Blank Canvas art collective takes biggest award at Toronto Mayor’s Arts Lunch - Toronto Star - Canadanewsmedia
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Blank Canvas art collective takes biggest award at Toronto Mayor’s Arts Lunch – Toronto Star

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The Toronto Arts Foundation renewed its pledge to support local artists and arts supporters at the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Lunch awards ceremony Wednesday.

The foundation, a charity, distributed $60,000 in awards at the annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch, where five Toronto artists and organizations were recognized for their contributions to the city’s creative culture.

John Samuels says the $20,000 award for Blank Canvas will allow the art collective to expand its initiatives, which include a collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario to provide free creative workshops to young people.  (Sean Howard Photography)

Blank Canvas, a Toronto-based art collective founded in 2016 that produces panels, workshops and other events dedicated to showcasing the artwork of emerging, young marginalized artists, took home the day’s biggest award, the Arts for Youth Award, with a cash prize of $20,000.

For John Samuels, CEO of Blank Canvas, this award is just the beginning.

“This (award) was definitely a ceiling to reach,” said Samuels. “The glass ceiling is broken, and the work really starts now.”

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Samuels said the prize will help Blank Canvas expand its current initiatives, including its collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario to provide free creative workshops to youth, monthly poetry workshops and open mics, and an upcoming art show this summer in collaboration with Canadian artist Jordan Sook.

“Awards like these are very important in being a catalyst for shifting Toronto culture,” Samuels said. “I hope that our work will continue to create more access for marginalized artists to share our narrative and our truth.”

Though the awards cover a many different categories and are not strictly limited to artistic achievement, a common quality among winners is strong community leadership, said Claire Hopkinson, the foundation’s CEO.

“We know that the arts are a fundamental building block to the soul and livability of the city,” said Hopkinson. “Artists help make those connections, shine a spotlight on certain issues … bring people out who wouldn’t normally be together.”

While the Toronto Arts Council, the funding body that governs the foundation, did not face any budget cuts this year, Hopkinson said expressing the importance of the arts to the is always front of mind.

“Eighty-nine per cent of Torontonians think the arts make the city a better place to live, and 71 per cent specify it’s because the arts engage people with new ideas,” she said, citing the 2018 Arts Stats survey, jointly conducted by the Toronto Arts Foundation and market research firm Leger. “We’re not just doing this work for ourselves. We know we’re doing it for the people of Toronto.”

The 2019 awards honoured winners across five categories:

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  • Arts for Youth Award — Blank Canvas
  • Emerging Artist Award — Joshua Vettivelu
  • Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award — Nina Lee Aquino
  • Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music — Eve Egoyan
  • Toronto Arts and Business Award — Gladstone Hotel

Rhianna Jackson-Kelso is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @RhiannaJK

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Arts tip sheet: The Double Axe Murders; Kismet, things have changed; Translations – Straight.com

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The Double Axe Murders

November 14 to 23 at Gateway Theatre

Prepare for chills and thrills in Rusticate Theatre’s eerily suspenseful 19th-century story of the search for two missing trappers in Newfoundland.

Kismet, things have changed

November 13 to 16 at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts

Anita Rochon, Emelia Symington Fedy, Hazel Venzon, and Daryl King revisit the “theatrical documentary” they debuted to critical praise a decade ago. In their 20s, they travelled across Canada and interviewed 100 people, aged 1 to 100, about their beliefs; now, amid their own life changes, they track down some of the surviving interviewees.

Translations

November 19 to 24 at Performance Works

As part of Boca del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series, All Bodies Dance ventures into new territory in a collaboration with VocalEye (a live descriptive arts service for the blind) and consultants from the blind community. The work presents dance for small audiences of both the blind and the sighted through the sound of movement, the feeling of air moving, and descriptive language.

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Fibre arts festival offers creative outlet to dye for – The London Free Press

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Beth Whitney talks about the “magic” of dyeing.

While some might agree it’s magic when they see the colours she creates, it’s really art.

Whitney hand-dyes wool fleece and colour-blends and spins the fibre into yarn that she uses for rug hooking and knitting. She’ll be demonstrating the skill at the eighth annual Fibre Art Festival and Sale at Covent Garden Market Friday through Sunday.

The festival brings together members of the London District Weavers and Spinners, the group Simply Hooked and the Strathroy Pioneer Treadlers to demonstrate their craft talents and sell their creations.

There will be demonstrations and displays of weaving, felting, spinning, rug hooking, lace making, sashiko (Japanese stitching) and basketry.

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This year’s theme is Updating Traditions of the Past — “applying modern textile techniques to fibre skills from the past and showcasing their relevance in today’s world.”

Enter people like Whitney and pal Kate Gutteridge.

Before their unique works are created, the material — either sheep’s fleece or spun wool, fabric or silk — must be given colour. Whitney and Gutteridge have worked at it for years.


Textile artists Beth Whitney (left) and Kate Gutteridge with wool and silk that Kate dyed in London. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

Whitney has been involved in fibre arts most of her life. An aunt taught her to knit when she was eight, a craft she continued to hone through her adolescence and carried on after graduating from the University of Toronto with an English degree, working as a librarian and retiring six years ago.

It was when she came to London from Toronto to work at the London Public Library more than 30 years ago that she joined the local weavers and spinners group and began to explore all facets of the craft, including dyeing.

“We do it (dyeing) mostly to get colours you can’t buy in stores, blends and combinations that are unique,” explained Whitney.

For example, she might use dyes of orange and yellow, tie knots in yarn, dip it in one colour’s dye pot, untie the knots and dip it in the other colour pot “and now you’ve got a combination of two colours on one string of yarn.” It can be knit into a “unique and modern-looking” piece of clothing or item,” said Whitney.

Or, she explained, you can dye batches of fleece in different colours, then spin it and now you have multi-coloured yarn.

“These are very traditional arts and crafts,” said Whitney. “In the old days, if you needed a sweater for winter, you had to make it yourself. It was a very practical craft. Now, it’s much more satisfying as a creative outlet in this busy world of ours.”

Whitney agrees it’s easier just to go to a store and buy a sweater, but if you do it yourself, you’re not going to see anyone else wearing the same garment.

“Today, yes, we can go out and buy it,” she said. “But we like to take the time and do something creative and modern and then you’re not spending your time looking at a screen or doing the laundry.

“You can create things that are very unique, very different and very well made. I think there’s a deep-rooted need for us all to be creative. It’s very satisfying.”

jbelanger@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JoeBatLFPress

If you go

What: Eighth annual Fibre Art Festival and Sale, by London District Weavers and Spinners, Simply Hooked and Strathroy Pioneer Treadlers

When: Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. -3 p.m.

Where: Covent Garden Market mezzanine, 130 King St.

Admission: Free

More information: Visit ldws.ca

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Heritage Woods grad in Arts Club premiere – The Tri-City News

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A Heritage Woods secondary school grad who made her Bard on the Beach debut this summer is back in Vancouver this winter for a premiere with the Arts Club Theatre Company.

Ghazal Azarbad, who starred as Viola in Shakespeare in Love and was in the ensemble for Taming of the Shrew, is cast as Salena — a “chipper border guard” — in It’s A Wonderful Christmas-ish Holiday Miracle.

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Directed by Chelsea Haberlin, the new Canadian comedy by Marcus Youssef opens next Thursday at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre; its run ends Dec. 22.

The production is an Arts Club Silver Commission project and is Youssef’s second, after 2013’s How Has My Love Affected You?

Christmas-ish also includes Glen Gordon, Jennifer Lines, Nicola Lipman, Matreya Scarrwener and Jovanni Sy.

For tickets, call 604-687-1644 or visit artsclub.com.

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