The last dance of Uptown 7th

 

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Last shadow dance at Uptown 7th / 125 – 7 Avenue SW / Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 19:30

Two nights ago as I waited for the train at the 1st Street SW C-Train station, I happened upon an experience I have encountered periodically over the past couple of years. Only this time it was slightly different, because it involved only one dancer instead of the usual two.

A single fellow stepped out of the door and walked to the street in front of the building. As he was doing this, a lone female started a slow dance that only lasted a couple minutes, while he stood outside and took photos of the dancing shadows.

Unknown to the two involved, I also took a couple photos as well.

Although the dancing is not noticeable in this photo, I like the dialogue of the passing businessman who was trying to pass quickly and unnoticed like a latecomer to the ballet.

I see symmetry between the picture above and everything that has happened on this section of the street these past few years.

  • The businessman is like the passing trains and the passengers who ride the trains. The passengers may catch a passing glance of what is going on as they quickly pass by or possible they may not even notice at all.
  • The photographer is like the C-Train passengers waiting on the platform across the street, waiting for the ride to wherever they are going and silently watch the performance.
  • The dancer, like the activity that often takes place in these buildings, which still proceeds regardless of whether anyone is paying attention or not.

As I took the few photos, a young attractive Latina woman came up and stood right beside me. She joined in and also took a few photos as well. Moments later, a young Oriental girl joined us. The three of us who all had never met each other before, watched the silent dance all within each other’s personal space on a largely empty platform. We were bound together, by this unexpected performance that passed in the night, just as quickly as it began. We continued to stand in close proximity to each other, and continue a small conversation that ended when the next train arrived and we each went our separate ways.

It is these types of moments in the life of a city, that are special unplanned moments that remind us of our humanity and how even in a cold and largely unwelcoming city, there are those small moments of warmth, personal and emotional connection with others.

When I returned from my appointment, maybe an hour or two later, the sheet in the window had been removed. It was now noticeable that the packing had began in earnest.

I lift a glass to those unexpected moments of joy and surprise that brightened both my days and nights (and I am sure others too) while we waited for the next train to arrive or as we passed by.

So long and farewell. Thank you.

 

On that note, I leave you with this song, Paradise Circus by Massive Attack.

 

 

 

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One Sweet Event

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First thing this morning, when the sun was barely up, I hopped in my DeLorean to check out the “most amazing convergence of art, science and engineering.”  At the end of the block, before the flux capacitor had kicked in, I noticed a harmless crew of fellows drinking a big bottle of Gibson’s Finest Sterling rye whisky straight out of the bottle.  I knew it would be a day worthy of note as a result.

When I got to my destination to check out the “pop-up” breakfast located on the west tower plaza of Suncor Energy Centre, I was welcomed by a lovely lab assistant.  She then told me of the amazing things to be seen at Beakerhead this weekend – and gave me a “pop-up breakfast.”

Beakerhead is a brand new festival in Calgary.

There will be a number of events throughout the weekend.  See http://beakerhead.org for a full list of events or get the Beakerhead partner app at get.spotcastapp.com on your mobile device which will provide a listing of all the events that are happening in this weekend.

I am sure I will be back with more about this “most amazing convergence of art, science and engineering.”

Diversity in the workplace

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Husky Energy today celebrates Diversity Day.  Some of the events are open to the public in the main floor lobby of their Calgary corporate headquarters, located at Western Canadian Place, 707 – 8 Avenue SW.

The abbreviated program of public events is as follows:

  • 08:00 – kick off and cultural performance
  • 09:00-14:00 – “diversabilities” activities by Champions Career Centre
  • 09:00-14:00 – art exhibition of works by Mona Ahmed

Because this is an arts focused blog, I want to talk about the art exhibition of works by Mona Ahmed and not the other events.

Mona is a student at the University of Calgary in the faculty of fine arts at the undergraduate level.  She is presenting for one day only, a series of photographs on the main floor, and another series on the +30 level.  The series on the main floor is called Incomplete (see photo above) and the larger series on the +30 level is entitled Hello my name is.

I have chosen to write about this for a few reasons.

Most importantly, it is about an artist getting their work out for people to view and have a dialogue with.  This show is a very good choice for a corporate day to talk about diversity.  The works are all photo-based.  Briefly both exhibitions have good talking points about our own personal filters as it relates to diversity.   In the Incomplete series, the same model is dressed in different outfits and it asks us how our perceptions are made by what they wear.  The Hello my name is series shows a series of people who are in various stages of focus (as in blurry or not), which explores the idea of how easy each person’s name is understood.  It is a show that is well worth visiting.  Unfortunately it is only up for a few hours today.  So if you miss it you may not see it again.

The second reason I wanted to write about this show, is this type of event is reflective of a trend that I seem to be noticing more frequently of late.  It is where a corporation or other entity sponsors or initiates a short-term exhibition, arts event or performance under the auspices of a larger umbrella – in this case diversity.  These events usually take place outside of traditional exhibition or performance venues.  This makes these events interesting as well.  As they introduce the possibility of developing new audiences and partnerships for all involved.

But I digress:

Having previously worked in the arts industry as an administrator for a very long time and as a result I miss having to think about esoteric topics sometimes.  Because of that, I could go into an extensive dialogue involving the pros and cons of this theory.  Some of which I was on the leading edge of locally in terms of practice.  I choose not to do so, for many reasons – chiefly, that this is the wrong platform, and that the discussion would lend itself more to academia.

This event and show also talks about the issue of where does public art begin and private, corporate or public patronage end; along with the concept of blurred urban, public spaces in an environment that is increasingly becoming more privatized and the democratization of these spaces – along with a whole raft of inter-related questions.  This is an area I am also very interested in.

Back on track:

For those involved it is a much appreciated gesture, especially those who are fortunate enough to receive funding or benefits as a result.  Some recent events that fall under this type of umbrella are the upcoming Phantom Wing project, corporate parties, in-home concerts, and the list goes on.

Regardless of my diversionary rambling, the sponsoring corporation or entity usually receives benefit and good-will from doing these events – and as a result it generally is, but not always is, a win-win for all involved.

If possible, check out Mona Ahmed’s photos today.  Talk to Mona for a few minutes on your lunch break or coffee break to see and get a renewed understanding of challenges some will face and why it is important to talk about diversity in the workplace.

Art Box on 17E

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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