Walking Women, advertising and pop-art

Walking_Woman_signage_Calgary_2015_Jan_03 (1024x768)

Advertising is an interesting field.

But before I get talking about advertising, I want to talk about “pop-art” first.

In the very near future we will be hearing much more about “pop-art” – not that we haven’t heard much before. That comment of course was somewhat tongue in cheek, as there was a recent sale (November 2014) of an Andy Warhol painting of Elvis Presley that sold for US $81.9-million.

Primarily why we will be hearing more about this is because Yale University Press will be releasing a long-anticipated book tomorrow (January 6, 2015) – Thomas Crow’s book The Long March of Pop: Art, Music and Design, 1930-1995. In this book, there will be some discussion surrounding the placement of pop art in relation to folk art and music – especially in the USA. There will be further discussion on pop-art outside of the USA as well, in places such as the UK which is a very important place for discussion surrounding this art historical term. I think this will be a very interesting discussion to have and hopefully expand the dialogue further.

There are currently two exhibitions of note, relating to “pop-art” that are currently on view elsewhere. I am sure that there are more than just two, however these two are located closest to Calgary, for those that are inclined to travel for business or personal pleasure.

  1. The Seattle Art Museum currently has an exhibition that talks about pop and its effect on artists that have produced or are currently working that takes pop art as a point of departure. It ends in little over a week from now.
  2. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Art de Montréal) currently has an exhibition of Andy Warhol`s advertising posters on view. As part of this exhibition two catalogue raisonnés have been produced – one dealing with Andy Warhol’s commissioned posters and the other his commissioned magazine work. I am sure that this would be a very interesting show to view as it probably covers a lot of ground that we don’t often see in a gallery exhibition. This show will continue until mid-March.

This last show of course leads me into advertising – which ties in well with “pop-art” as a general rule. For this reason why I believe that the MMFA/MBAM show mentioned above would be so interesting to see.

All businesses need to do some form of advertising if they want to stay in business. It is a fact of modern life.

Having owned a few businesses myself, I understand the necessity to advertise and create publicity for the business (having worked in corporate public relations beforehand, it was an easy sell). On the other side of the equation, I also understand the futility and frustration that comes with it as well.

It is a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t type of scenario.

This is primarily because measuring advertising effectiveness involves highly subjective criteria. It this way, partly because of how difficult it is to effectively evaluate, quantify and measure value; and measure the sales efficacy of the advertising dollar. In many ways spending money on advertising is always a bit of a crap shoot trying to determine what is going to work most successfully, because the ground is always shifting and what worked in the past does not always work in the future.

One of the oldest and most inexpensive forms of advertising is to simply place a sign outside of the business door – essentially to “hang out a shingle”.

Normally there is not much creativity exercised in these type of things. Outside of the main signage which is attached to the building or storefront, there is the possibility of a sandwich board, maybe some signage in the window, or some other variation on one or both of these themes. It is usually pretty straight-forward.

* * *

Yesterday, I walked past a piece of street advertising placed outside of a business door on Edmonton Trail.

I have passed this sign which is illustrated at the top of the post before. I suspect that it has been standing outside the door of this business for a number of years. How long? I have no idea, but it has been there as long as I can remember in recent memory.

Every time I see it, I think of Michael Snow and his Walking Woman series of paintings, drawings and sculptures dating from the 1960s and 1970s (although I believe he may have done some in the 1980s as well, but not as frequently). They are iconic pieces of Canadian art history – drawing from both conceptual and pop roots in Toronto.

Michael_Snow_Four_1963

The painting above is entitled Four, 1963. It was exhibited (and presumably sold) through Isaacs Gallery in Toronto during the 1960s. Its present location is unknown.

Michael Snow was definitely at the leading edge of artists at that time and has continued to produce work of significance since the 1950s. He is now in mid-80s and his importance is acknowledged by his being named a Companion of the Order of Canada.

I have previously mentioned Michael Snow in conjunction with the large Canada Geese sculpture/installation that he did for the atrium of Eaton Centre in Toronto. Anyone that has visited that building would certainly remember it.

He is one of our more important artists. One that we rarely see exhibited in Western Canada.

Even though it is a hunch on my part. It would seem to be a safe bet to assume that the maker or designer of this sign borrowed heavily from the central image of one of Michael Snow’s paintings or sculptures of a Walking Woman – whether they were aware of his work, or not. Notwithstanding this, the concept of seeing signage that is either unusual and/or creatively exercised is definitely appreciated in this city, as most other signage is generally safe and conservative.

For this sign, it is the idea that counts.

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The Alison Redford gumball mosaic

Allison_Redford_gumball_portrait_by_Franz_Spohn_ as_installed_on_site_at_Bow_Valley_College_2013_October_10 (1024x683)

Top news story today is Alison Redford.

The story today relates to a report issued by the Provincial Auditor-General earlier this morning. It is a difficult job being a politician. As a result, I will try to remain as objective as I am able.

However, as seen in this article from yesterday’s Globe and Mail, it would seem as if there are some issues that still linger from her time as premier. That story ran on the same day (yesterday) that the embattled Redford resigned as an MLA and from politics.  Concurrent with her resignation, she took the opportunity to pen an op-ed article in both the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald.

I thought today would be an opportune time to visit Bow Valley College and view some artwork.

The specific work I was looking for was created by the American artist Franz Spohn in conjunction with a residency he had at the Museum of Contemporary Art – Calgary in 2012 (now rebranded and known as Contemporary Calgary or more specifically the MOCA location which is known as C2). This residency corresponded with the annual Children’s Festival held every year during May. If I was to make a reasonable speculation, it probably had something to do with Calgary 2012 as well.

It was prominently displayed near the food court, at the top of the main stairwell, on the +15 level at Bow Valley College. Sadly when I got there, all I could find was a plain blank, white wall that contained no evidence of what once hung there instead. As a result, I had to search for a photograph I took of it last October, which is illustrated above.

Two large gumball portrait mosaics were created as a result of the MOCA-Calgary residency. The first of the two portraits completed was of Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi which was followed up probably the following weekend with a portrait of Premier Redford. Each portrait contained 18,225 coloured gumballs and both politicians assisted in the creation of their respective portraits, with a surprise visit by Nenshi to assist on Redford’s portrait. At Bow Valley College the two portraits faced each other. Both were located at the top of the main stairwell one on each side.

These two artworks are an excellent example of a community building exercise  creating partnerships with other organizations; coordinating a collaborative engagement between artists and community members; engaging those in the community who might not otherwise visit a gallery; and developing new audiences. This is what galleries must do regularly as part of their programming and in terms of developing creative places and spaces.

These artworks came to be as a participatory project whereby individuals helped build the artwork. I attended both events and I was pleased to see how many children participated, often with their parent’s or grandparent’s assistance. It was a fantastic thing to see.

Because the two portraits were not on display when I visited Bow Valley College today, I stopped to ask a lady who was entering a nearby office at the same time as me, “what happened to the Nenshi and Redford portraits?”

After a bit of thinking on her part, she said that she though that the Redford portrait might have got damaged and had to be removed. She assumed that maybe the Nenshi work must have been removed at the same time, before it got damaged as well. I have no idea whether the information that she gave me is correct. I am just relaying comments that I received from a random stranger who works in the building. When I asked about timing, she guessed that this probably happened sometime before or during the summer.

I have reason to doubt the veracity of her comments.

Lenin_sculpture_toppling_Kiev_AP_photo_and_caption_2013_Dec_08

Given this context, the parallels between this situation and a recent news story from December 2013 strikes me as interesting. They are definitely NOT related and are on a completely different level in terms of issues surrounding each other. Regardless, the two events have an interesting dialogue with each other nevertheless.

As one would know, if they follow the news even remotely, there have been some recent troubles in the Ukraine. The news story I am talking about pre-dated the Crimean Peninsula Crisis that started in late-February of this year, and relates specifically to a sculpture of Vladimir Lenin that once stood in the central square of Kiev which was toppled in early-December 2013. This was long after the breakup of the former USSR, into independent states, when most of this type of action of toppling Lenin sculptures occurred. Here is an AP photo and a caption that I copied from one of the news journals or papers that used it, for reference more than anything else.

As I said before, politics is not easy business and can be very messy when things go sideways.

I suspect that at some point in the future it will be on display once again. Where and when is the big question.

Situations are changing, but we still need the cash

AndyWarhol1962DollarBillSeries

 

Within this past week a number of news stories have crossed my desk which show that all is not well in the arts and culture area (oops, I mean cultural sector – no forget that, let`s call it cultural industries).

Regardless, it is something that is certainly not new by any stretch of the imagination for those involved actively, but at least there seems to be some awareness of it on a larger scale – or maybe that is just wishful thinking.

I don`t have much time today so will only touch on a few things, more in passing.

 

1. The issue of corporate culture and economics with the arts world.

This morning in the Globe and Mail there is an article written by Thomas Hodd which talks about the corporatization of the arts world. The author teaches literature at the university level and also sits on various arts organizational boards – so as one would expect, he talks about language. He also brings up this “situation whereby artists and cultural organizations are now being forced by governments to conform to the language and approach of corporatism if they want to get funding.”

This appears to be a continuation of comments made in mid-October 2012 in the (St. John, NB) Telegraph-Journal where Hodd stated in an editorial, that “Economics should not be a driving force in decisions regarding matters of culture. Economics serves to provide us with the means by which to live while culture gives us a reason to live in the first place.”

2. The issue of social media

A British organization called One Further just published a study last week entitled “Facebook Survey for Arts and Culture Organisations” which can be accessed here. It is a 16-page document that as a result of a statement issued by Facebook in 2013 which “lead to some consternation among arts and culture organisations. . . (namely) If fewer people are reading their updates then are they worth posting? Should they pay Facebook to push their updates into more News Feeds via the Promoted Posts feature? Can nonprofit organisations afford to do that? Is it worth continuing with Facebook at all?”

This led One Further to conduct a survey of 48 organizations in Europe and North America during a two-week period in June 2014. The results are found in the report linked above. It is well worth the read for any arts administrator whose duties involve social media.

3. The issue of public art.

This past May, City Council bowed to public pressure to a point, resulting from the Blue Ring controversy which with terrible timing was installed right in the middle of the last city election campaign. I am quite certain that this probably of little help to the whole issue of developing a new YYC Arts Plan that was already well underway by that time. The end result was rejigging the formulas for the 1% for art program and a few other tweaks. As explained above, this issue was scheduled before the election, for discussion this year on the 10-year anniversary of the Public Art Program. Notwithstanding this situation, public art is something that must be considered.

I see that the Vancouver City Council will be discussing at their City Council meeting today, some significant changes to their public art program in its first significant overhaul in 30 years. As quoted in the Vancouver Sun story that ran a few days ago, “the changes, proposed in a report going to council on Wednesday, come as the publicly funded side of the city’s program is faltering under a lack of capital and an aging body of works in need of maintenance. The city’s cultural spaces management is eyeing taking more from developers to help grow the existing program and to also create a superfund for a new class of projects on city land.”

Of course this issue of an “aging body of works in need of maintenance” speaks to the issue of the original 98-year old lions that once stood on the Centre Street Bridge; and what to do with them now.

One may recall, a few years back the lions were a front page story in the Calgary Herald (February 21, 2012) and created quite a stir when they were observed in a warehouse yard covered by a tarp (ironically across the street from the Calgary Herald offices). At the time of the 2012 story, they were exposed to the elements after being removed from the bridge in 1999 and replaced with replica copies a year or two later.

Once again, the lions are back in the news again along with a series of subsequent letters to the editor. The verdict in the most recent news is that their future is now uncertain once again and that they may be too fragile to move – which more or less repeats what was originally stated in February 2012. However it has been floated as a potential addition to public art located the West LRT line a few times – so one never really knows for sure until a final decision has been made on that, probably sometime next year (2015).

The city actively solicited an opportunity to provide feedback about the lions. For these comments to be included in the written feedback for the Request for Proposals (RFP) relating to public art projects involving the West LRT and the lions, the form had to be filled out by July 21 (two days ago). That webpage is still active – for how long I don’t know and cannot predict. However, if you want to provide your feedback and have not done so already follow this link.

4. The issue of declining revenues for artists

This one is more about music than fine art although a case can be certainly made for the transference between the two. In a recent story in salon.com the issue is brought up about how streaming music is adding to the frustration from musicians outside of the mainstream. Specifically mentioned are the two genres, classical and jazz. This article sites ” low royalties, opaque payout rates, declining record sales and suspicion that the major labels have cut deals with the streamers that leave musicians out of the equation, anger from the music business’s artier edges is slowing growing.”

Added to this could be a discussion about changes at the CBC, where it is becoming more like every other top 40 (or top 100) radio stations on the dial (notwithstanding their on-air advertisements which would seem to indicate otherwise), and becoming less easily distinguishable as a unique view on Canadian culture and content. That discussion however is for another day. To be frank, it will probably will never be covered by me, however I am sure it has been well covered by others.

 

This all plays back to the first comment about corporatization and how funding (however it comes) is affecting arts organizations and changing the cultural landscape.

If anything, I would propose that this is more of an entry point for further discussion and dialogue.

 

My craft-based art proposal for the Western Showcase

Calgary_Stampede_Western_Showcase_Craft-Area_Overview_2014_July (1024x683)

Yesterday, I talked about Yvonne Mullock’s hooked rug and its unveiling at the Esker Foundation.

In that post I indicated that I wanted to continue this discussion as it relates to the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase. This also is a continuation of my previous post from about a week ago that relates to the Artist Ranch Project.

As any reader of this blog can easily figure out I have shown my current minor obsession on craft as art. I am interested (and have been for quite some time) in the dialogue between, at what point does craft end and fine art begin.

* * *

There are all sorts of issues surrounding this dialogue such as, but not limited to:

  1. the necessity of artists to perfect their craft;
  2. craft as a viable medium for artists to explore;
  3. what role art can have in craft production;
  4. the role of language and the use of the term “craft” in art; and
  5. does the term “craft” actually inhibit growth and dialogue in art production and collections.

With this out of the way and as background to this discussion, I can now move forward.

* * *

In my blog post from last Friday (see link provided above), I proposed that the Stampede seriously consider working collaboratively with the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton in the Western Showcase.

In my opinion, this could be a very good collaboration as the Alberta Craft Council has connections to a significant number of professional craftspersons active in Alberta (and being a provincial organization would be involved in networks nationally and internationally); has a large exhibition space with active programming in Edmonton; and has explored possibilities over the past number of years with intent to set up a separate location in Calgary as well. For whatever reason none of those attempts to set up a space in Calgary has come to fruition. Things now seem to be moving forward as they have a soft agreement in place that they will occupy a space of some sort in the new King Edward School arts incubator that cSPACE Projects is moving forward on. It will probably be ready for occupancy barring any delays sometime in 2016.

Overview of the two organizations:

From its website Alberta Craft Council is described as follows:

The Alberta Craft Council is the Provincial Arts Service Organization that develops, promotes and advocates for fine craft in Alberta. Since 1980, the ACC has promoted craft in Alberta through exhibitions, publications, marketing ventures, education, awareness projects and information services to its membership and to the general public. The ACC has a dual role: to support contemporary and heritage crafts as significant art forms that contribute to Alberta’s culture; and to develop a craft sector of creative, skilled, viable and sustainable craftspeople, studio, businesses and networks.

Now the Stampede. The Western Showcase component has been described on their website as follows:

Western Showcase is recognized as one of the major destination areas of the Stampede. We are a vibrant group of nearly 200 volunteers showcasing our Western Heritage and Values. Western Showcase, located in Halls D and E of the BMO Centre at Stampede Park, showcases art, entertainment, presentations and exhibitions that depict our Western Lifestyle.

It would appear that this is how the two organizations envision themselves and what they do.

Now to expand my argument for this proposal:

In a previous post, I indicated in passing that that there is a Western Lifestyles Creative Arts & Crafts Competition. I didn’t call it by that name at that time, but this is what it actually is called. They have 14 categories in which competitions are held.

They are listed below, and I have only included the open division, which most adults would compete in. They are: 1.) knitting; 2.) crocheting & tatting; 3.) needlework & stitchery; 4.) quilting; 5.) paper crafts & calligraphy; 6.) assorted handicrafts; 7.) ceramics & decorative painting; 8.) rugs & weaving; 9.) wood working; 10.) dolls & toys; 11.) framed paintings; 12.) framed drawings; 13.) sugar art & cake decorating; and 14.) eco art.

As one can see from the list above many of these categories lie parallel to many professional artist’s practice. With blurring of boundaries in contemporary visual art practice and production, it is a fair assumption to say that all of the categories above are fair game for most artists to explore.

With that in mind, I thought it is worth investigating the rules for the competition. In the 2014 booklet containing the rules & regulations of this competition, I could only find one section (the last one) which addresses the inclusion of a professional artist or artisan from participating. It is as follows:

19. Participants in the Western Art Show will not be allowed to enter pieces for competition in the Creative Arts and Crafts Competition. . .

In my eyes, this would seem to be a fair rule. Here are some photo selections from the competition that are relevant:

Calgary_Stampede_Rugs_Section_Winner_2014_July (1024x683)

Calgary_Stampede_Eco_Art_Window_Display_July_2014 (1024x683)

Calgary_Stampede_Eco_Art_Winner_2014_July (1024x683)

Moving on to the Sales Salons

As I was wandering through the sales salon I very surprised to see some large ceramic vessels in one of the booths. I have included a photo of the booth and it shows work by Robert Behr from Montana who from his website, appears to travel the circuit of other festival events similar to the Western Showcase in California, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

From this it would appear as if craft is not an issue in the Sales Salon and as a comment made by Sherri Zickefoose yesterday on a previous post (see link above) she indicated that this may be due to no other artists applying. This is a reasonable assumption to make.

Robert_Behr_booth_at_Calgary_Stampede_July_2014 (1024x683)

Moving on to the Art Auction

I have attended many of these sales over the years. Although I don’t have the catalogues close at hand to reference, however I do have them available should I need to. I do not recall seeing any craft included into the sale. Having said that there is this interesting thing that sometimes happens prior to the sale where they have a Quickdraw event. I can`t remember what it is called. As part of that in the past I recall seeing a sculptor on more than one year working with clay to create a sculpture. I can’t remember what they do with it, but I suspect it is either sold or cast at a later date.

Unfortunately I am unable to attend tonight as the job that I once was working full-time at has now cut my hours to only six hours a week over two days. As a result I am looking for new work. However, the hours that I must work this week are the exact same hours as the auction, tonight. I can`t even get a photo if they do something like this tonight.

Further to this, some time ago (I could be corrected, but I believe it was held between 2007-2010) there was an auction called Pavilion: Contemporary Art Auction. I attended all the sales and have the catalogues somewhere. It was held in September in the Victoria Pavilion in the old Agricultural Building. It was held in cooperation with Christie’s (the auction house) and eight commercial galleries – Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Masters Gallery Ltd., Newzones, Paul Kuhn Gallery, Skew Gallery, Susan Whitney Gallery, TrépanierBaer Contemporary Art and Virginia Christopher Fine Art.

During the 2008 sale one of the pieces was a work by Shary Boyle. She is kind of a big deal as she the following year won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2009 and later went on to represent Canada in the Venice Biennale in 2013. The piece which was specifically commissioned for this sale was described by Nancy Tousley in the Calgary Herald as follows:

(Shary Boyle`s work) is represented in the Pavilion catalogue by a lace-draped porcelain figurine of a woman, with a bloody stump of a neck. She daintily holds her severed head in her lady-figurine hands.

It sold for $12,000.

Unfortunately the Pavilion sale was not to be, and only three sales were conducted. It was subsequently cancelled on the eve of the fourth annual sale. In this sale there was a definite interest in exploring contemporary art and new media, including craft-based work.

Moving on the Artist Ranch Project

Instead of repeating myself I would suggest that if the reader is interested in reading more, to visit my previous post (see link provided at the top).

However to add to this discussion I have included an image of a work by Wanda Ellerback from this year`s iteration of the Artist Ranch Project for reference. Here she is creating a work that uses craft, while creating a fine art object.

Wanda_Ellerback_sculpture_for_Stampede_Artist_Ranch_Project_2014 (1024x683)

 

The Guilds and Cabins

In the Western Showcase is a cabin which is daily staffed with volunteer members of various guilds. One of the guilds is the Chinook Guild of Fibre Arts. Here they show how the crafts that they work with are done. Sometimes, depending on the guild, they will show children and other interested parties how to do these crafts. This is part of an educational initiative to keep these skills from becoming obsolete. It also harkens back to pioneer culture and especially as it relates to women as many of these activities are of a domestic nature or things that have relevance inside the home.

Calgary_Stampede_Western_Lifestyles_List_of_Participating_Guilds_2014_July (1024x683)

In my most recent post from yesterday, I mentioned work by Yvonne Mullock and the Chinook Guild of Fibre Arts (see link provided at the top of this post). It will become readily obvious why I wanted to include them in this dialogue.

They produced a large hooked rug for the Esker Foundation. It is now currently being shown in the gallery as art.

As an aside the current exhibition at the Esker is very interesting and in the context of this discussion should be seen by all members of the Western Showcase Committee. Two artists, Beth Stuart and Cynthia Girard (who worked in collaboration with artists David Altmejd, Julie Doucet, Groupe d`action en cinéma Épopée, Henry Kleine and Noémi McComber) who produced work that uses a number of craft-based media in the work that is on display (I think immediately of quilts, needlework and eco art). Not only that it is presented in such a way that it could almost be dropped right into the middle of the Western Showcase and look like it was intended to be there. If it was to be included, it would certainly create an active discussion. But I digress.

Yesterday, I walked past The Women’s Centre. As I passed, I was invited in to enjoy a Stampede Lunch and BBQ by a lady standing on the step outside the main doors. Once I was in the space I noticed a number of quilts hanging on the walls surrounding the office. This then gave me the opportunity to talk to one of the staff members and inquire if these were any connection to the quilts that I had seen in a window display at the Epcor Centre for Performing Arts a couple months earlier. It was not the case, but it was an enlightening conversation nevertheless.

The quilts I referenced were made as a collaboration with some women that took part in a workshop connected to The Women’s Centre in cooperation with two artists (Cat Schick and Linda Hawke) connected to This is My City Art Society.

This project was a very fascinating collaboration. With the assistance of a Calgary 2012 grant the two artists led a workshop at The Women’s Centre, which answers calls to approximately 60,000 calls annually for basic needs from clients, the vast majority who are dealing with issues of poverty. This workshop was based on the theme of sleep and dreams and it is possible to read more about it here. Much of the work that was included was very powerful. I have included two small details from two separate quilts included in this art exhibition for reference below. Like the other collaboration that I have mentioned above (the Esker collaboration) The Women`s Centre collaboration, likewise crossed boundaries between untrained people and professional artists.

This_is_My_City_Womens_Centre_Dream_Quilt_Detail_one_January_2014 (1024x683)

For reference, the detail text from the above quilt states the following:

Sometimes when I should / be asleep, my mind is wide awake. Things I / need to do tomorrow nag at me, great / burdensome lists of thing, each with its own / list of associated details. On really bad nights / the shadowy corners of my life come into sharp / focus. I think about how I would relive / regrettable moments, fix mistakes. I replay / words I have said and haven’t said to people / alive and dead. My internal temperature / is thrown out of whack and I have too many / covers – then too few. I consider getting up but / usually don’t, afraid I’ll disturb some else’s / sleep.

This_is_My_City_Womens_Centre_Dream_Quilt_Detail_two_January_2014 (1024x683)

The detail from the second states the following:

A hawk flew into my dream,

down into my ruined house,

right through walls that weren’t there

and grazed my head.

The bird had a message for me,

but I was protected from

hearing it,

by the orange sunhat,

I wore in those days.

Synopsis and Conclusion

As we can see from the example of The Women’s Centre + This is My City collaboration craft engages viewers and practitioners on a very fundamental and structural level. When one looks at our Western ancestors we know that craft in some cases for survival, comfort or luxury. At some point in each of our family’s existence someone had to know how to darn a pair of socks, make and bead a pair of moccasins, knit a draft snake, hammer out a horseshoe, create a wedding band and set the stone, and make a ceramic plate – or be able to pay someone to do it for them.

We have determined that ALL sections of the Western Showcase have expressed some interest in showing craft as art up to a certain threshold. However there appears to be only very little of it shown at any one time.

There are probably reasons for this. From the vantage point of an interested observer and non-active participant, I would assume that the largest reason for this is a general lack of awareness that craft is a possibility to be shown in the Western Showcase. In other words, for whatever reason, the committee has not connected on some level with this specific audience.

For this reason I proposed that some initiative be created to allow craftspersons to participate in the Western Showcase. The province (and by extension, the larger region of Western Canada and the Northwestern USA) have some significant and important centres of craft production. This is a perfect venue to showcase this important cultural legacy.

The Stampede as a larger entity, has also shown that they are open to cooperative initiatives. I think of the partnerships that they have formed with corporate entities in terms of naming rights and funding for things such as the SAM Centre, the Youth Campus and its partnership with the Calgary Arts Academy along with the new Enmax partnership to relocate the Indian Village.

The Alberta Craft Council has also shown the same. About a month ago the ACC followed the lead of other organizations such as Stride, Truck, The New Gallery, Marion Nicoll Gallery, Untitled Art Society and the Alberta Printmakers Society in having a window in the Epcor Centre for Performing Arts. This is a new, purpose-built space that was constructed in the +15 corridor along with another newly built space for the University of Calgary Department of Art students between Jack Singer Concert Hall and the Martha Cohen Theatre. In this space the ACC, like the others, have begun regular programming of craft-based, fine art or installation-based artwork rotating on a monthly schedule.

In the local area there are isolated pockets of support for craft-based artwork. Unfortunately much of these opportunities are geared more to selling of pots and functional craft, with occasional art-based opportunities available outside of this narrow focus.

What I would like to propose is something like the Artist Ranch Project which I think is an amazing project. Like this, I would propose a thematic residency of some sort. The Western Showcase I propose to work in collaboration with the Alberta Craft Council to develop a new concept that will benefit artists and artisans who are interested in exploring craft-based opportunities further with a show at the end during the ten-days of Stampede.

I have no idea how this should unfold, but I would be very interested in seeing something like this happen. I am also very excited about what it could look like.

I have done my part, now I am passing off the baton to someone else, whoever that may be.

The Artist Ranch Project at the Calgary Stampede

 

Calgary_Stampede_Artist_Ranch_Project_Exterior_2014_July_02 (1024x683)

Today is Parade Friday, the official kick-off to the Calgary Stampede.

A couple nights ago, I attended the opening of the sneak preview of the Western Showcase at the Calgary Stampede. It is an annual tradition for me that I missed along with all Stampede related activities, last year due to my working in High River helping those affected by the flood.

Long ago, I was asked to serve on the selection jury for the Sales Salon booths for the 2003 Stampede edition. I remember this only because I a year that I moved my residence during the week of Stampede while working full-time, and was only able to attend one Stampede activity that year. The interesting takeaway from my jury involvement was that it gave me an interesting view into how the Western Showcase Committee operates and how they select their artists for the Sales Salon. This helped explain why many of the sales booths show predictably similar artists year after year with a only a few minor changes along the way. The net result however, is a slow migration that follows what their audience wants – or at least that is the theory.

The Stampede committee has obviously figured out the formula that their patrons are looking for – safe, depictive paintings of livestock and landscapes; realistic sculpture of animals; new aboriginal stone carvings; and safe non-representational painting. There is some interest in expanding this, but this is the core.

There is definitely no interest at all in printmaking. I understand why, but I think it is taking the easy way out. It is a form of artmaking and collecting that involves a fair amount of connoisseurship and discernment, not to mention the education required if one wants to be serious about it. Maybe in time they will eventually see the light, but it will be a while – I have a feeling.

I am uncertain, but I believe that there is only limited interest in photography. I find this rather odd, because there is a large annual Western Photo Gallery and Competition exhibition including photographers from around the world on the other side of the exhibition hall. These are for sale. Outside of this I do not recall seeing any photography in the booths. It is possible that no one has ever applied, which would explain this odd dichotomy. Given all this, it wouldn’t seem like a huge stretch to include photographers in the Sales Booths.

There appears to be a very limited interest in exploring craft as fine art. I also find this interesting and ironic because the Stampede has a very strong craft exhibition component. However, it is traditional craft that is exhibited and awards and ribbons are given for it every year. This is obviously a carry-over from the Stampede’s agricultural fair roots. This component probably was even included in the Calgary agricultural fairs that pre-dated the first modern Stampede in 1912. I want to talk a wee bit more about this later.

* * *

As an aside – I was talking to a random lady who was in the line-up beside me for some BBQ meatballs and veggie rolls at the event. From her I found out that the type of art on display is now described as “western values for her wall.” That had to be one of the funniest comments I heard all night. I had to refrain myself from bursting out laughing, since I had just met her and didn’t know how to take it when she said it.

“Western values” is a nebulous phrase that I keep hearing from both the marketing and media relations department at the Stampede. I have yet to figure out what it actually means, or if it is something akin to “world-class” – an overused and trite comment. Maybe that is what made the lady’s comment so funny. But I digress.

* * *

As usual, the most interesting thing for me is the Artist Ranch Project.

The Artist Ranch Project in a nutshell:

This is the sixth year of the project. I like to think of it as a wee, little, breath of fresh air and sunshine. This project occupies space right in the middle of the generally staid and conservative environment that is the rest of the show.

Each year a number of artists are selected. From the numbers in the last couple years, it would appear as if they have settled on five artists as being the magic number. Once the artists are selected, they spend a weekend on a working ranch.

While there, the artists find out the workings of the ranch and what the staff at the ranch does. Each year it is a different ranch (or at least it has been to date). They go in the fall – after the Stampede has been put to bed for the year and the ranchers are starting to think about bringing in the harvest, if the harvest is part of their operations. From talking to artists that have been involved, they bring various people to talk about what the ranch does and what the people who work there do. They spend a lot of time talking and relatively little amount of time out in the fields.

This makes sense especially from the perspective of someone that has never been on a ranch before. After this visit the artists have the better part of a year to absorb those conversations and develop artwork that relates to their experiences and how it will translate into their practice.

Often the artists selected are in early to middle stages of their careers. It is a great opportunity for the artists. It introduces them to a different audience and it also gently pushes the traditional Stampede art buyer to explore options outside of their own personal comfort zone. For breaking news, scroll to the bottom of this page.

How the Artist Ranch Project fits within the rest of the Western Showcase

In a way I see this Project as a bit of the future direction of the Sales Salon. I suspect that this is seen as being a development and training area of sorts. The parallel being contestants in smaller rodeos who after winning enough competitions finally have the chance to compete for the $1-million rodeo purse at the Stampede.

Periodically some of the artists return the following year with a booth or are included in the annual art auction. This year one of the participants in last year’s Project (Bernadette McCormack) was featured on the invitation for last night’s event. They selected a piece of hers that is included in the Art Auction that will happen next week. I also notice that Karen Scarlett has a booth this year. Similar situations to this have also occurred in years prior.

One of the criticisms of the Artist Ranch Project is that the artists selected are uneven in quality. This is not necessarily a bad thing and in the grand scheme of things is a relatively moot point. Some years the artists selected were (or are) stronger than might be the case in other years, or alternatively with other artists in the same year. This is to be expected in any group exhibition, a result of different stages of career, and a result of selection being based on an application-based process. The strength is in the collective impact, connections and development for all those involved.

From sources I believe are reliable, until now (2014) the artists have been selected through the Committee that is responsible for this project. This next year (2015) they brought in the first external jury members so that it is balanced between external and internal  jury members (3 external and 3 internal) to assist in the selection.

The addition of an external jury member(s) that is somehow involved in the art world should be a good thing. It should bring a perspective that may potentially be missing. Having a fresh voice also helps revitalise any process where the possibility of having stagnation and/or navel-gazing occurs. This is an excellent place to have it, just as they have been doing for some time in the sales salon and presumably in the art auction as well.

I mentioned that I want to talk further about craft as fine art in this context.

This iteration has work by Wanda Ellerbeck. Just as the other four artists involved, Ellerbeck has two-dimensional paintings on the wall. She unlike the others, is the only one with three-dimensional work on plinths. It is possible to see some of them in the picture below. These sculptural objects use cement and mixed media and incorporate found materials into them. These works are very strong and I am glad that she included them. I hope that she is able to place a number of them. It would send a message that there are collectors who appreciate non-traditional, craft-based work.

Calgary_Stampede_Artist_Ranch_Project_Interior_2014_July_02 (1024x683)

This is a good example of where the Artist Ranch Project has an amazing opportunity to stretch the boundaries of the Western Showcase. This work ties in well with the long craft tradition that I mentioned previously.

In the past they showed some of Philip Bandura’s glass “bombs” (for lack of a better descriptor) with small vignettes including animals inside. I find these works quite fascinating and I am glad to see some have been selected for inclusion in the current Glenbow show of works from the Bee Kingdom.

Tim Belliveau like Philip is a member of the Bee Kingdom. I needed a refresher on what he included as it was so long ago, and I am glad that I met up with him at a Stampede Breakfast so he could refresh my memory. He informed me that he included some glass works and two-dimensional works. He also indicated that a yellow bull glass piece that was exhibited as part of the Ranch Project is also included in the current Bee Kingdom show at the Glenbow.

In 2012 they showed some jewelry by Shona Rae along with her paintings. These pieces of jewelry was a major project that I wrote a letter in support that incorporated things such as bone. It was challenging work that deserved to be shown in a gallery setting. Although I did not attend, last year, they also included Jill Nuckles whom I know from her fibre art that I have seen at the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton. Whether that was the work she included last year, I don’t know.

Because of the past selections, we can see that amongst the members of the committee there is definitely an awareness of craft-based fine art. It will be interesting to see if craft will be able to crack the Sales Salon in the future.

Maybe, and this is just a brain wave of a thought, an interesting way to do this might be to invite the Alberta Craft Council to work collaboratively with the Stampede. The purpose of this collaboration, would be to set up a curated booth of craft-based work from Alberta artisans. This could be a beneficial collaboration for both organizations. It would benefit the Alberta Craft Council by introducing a diverse selection of top of class artisans and artwork to the Calgary market and the world stage. It would benefit the Stampede by introducing a product with little risk that may satisfy a possible area of artmaking that they may have overlooked in the past with a Western geographical focus.

 

* * *

Below is a list of the artists involved in the Artist Ranch Project and the ranches that they visited:

 

2009 (The Calgary Stampede Ranch)

Lisa Brawn

Errol Lee Fullen

Audrey Mabee

Lori Sobkowich

 

2010 (The A7 Ranch)

Tim Belliveau

Michael Markowsky

Herb Sellin

 

2011 (The Homeplace Ranch)

Phillip Bandura

Eveline Kolijn

Joanne McDonald

Adele Woolsey

 

2012 (Bar U Ranch)

Dave Casey

Penny Chase

Jill Hobson

Shona Rae

Adrian Stinson

 

2013 (Scott Ranch)

Bernadette McCormack

Jill Nuckles

Pascale Ouellet

Karen Scarlett

Tharrie Zietsman

 

2014 (OH Ranch)

Danielle Bartlette

Wanda Ellerbeck

Sheila Kernan

K. Neil Swanson

David Zimmerman

 

Breaking News:

Although it has not been officially announced by the Stampede, the results of the 2015 jury deliberations are out on the World Wide Web for anyone to view. I have been aware of the results for approximately one month now. Congratulations to these artists, some of whom I know personally and/or have had professional dealings with in the past.

 

2015 (Soft announcement was made in early to mid-June 2014)

Billie-Rae Busby

Patti Emerson

Denise Lemaster

Greg Pyra

Carl White

Belinda Fireman (first replacement should one of the selected artists be unable to participate)

 

 

Vending machine art and the ERCB

Bart-Habermiller-Art-Containing-ERCB-Phone-Directory (1024x683)

This past Thursday evening I attended the opening of Bill Rodgers ten-year retrospective at the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary.

While there, I met up with Bart Habermiller.  We eventually got talking about the upcoming 1990s show at the Glenbow Museum that will be curated by Nancy Tousley and will be opening later this week.

I mentioned the 1990s show a couple days ago in conjunction with Shelley Ouellet and the Entomology installation that Shelley has just finished reinstalling at the Glenbow.  This of course got me thinking about collaboration again.

The reason?  Graceland.

Short History of Graceland

Graceland was an interesting project that lasted for about a ten-year period.  It began when Bart was still attending the Alberta College of Art back in 1986 and continued until Grace’s Land (hence the name Graceland) was sold to a developer in 1997.  It was located off Barlow Trail near Peigan Trail which is close to the Road King Truck Stop.  Grace Colton inherited what later became Graceland when her partner passed away.  It was a former private junkyard located in what is now the light-industrial and warehouse district located south of the residential community of Dover.

One of the benefits of Graceland being isolated from much of the city and having few neighbours, is that it was able to operate as a studio/performance space/production space/art venue/sculpture garden and more and had the space to do it all.  It was significant for its annual Art Rodeos held each summer beginning in 1989.  These were held each summer and the Art Rodeos would last well into the night.

Graceland was a highly collaborative environment with lots of material in the area to work with.  Some of the artifacts from Graceland probably are still in existence as before the property closed they held “the yard sale to end all yard sales.”

The Vending Machine

During the summer of 1994 Bart Habermiller installed a vending machine at one of the Glenbow shows.  I suspect it was The End of Modernity show although it is quite possible it was included in the New Alberta Art monthly shows that the Glenbow used to do.  Either way, the vending machine dispensed for the princely sum of $2.00 – a single piece of art – the financial part was a fact that Bart confirmed this past Thursday.  I must have had pocket change when I went to see the show because I purchased a few pieces of art from the vending machine which I still have.

This vending machine (or a similar one) will be re-installed at the Glenbow 1990s show that opens later this week.  It will be installed on the main floor which only serves to further democratize the acquisition of art as no admission is required to buy the art.  Further, the proceeds will go to the Elephant Artist Relief fund.

The Elephant Artist Relief Society is a great organization which was established by artists for artists.  The recent flood only helped to draw awareness that sometimes people need help.  So if you have extra money for a good cause I am sure that EAR would be a worthy recipient.

One of the pieces I purchased in the vending machine is illustrated above.

About the Art

At the time I was still working as a consultant in the oil and gas or financial industries.  Seeing this piece of artwork attracted me, as I recognized the significance of the P. & N. G. Conversation Board.  This very intriguing historical document containing names and 5-digit phone numbers was an integral part of the artwork.

The significance of the P. & N. G. Conversation Board was that it later became what was known for a long time as the Energy and Resource Conservation Board (ERCB).  It is now known as the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) which is a provincial regulatory agency for the petroleum and energy industries.  It is my best guess that this typed document must have dated from the mid to late 1950s.

I knew who Dr. Govier is.  He was very significant to the industry and was significant to the time of modern resource extraction in Alberta.  The others I did not know.

The people

Today, I decided to do some research on who those other people are.  Sadly they are only identified as Mr. or Dr. without any given name or initial attached.  Fortunately the AER recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and there is a book written by one of my former department head’s colleagues and close friends – Gordon Jaremko.  It mentions a few of the names from the pre-internet era.  No doubt many of them have passed away so some information is rather difficult to get on the internet.

ERCB-Chairs-1947-1978-from-page-155-Jaremko-ERCB-History

Mr. McKinnon is Ian N. McKinnon.  He was accountant with a history in government.  He is significant as he was the Chairman of the ERCB between 1949 through 1962.  He was also significant as he served as the first Chairman of the National Energy Board (NEB) on secondment from the ERCB between 1959 to his resignation in 1962 when he assumed the role on a permanent basis.  After his death a Memorial Fellowship was created for students connected to the Schulich School of Engineering program at the University of Calgary studying at the Masters or Ph.D. level in Economics, Engineering or Geology disciplines. (Note 1)  Jaremko stated this about McKinnon:

  • The like-minded Diefenbaker government reacted by enacting its National Oil Policy (NOP) and creating the National Energy Board (NEB). The NOP propped up sales and prices by banning imports from Canada west of Ottawa and reserving the domestic market for Alberta production. The NEB took responsibility for pipelines that cross provincial or international bound­aries. Federal policy followed the Alberta regulatory model, even borrowing ERCB chairman Ian McKinnon to be the NEB’s first chair. (Note 2)

Mr. Goodall is D.P. (Red) Goodall.  He was the Deputy Chairman of the ERCB and served as the Acting Chair of the P&NGCB between 1947 and 1948 when McKinnon was named as the Chair.  There is little information readily available on him although the ERCB has a number of documents and photographs from him in their archives.  However, Dr. Govier described McKinnon in discussion with Jack Peach during August 1981:

  • It wasn’t until considerably later Jack, that, well, following first of all, Ian McKinnon’s resignation from the Alberta board and acceptance of the chairmanship of the National Energy Board. Then Red Goodall was appointed chairman of the Alberta board. Red’s health didn’t stand up very well and he asked to be relieved and then I was asked to take on the chairmanship. I did this for a short while, still commuting from Edmonton. But then in the spring of 1963 I made the decision and left the University of Alberta, with many regrets of course, because I enjoyed my work there too. And by that time I was dean of the faculty of engineering and that was a very challenging position. But I made the decision and moved to Calgary full time. (Note 3)

Dr. Govier is George Wheeler Govier.  He is still living from the sounds of it, although he is close to 100 years of age.  He was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence last year, which to my mind took them long enough.  There is quite an extensive biography found there.  Here is a small synopsis:

  • George Govier is a well recognized member of the engineering and energy sectors who helped build those key Alberta industries through his longstanding service as a university professor, researcher and respected leader in regulatory development. (Note 4)

Mr. Patrick might be Russ Patrick.  On this I am uncertain.  There is mention of a Russ Patrick in the Jaremko book in conjunction with the ERCB.  If it is the same person, he is described as this:

  • Patrick, whose cabinet portfolios included 16 years with the ERCB (ending along with the Social Credit regime in 1971), described oil sands development as a political hot potato from the get go. (Note 5)
  • A. Russell Patrick was first elected to the Alberta Legislature on August 5, 1952. In the early summer of 1955, in the midst of Alberta’s Jubilee Celebration, he became a Provincial Cabinet Minister with the Social Credit Government. He remained a Cabinet Minister for 16 years until 1971. During his years as Cabinet Minister, A. Russell Patrick was the Minister of Economic Affairs from 1955 to 1959; was appointed Minister of Industry and Tourism in 1959; was Provincial Secretary from 1959 to 1962; was appointed Minister of Mines and Minerals in 1962 and served as Chairman of the Research Council. (Note 6)

There was uncertainty in the Jack Peach oral history transcription about how to spell Mr Baugh’s name. However he is mentioned often by Govier as Ted and his role is described as this:

  • In the late 40’s Ted Baw (sic) and I worked together to develop a technical basis for the regulation of oil production from the point of view of engineering considerations. This was not market pro-rating but it was regulation to ensure that there were not excessive rates of withdrawal that would lead to underground waste. Ted and I were jointly responsible for developing what was called the MPR system. Those letters stand for maximum permissible rate. It was an elementary system to form some reasonably rational basis for regulating oil production. Again, I repeat, unrelated to market demand but related only to technical considerations. Then of course, subsequently, in 1950 it was, the board was called upon to institute a system of prorating oil to market demand. The legislation gave the board the authority to do that but the board did not act on its own until industry came to the board and said, we’re having problems with the voluntary kind of pro-rating production to market demand. You the board, have the statutory authority to do this, would you go ahead and do it. So after consultation with industry we devised a system, this was the first system of pro-ration of oil to market demand in Alberta. That was instituted, I happen to remember that one date, that was December 1950.  (Note 7)

As for Mr. Crockford, I drew a blank and could find no information.

Conclusion

Because this blog is about art, I found this fascinating quote that Govier gave where he talks about the role of business and engineering:

  • Govier taught the ERCB — and leaders in business, the professions, and government — to think big. . . In a 1964 address to the Canadian Natural Gas Processing Association, Govier described the writing on the wall. In his presentation, titled “Avoiding Technical Obsolescence,” he said, “The engineer cannot afford the ivory tower luxury of the scientist who is searching only for scientific truths and facts. The engineer must understand economics, business, government, and government boards. An understanding of history, philosophy, human relations, and social trends is important to him. Music, art, and the theatre must also aid him in the difficult task of understanding man. And he must understand man if he is to use his knowledge and technical skills for the benefit of man.” (Note 8)

It is always interesting to know the back story about a work of art.  This research I conducted today makes me appreciate this work a little bit better.

I am sure something about this piece will show up in the new vending machine at the Glenbow during the 1990s show.  Watch for it.

Notes:

  1. Ian N. McKinnon Memorial Fellowship – Canadian Scholarships, accessed February 1, 2014 http://www.canadian-universities.net/Scholarships/I/Ian-N-McKinnon-Memorial-Fellowship.html
  2. Jaremko, Gordon, Steward : 75 years of Alberta energy regulation, (Edmonton, AB; Energy Resources Conservation Board, 2013), 42
  3. Peach, Jack, and George Govier, Petroleum History Oral History Project Transcript, (unpublished document, deposited with Glenbow Museum archives, August 1981), 4, accessed February 1, 2014, http://www.glenbow.org/collections/search/findingAids/archhtm/extras/piohp/PIOHP_Govier_George.pdf
  4. “George W. Govier OC ScD PEng FCIM LLD (hon) ScD (hon) D.Eng (hon),” Alberta Order of Excellence, accessed February 1, 2014 http://www.lieutenantgovernor.ab.ca/aoe/business/george-govier/
  5. Jaremko, Gordon, ibid, 47
  6. “A. Russell Patrick fonds,” Provincial Archives of Alberta, accessed February 1, 2014, https://hermis.alberta.ca/paa/Details.aspx?ObjectID=PR0119&dv=True&deptID=1
  7. Peach, Jack, and George Govier, ibid, 2.
  8. Jaremko, Gordon, ibid, 17

Old stuff for a new year

Hieronymus_Bosch_St_John_the_Baptist_in_the_Wilderness
Why do I have this feeling of being like St. John the Baptist wailing in the wilderness. . .

What do I see today when I look further to other recent Calgary Public Library blog posts? Yet another posting in the month of December 2013, this time on the Calgary Natural History Society and the Calgary Public Museum – both which are a significant and integral part of my self-funded, independent research that I have focused on nearly full-time for the past couple years.

Finally. Finally it is as if someone is actually paying attention to what I have been working on for the past very, very long time. You have no idea how long, but rest assured it is a long, long time.

I note that there is a significant factual error in this article that has been given prominence of place. In the grand scheme of things it is a relatively minor error. It is one that I made as well early on and it took me quite a while to figure out. For a very strong hint, look at the pictures and use the available information at hand to find your way.

This is an important and timely project that should have been partially funded by Calgary 2012, especially looking back in retrospect and given what is happening in the city now. But apparently only people like Harry Sanders to whom I remember telling about the incineration incident featured in this blog post about a year ago, were actually paying attention.

Here is to hoping that others will finally pay attention as well.