have read my blog over the past year – tomorrow is this blog’s one year anniversary BTW – it is easy to figure out that I am interested in Beakerhead and have written about the organization a few times before.

Beakerhead is an interesting project which integrates science and art (and engineering too). I have always been fascinated by this mix.

It is my opinion that this is a natural fit, as both science and art involve research and exploration – albeit with different questions and end results. I have long felt that the two, science and art, are closer cousins than many will admit.

Beakerhead_4th_Street_Underpass_Mural_Detail_One_2014_August_17 (1024x683)

I have been meaning to write about this 27 foot long series of nine different, eco-chalk graffiti figures since May 21st when they first appeared overnight. These figures were designed by Michael Mateyko and Hans Thiessen, a team that is also known as Komboh. The artists talk about these figures here.

Initially, these eco-chalk graffiti figures were intended to be removed by June 2nd shortly after a Beakerhead announcement (presumably the program announcement which happened on June 10th), or alternatively removed as a result of sufficient rainfall – whichever was to occur first.

Neither occurred.

Since the figures have stayed this long, it now seems as if they will probably stay the summer, right through until Beakerhead in September.

There were a few other reasons (I am sure that there are more reasons) that I wanted to talk about them as well. They are:

  • The fascinating dialogue between permanent and temporary public art projects;
  • The interesting dialogue between visual design/communication and fine art;
  • The place of graffiti in the urban environment;
  • The role of graffiti in a public art programme scheme, if any; and,
  • Discussion surrounding the point where graffiti morphs from simple vandalism into art.

I will be quite honest. I really don’t feel like tackling these issues tonight. I have too much to do this week and not enough time. So I will keep it simple and save the longer discussion(s) for another day.

A few weeks ago, time seems to be relative in this context. Regardless, it was probably at least a week ago when I first noticed it. The figures on the east wall of the 4th Street SW underpass got coloured in. From my investigation today (and previously) it would appear as if whoever did this, used coloured chalk.

Here is what this east wall looked like on May 28, 2014.

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This is what it looked like earlier this afternoon.

Beakerhead_4th_Street_Underpass_Mural_East_Wall_2014_August_17 (1024x683)

It has been inscribed by those involved. The words “All the colouring done by Dwayne Sullivan + Tess” (if I read the last name correctly, as there is some smudging and the name is not clear). Then there is another note below the other, “facebook us + tell us what you think” placed between figures seven and eight, toward the right.

* * *

I guess in a way this was to be expected.

Leave a series of giant images that bear a certain resemblance to colouring book images – eventually someone will colour them in.

I for one, am not disappointed in the two, possibly three fellow citizens (since punctuation was not added) who were involved. They took the bait, and acted creatively in a sympathetic and supportive manner.

Their actions, to my mind, would seem to align with what Beakerhead is all about – sparking creativity, and fostering innovation in an inspired way.

inges idee at Telus Spark Brainasium

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Yesterday I spent a few hours at the new Telus Spark building. This is the new building that opened in late October 2011 after the formerly named Telus World of Science Centre vacated the former Planetarium.

It is a signature building that has enlivened the Nose Creek valley and is particularly noticeable at night as one drives into the city along the Deerfoot. It is in close proximity to the main Zoo parking lot. Both are in a long-neglected area, which was described in the announcement of the new location for the Science Centre in February 2010 as, “a former “Red Light” district in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The site also housed stockyards for various ranching and meat-packing companies. Up until the mid-twentieth century, the area was designated for urban and industrial waste management to incinerate garbage and dispose of waste.”

This is certainly not the case any longer.

There are a lot of things happening in the area surrounding Telus Spark. One of the big things is a new development called the Brainasium that according to the signage on site, it is scheduled to open in July 2014. As there is only one day left in the month and they are doing active construction, it would seem rather doubtful that this will happen. I guess it will just open when it is done.

I was talking to one of the ladies involved with Telus Spark last week while on a lunch break at their display tent along Stephen Avenue Mall where they were helping promote Beakerhead and the Mini Maker Faire. The Brainasium will be a big outdoor park, which will have a giant slide that is under construction right now; and a giant set of ears; and a teeter-totter designed for six, plus more. For anyone visiting with children (or if they are a child at heart) this will be a lot of fun. You can read more about it here.

One of the interesting things that I noticed in this space is a brand new sculpture. It is by the four member German artist team (comprised of Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas A. Schmidt and Georg Zey) who operate as an artist group called inges idee.

Observant readers may recall that inges idee was inadvertently involved in one of the biggest recent public art controversies in Calgary. This occurred when their sculpture colloquially known as the Blue Ring, or more formally as Travelling Light, was unveiled in the middle of the most recent civic election last fall. The timing was impeccably unfortunate. Last October, I wrote about this piece and the politics around this work at the time this situation occurred.

Personally, I suspect that the Travelling Light piece; and as it was with the previous controversial project Santiago Calatrava’s Peace Bridge over the Bow River; both have (or will) grow(n) on people over time once the immediate politics have diminished over time – which always happens.

In that respect both are like the highly controversial Mario H. Armengol [Spanish/British, 1909-1995] group of sculptures entitled Brotherhood of Mankind, circa 1966-67 (or more colloquially the Family of Man) which was removed from the United Kingdom Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal and placed in Calgary shortly thereafter as a gift to the City by a former resident. It is my opinion that people will then be able see the Travelling Light piece for what it is and will become – a circular frame that shows the beauty of the city, along with the landscape and a view of mountains in the distance. Like all art, not all people will appreciate it (just as it is with any other style of work). As my mother would say when I was a child and trying out a new food, “you don’t have to like it, just try it and see whether you do.” But I digress.

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Back to this new work by inges idee.

The sculpture that has been installed in the Brainasium at Telus Spark is of a large anchor 25 foot (7 metre) high. It was installed in late 2013, probably shortly after Travelling Light was fully installed. However, with all the construction that is currently happening in the Brainasium area surrounding it, the appearance is that it is newly installed.

There was very little press about this work – unlike its kin Travelling Light (or the Blue Ring). In fact, Telus Spark did not even issue a press release about it as they did with the Request for Proposals (RFP) in July 2012. I suspect that they will once the first stage of the Brainasium is open. This illustrates how much politics surrounded the other work last October. It also illustrates why the artists from inges idee seemed genuinely surprised at the feedback in the press and popular opinion; and why they took the unusual step to issue a statement in response.

Enough of the politics, now let’s get back to talking about the work.

In the July 2012 press release, Telus Spark asked artist(s) to make proposals on the theme of water. They expand this by saying:

The following theme is to be followed in each pitch: a strong and highly visible linking of water as a force, resource, conduit, cycle and medium for expression. The art piece will provoke curiosity, evoke the power of the outdoors and connect people to the environment that TELUS Spark occupies.

The Anchor with the attached chain has a definite connection to water. Interestingly the links in the chain get progressively smaller as it gets closer to the top to accentuate the illusion of perspective and fading to infinity. For whatever strange reason, this makes me feel like one of the lobsters beating a clamshell in the song Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid (1989). You’re welcome!

As a piece of art in a creative environment it allows for imagination to take hold. As alluded to in my comment about the song Under the Sea, this work illustrates how an anchor is a fixed point of contact to land, while the boat or ship that the chain is connected to is allowed to ebb and flow with the natural rhythm of water. The rusted colour and appearance only further solidify this connection and dialogue.

For further discussion ,there are a couple other pieces that create a dialogue with this work.

The Drop

inges_idee_The_Drop_from_View_on_Canadian_Art

In this way it creates an association with another work created by inges idee, a 65 foot (20 metre) high blue sculpture entitled The Drop, 2009. It was sited prior to the Olympics at Coal Harbour near the Vancouver Convention Centre at the end of Burrard Street. This work is popular with the locals and tourists alike, reflecting the large amount of rain that falls in Vancouver. These two works create an interesting conversation with each other. One of the artists (Axel Lieber) is quoted in the Vancouver Sun with regards to this piece as saying:

“(The Drop) balances delicately on the round base, while its end points into the open sky. This sculpture comments on the diagonal shape of the architecture and the columns and stands almost like a figure head on a sailing ship on the location.”
It also creates a strong, dynamic diagonal between the seawall and the overhanging roof of the Convention Centre.

Infinite Tire

Douglas_Coupland_Infinite_Tires_sculpture_from_Georgia_Straight

Interestingly, the Anchor also holds an interesting discourse with a Douglas Coupland sculpture entitled Infinite Tire, 2012 as well. Coupland’s piece was commissioned by Canadian Tire. It, like The Drop, is also located in Vancouver in the lot of a shopping centre at the corner of SW Marine Drive and Ontario Street. This work has a similarity based on the progressively smaller tires that act in a similar manner as the chain in the ingres idee Anchor at Telus Spark. Like the Anchor, the Coupland sculpture Infinite Tire is described in a similar way from a 2012 article in the Georgia Straight which states:

The 18-metre-tall sculpture, titled “Infinite Tire”, is a tower made from 18 whitewall tires stacked on top of each other. The tires—created from a fibreglass product specifically for the installation—become progressively smaller in diameter as the tower rises, from 163 centimetres at the bottom to 36 cm at the top.

When looking up at the sculpture from near its base, the decreasing size of the tires makes the stack appear to be stretching off toward a distant vanishing point in the sky.

All told this Calgary piece seems interesting. I look forward to being able to see it closer than I was able to do yesterday, from the outside of the construction site. I suspect it will be complete sometime during the next month or two.

The future of InvestYYC

InvestYYCLogo

As one of the legacies of Calgary being named one of the final two “Cultural Capital(s) of Canada” during 2012 which it shared with the Niagara Region in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, was the crowd-funding platform InvestYYC.

The concept is great.  Help small local arts organizations or individuals in nine stated categories according to their website, which are listed as culture, dance, film and new media; heritage; literary arts; multidisciplinary; music; theatre; and visual arts and funded by local individuals.

In developing InvestYYC, those involved were obviously looking at other models in the crowd-funding universe such as Kickstarter; Indiegogo, GoFundMe; Fundable and a whole bunch more that are still being developed worldwide.

It is a concept that should have resonance with the local marketplace since the theory is that it draws upon the resources of individuals that are most interested in seeing a proposal succeed; it does not add additional draw on tax-based revenue; and creates self-sufficiency and fund-development among the groups that are seeking funding; and requires no further ongoing subsidy to arts organizations.  These are all values that I regularly read are considered to be important and valued by non-profit organizations in newspapers, the media, government and funders in a “small-C conservative city” that is also a major financial centre in Canada.

When I look at the InvestYYC website I noticed that this platform has done well for some organizations in the past.  This was helped along by the Calgary Arts Development Authority which created a $50,000 pool where CADA would match donor contributions which began on February 26, 2013 in the twilight days of Calgary 2012.

Some of the successful organizations that used this platform were Wreck City; i-Robot Theatre at Beakerhead; a stage performance entitled Citizens of the World; a contemporary dance performance entitled Thin Places and others.  It has definitely served an important purpose in the year or so that it has been operational.

Currently there are four campaigns which are active – two of which are flood related, one for Sled Island which was deeply affected as the festival began the day the flood began; and the other is the Alberta Arts Flood Rebuild fund.  The Arts Rebuild fund also was involved in the recently ended ArtRise fundraiser that also helped out the Elephant Artist Relief (see http://www.elephantartistrelief.com/) at the Art Gallery of Calgary which had some beautiful artwork donated that wrapped-up, after a delay a few months ago, two days ago.

There are two other projects a literary project and a music project connected to the Calgary Wind Symphony.

In this context, this morning I read with interest, today’s issue of the Financial Post.  On the front page just below the fold is a story entitled “Equity crowd-funding planned; OSC Rules.”

Briefly the story is about the leading Canadian market regulator for equities and capital markets, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) exploring new rules and regulations to allow crowd-funding of early-stage corporate entities.

This potentially could be similar to what happened a number of years ago when the Alberta Securities Commission allowed Junior Capital Pools (JCP) to trade on the Alberta Stock Exchange (ASE) beginning in 1986 which continued through to 1999 when the ASE merged with the Vancouver Stock Exchange to create the TSX.  Along the way some great stories came as a result of the JCPs, such as Boardwalk Equities Inc. which started with a small blind pool and through growth and acquisitions now trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

As a very interested, active observer and occasional participant in the arts, and to a lesser extent business (especially in the past), I note that business and the arts often intersect.  This, despite the fact that there will always be a certain amount of denial, whether conscious or not, of the economic reality that everyone has daily expenses they must make if they are to continue living.

The reality is that money makes the world go around.  In this respect arts organizations are no different than a corporate entity looking for money in capital markets – whether to start-up, expand, merge or have a bridge capital requirement.

So, it will be interesting to see how the talks and discussions currently underway by the OSC; any decisions that come from it; and governance that impacts this new funding model, will impact InvestYYC and the organizations it funds.

I will certainly be watching to see what happens.

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.