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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Society says City of Kamloops price tag for new performing arts centre would not exceed $45 million – CFJC Today Kamloops

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Benefactors Ron and Rae Fawcett have already committed $3 million, as well as a building already on site.

“We look to secure these funds through fundraising and a contribution from the city. This is very typical of similar projects of this scope,” said Daley.

The proposed PAC would be City of Kamloops-owned.

Council sent the issue to staff for analysis of the business case. Staff will bring a recommendation back to council for its Nov. 5 meeting, conceivably giving the society enough time to meet a Nov. 12 federal grant application deadline.

“We know this project is right now,” said Daley. “We have momentum.”

Councillor Arjun Singh tried to temper the enthusiasm for quick advancement of the project, saying the city would need to carefully weigh how to frame another referendum question asking the public for permission to borrow up to $45 million.

In 2015, Kamloops residents voted 54 per cent against borrowing up to $49 million to help build a PAC with a $90 million price tag.

Daley told Singh he believes the society can sway opponents of the 2015 proposal who were worried about the timing of the expenditure.

“It wasn’t ‘No;’ their big thing was, ‘Not now.’ We’re saying, ‘We think the time right now is the time.’ We believe that there is a basis of support out there.”

Councillor Bill Sarai told Daley a new PAC fits in well with the city’s Tournament Capital identity.

“We’re starting to realize we are the Tournament Capital of Canada, but performing arts is part of recreation,” said Sarai. “There was talk years ago that Sandman Centre would stay empty, you couldn’t fill the seats. Now it’s almost too small on Blazer days. TCC was never going to be used. Now it’s overused.”

“I think back to my family members who were involved in sporting activities — they have the greatest sporting facilities in Western Canada,” said Daley. “I think to my family members who are involved in arts activities — we can give them the greatest venue in Western Canada.”

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Arts upstart Meow Wolf says jobs up after public investment – CityNews Vancouver

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Offbeat arts adventure and entertainment company Meow Wolf says it has surpassed hiring goals outlined in a $1.1 million economic development grant from New Mexico and the city of Santa Fe, amid plans for an aggressive business expansion into Denver, Las Vegas and other major U.S. cities.

Meow Wolf co-founder and board member Vince Kadlubek said the addition of 290 employees since 2018 puts the company ahead of employment requirements under the 2017 grant award for building renovations.

The agreement called for Meow Wolf to create 250 jobs at an average salary of $46,000 a year by the end of 2021, with the opportunity for a $100,000 bonus if 300 jobs are created.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department that monitors the grant agreement could not immediately verify employment figures and average salaries on Tuesday. Agency spokesman Bruce Krasnow said it appears that “Meow Wolf has exceeded its job creation goals for state economic assistance.”

More than 1.5 million visitors have visited Meow Wolf’s kaleidoscopic walk- and crawl-through exhibit space in Santa Fe since it opened in a converted bowling alley in early 2016.

The company’s labour practices have come under scrutiny after two former employees filed a lawsuit this year complaining of unpaid wages for overtime and discrimination based on gender. Meow Wolf denies the charges. Court records show the company is seeking to move proceedings to arbitration.

In May, Meow Wolf announced a company-wide $17 hourly minimum wage — or roughly $35,360 a year for fulltime work. Santa Fe’s current minimum wage is $11.80 an hour. Meow Wolf’s executive compensation rates are not public.

Kadlubek, who helped broker the infrastructure award from New Mexico’s closing fund, announced last week in a blog post that he will step down as the company’s CEO to focus on improving his own business skills and taking better care of his personal health.

Going forward, the CEO post is being shared by three Meow Wolf executives, including a former creative director for Disney and a former vice-president at Lucasfilm who worked on business spinoffs from the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” film franchises.

The 2017 award from New Mexico’s closing fund for emerging businesses was used by Meow Wolf to purchase and renovate an art and video production facility on the south side of Santa Fe, in a warehouse previously owned by construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. The state committed $850,000, and the city of Santa Fe pledged $250,000.

“At this point, we are packed to the brim at that facility, having literally run out of parking spots and space to operate,” Kadlubek said in an email. “So we are, in addition, renting out another 15 locations around the city to accommodate our workforce. It’s amazing.”

New Mexico also previously awarded Meow Wolf $450,000 through a jobs training incentives program to create 33 jobs.

The taxpayer funding is dwarfed by the company’s $158 million securities offering in May — borrowed money from private investors that Meow Wolf is using to expand. Permanent exhibitions are planned for Las Vegas, Denver and Washington, D.C. — along with a hotel-related project in Phoenix.

Morgan Lee, The Associated Press

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Proponents of Kamloops arts centre release business case – Kamloops This Week

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Building a $70-million performing arts centre in downtown Kamloops may not cost taxpayers an extra dime, according to a new business case commissioned by the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society.

In a 50-page report released to city council on Tuesday, the business case — independently conducted by KPMG — outlines ways to pay for the facility and how the facility should operate.

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The business case was the main sticking point for a group that opposed the arts centre during the failed 2015 referendum, when the proposal was expected to increase property taxes for more than two decades.

Depending on fundraising and provincial and federal government subsidies, the business case notes the city would be on the hook for between $30 to $45 million in capital costs and states that: “If the city’s borrowing does not exceed $45 million, there is no anticipated impact to municipal tax rates as a result of the project.”

That due to the Tournament Capital Centre being nearly paid off.

Additional costs to the city for the arts centre bid at Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue include $3 million in site servicing for underground utility movements and earthwork to meet structural requirements and $703,000 in operating costs in the first year, decreasing to $383,000 by the fifth year.

The report notes that annual operating contributions from the city are expected to decrease over time, with “initial contributions lower than those provided to other municipal recreation facilities.”

Comparatively, the city’s operational contributions last year to the Tournament Capital Centre was $1.3 million and to the Sandman Centre was $752,000.

City CAO David Trawin said site servicing would be council decision, but he believes there is money in reserves that could cover the costs, noting that is, ultimately, a council decision.

“The operating costs above revenues would probably come from taxation,” he said/. “It might be worth noting that after five years, the subsidy would be about what the tax subsidy is for Westsyde Pool. “

Trawin expects council to ask staff to prepare a report addressing how the $45-million can be funded.

“I think it can be funded without a tax increase if we use the debt that is coming off for TCC and other projects,” he said.

The business case also makes recommendations on how the facility should operate.

The city should retain ownership, but establish a city-owned subsidiary to independently operate and maintain the facility, with surpluses reinvested into the facility. Western Canada Theatre and Kamloops Symphony Orchestra would be primary users. Also recommended is an external board, including user groups, businesses and community leaders provides oversight.

“As the sole owner of the Centre, the city will retain financial risks associated with the facility and therefore maintain appropriate oversight of operations,” the business case states.

“City retained responsibility and authority is anticipated to include approval of material policy changes, approval of annual budget, receipt of reporting related to risk management and approval of long-term liabilities.”

The proposed $70-million facility would include two theatres and a blackbox theatre. Costs include $50 million for direct construction costs and $20 million for construction and other fees.

Construction costs include: $47.7 million for the main building including 70 stalls of underground parking, equipment at $1.7 million and grounds enhancements at $600,000. Architectural and consultant fees are pegged at $5.9 million, with construction oversight at $2.5 million, theatre equipment at $3.4 million and furniture, fixtures and equipment at $3.2 million. Five-million dollars is also included as contingency funds.

The business case notes a performing arts centre was identified as the highest priority investment in the Kamloops Recreation Master Plan.

It would fill a need in the city amidst aging and inadequate infrastructure, revitalize downtown and support nearly 4,000 youth in arts programming and education, while fostering a vibrant arts and culture scene and ultimately improving the quality of life for Kamloops residents as the city’s population continues to rise at a stable pace.

Outlining challenges and limitations of current facilities, the business case appears to demonstrate a Goldilocks situation in Kamloops — Sandman Centre is too big and better suited for sports, Pavilion Theatre is too small with limited functionality as a blackbox theatre and Sagebrush Theatre appears to be just right, at 706 seats— but it’s booked most of the year (300 days in 2018-2019,) with limited opportunity for groups to expand runs or book new shows.

The school district and Western Canada Theatre are given booking priority, based on a joint-use agreement with the city, limiting opportunity for use by others. The report notes Sagebrush is aging and has experienced failures, such as the recent eight-month closure due to structural issues in its roof. The closure left arts groups scrambling to fit in smaller venues.

The proposed downtown location for the arts centre — on the former Kamloops Daily News property, which was purchased by the city in 2014 for $4.8 million and which is now a parking lot — was chosen for its availability, size, city ownership and potential for economic revitalization.

The operating-revenue costs are expected to break even, assuming 150 days of use of the large theatre and 275 days of use of the medium theatre and 275 days of use of the blackbox space, notes that the ongoing building related operating costs at $2.6 million annually in the first year and $3 million in the fifth year would operate at break-even, with rental rates reflective of operation costs.

A facility fee would add an average of $3 for each ticket sold in the first year and four per cent of all box office sales would go to the centre. Naming rights would be sold as part of fundraising and 14 full-time staff members would be hired, plus another dozen to support box office, parking and ushers.

Construction of the performing-arts centre is expected to generate a one-time economic impact of $70.7 million to 565 full-time jobs and government revenues estimated at $9.2 million during planning, design and construction. Once it is up and running, the project is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $2.9 million, 31 full-time jobs and generate $330,000 in government revenues.

The proposed project timeline is to have project approvals in place by spring 2020, with design work to follow and construction beginning in the summer of 2021. The arts centre would be completed by spring of 2023 for a fall 2023 opening.

“Timing is subject to decision making and funding availability,” the report notes. “Efforts could be made to accelerate timelines where possible.”

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