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'We are a family – and an art collective' – BBC News

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When performers Grace Surman and Gary Winters and their two children decided to form a family art collective, the results involved rolling in mud, mass school drumming and a homage to Greta Thunberg.

Every child is an artist. That’s what Pablo Picasso said.

Not every child, though, is an equal partner in a professional art collaboration with their mum and dad.

As well as being the bundles of innocent creativity that Picasso probably had in mind, Merrick, nine, and 12-year-old sister Hope have been involved in their parents’ performance art since before they knew that’s what it was.

When Merrick was one, he starred in his mum’s tender 12-minute video I Love My Baby And My Baby Loves Me.

Later, Grace would take the children along as she devised her performance routines. “They were watching us make our work and they were around when we were in rehearsals. They were playing in a studio while we were playing in a studio.” So it seemed natural to play together.

Grace choreographed a short performance duet for herself and Hope, and another for Gary and Merrick. The latter, titled Would You Rather Be Lost, went on tour – and looks like just about the most fun a father and son can have without the involvement of water slides or candy floss.

Those projects went so well that, a year ago, Grace and Gary decided they and the children should work together as a family.

They have now made two films for the National Trust to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, when the cavalry charged a workers’ rights protest in Manchester, killing around a dozen people.

Artists Jeremy Deller and Bob and Roberta Smith and singer Jarvis Cocker are among the others taking part in the National Trust’s People’s Landscapes project. One of the family’s films will be shown at Quarry Bank, a historic mill in Cheshire, where the family have filmed around 100 local schoolchildren drumming around the site.

Doing interviews about their creations is not nearly as interesting as making them, and at Quarry Bank, Merrick gets bored and disappears from the cafe table less than three minutes after the family start telling me about their work. He’s bursting with energy. He’s a nine-year-old boy.

Hope is more patient but she too makes her escape before the interview is over, boarding a National Trust buggy to the next filming location where some steel drums are waiting. Merrick reappears from around the corner at one point and his mum suggests I ask him a question before he bolts again.

Do the family all come up with the ideas together? “Yeah,” he replies. He pauses, then reconsiders. “Not really.”

“We have,” his dad protests.

Are there any bits that were your idea?

“No,” Merrick says – before his mum and dad both remind him about the bits he suggested.

“The drumming was your idea,” Grace insists in a light-hearted rebuke. “The whole thing was your idea!”

It has been a long day, and the fact they are artistic collaborators doesn’t take away the fact they are parents and children first and foremost.

Rolling in mud

In their Quarry Bank film, the sound of the young drummers, who play bins and buckets and anything else that will make a beat, represent the sound of protest and marching and militaristic rhythm, Gary explains.

Gary reminds Merrick too about rolling around in the mud at Dunham Massey, the other National Trust property where they have been filming. There, they dressed in period costume to present themselves as a sort of echo of the family who lived on the grand Cheshire estate in 1819. Their film project is titled Glorious Phantoms.

“We’ve sort of contributed all together,” Hope picks up. “In Dunham Massey, I’m doing a speech all on my own, which is the Greta Thunberg speech to the UK Parliament.”

The march at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester in 1819 was about political reform at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The family tried to think about what was the biggest issue inspiring protests today.

Grace says: “Hope has seen and heard of Greta, and been involved in climate strikes at school, and you were saying, weren’t you, that it feels like the most important thing that you could think of right now. At the time of Peterloo, the important thing was to have a voice, to be heard. And Greta’s like a spearhead for that [today].”

As well as the films, the family, who live in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, are also working on a new stage performance and have been participating in a project for Manchester theatre company Quarantine.

That has involved them staying in a new housing development and organising creative activities for the neighbours to encourage a community spirit, including painting workshops, country dancing and ice sculpture.

It’s a great excuse to have the kind of quality time most families don’t get, but they have also made a point of discussing why they are doing those things in the first place.

‘It may stop at any minute’

“You have to find a way to talk about the work, about what an artist is, what art is,” says Gary, who is also one half of the performance duo Lone Twin. “It comes down to those fundamentals sometimes – about why things happen, or why an idea might be good.”

For their work for the National Trust, the children are getting paid for their contributions, as any professional artists would. It’s a good source of pocket money as well as being fun, but Grace says she and Gary know the arrangement might not last.

“As soon as they go, ‘This is boring, and I don’t like it, I’m not getting anything from it, and why am I doing it?’ then it will just all be packed away. Gone. It’s not about making them do something. It does work now but it may well stop at any minute and we have to be prepared for that.”

Lots of artists who work together have their creative differences, after all. But these collaborators have to live under the same roof, and being a family comes first.

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

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Culinary arts programs on the chopping block to save Vancouver School Board money – CTV News

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Luisa Alvarez, CTV News Vancouver


Published Saturday, November 16, 2019 7:12PM PST

VANCOUVER – Whisking together new recipes and learning from a red seal chef is an experience currently offered at seven Vancouver high schools that are equipped with teaching cafeterias.

A new report examining ways for the Vancouver School Board to save money suggests reducing that number to just two, plus one to be built in a future “centre of excellence” that would be built under the provincial seismic program.

Supporters of culinary arts programs in Vancouver schools say this is the wrong approach.

“There isn’t a single teaching cafeteria west of Main Street, so every student west of Main Street in high school has to actually travel by bus or car to one of the schools that have it,” said Bill Tieleman, spokesperson for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 963, representing school cafeteria employees and chefs.

“We have an enormous shortage of chefs of cafeteria workers everything in the restaurant and foodservice industry. They should really be looking at expanding this program not cutting it,” Tieleman said.

Annalida Leung, a trade-qualified baker, is a teacher with the program. While her job would be at risk with the change, she says she’s more concerned about the students.

“For students that don’t really know what they want to do, this is one way for us to kind of give them that road map of if they like to cook or if they like to bake, kind of spark that passion,” said Leung.

The report also recommends modifying the hot lunch program at Vancouver elementary schools, replacing it with delivered food that would be prepared off-site.

Krista Sigurdson, chair of the Lord Strathcona Elementary Parent Advisory Council, has concerns.

“If off-site delivery were to be done and privatization were to occur, we have less assurance of adherence to food guidelines,” Sigurdson said. “It’s an issue of control. The further the VSB loses control over the food, the less regulation there is going to be potentially over the quality.”

She’s also worried it could single students out.

“Offsite delivery would potentially only target kids in need, effectively differentiating poor kids from their healthier counterparts,” said Sigurdson.

“The last thing we need to do is have people signaled out because of their socioeconomic problems that they have a meal delivered to them and everyone sees it,” said Tieleman.

Nothing is set in stone, the VSB says, adding it won’t make any decisions without consulting parents, teachers and students.

“A number of factors were considered in the report,” said VSB trustee and chair Janet Fraser. “A number of options were put forward, it’s up to the board to decide how to move forward.”

Consultation is tentatively scheduled to begin in the new year.

“I’d encourage people to engage in that to let us know how we can proceed,” said Fraser. 

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Local man tries to keep 'Canada's original art' afloat (6 photos) – BarrieToday

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John Harrison wants to bring back what he views as a nearly forgotten art.

For the past eight years, the Orillia native has spent eight months a year living in the bush near Algonquin Provincial Park as he hones his skills at making traditional birch-bark canoes.

“The whole project has been about releasing a craft that’s been out of favour,” he said, noting that craft involves building canoes on the ground with three simple hand tools, sustainable harvesting and following a traditional process.

“I show my canoes and people are in amazement, but they often don’t see the art and this is the original (Canadian) art,” the 53-year-old said.

“It’s a really good project for arts, culture and history because it all ties in with that…Canadiana.”

Harrison, who has a fine arts’ university degree and is also an accomplished musician, is just finishing building 17- and 18-foot racing canoes and would now like to build a racing canoe side-wing as his next project.

“That original Canadian idea still hangs out in every canoe that you see today,” he said, noting he sold a 12-foot trapper canoe that’s now on display at Rama’s Bare Butts Smoke shop.

Harrison, who lives in a large tipi on the shores of Kimball Lake when not in the city, takes about three weeks to build a canoe.

“It takes a certain consistency of environment to produce the right tree,” Harrison said, noting he first uses a ladder to climb to an appropriate level before harvesting the bark from mature trees.

“You want 15- to 16-inch diameter (trunks) since with a tree like that you’re getting a quarter-inch of bark. I’m strictly doing a sustainable thing. I’m a surgeon when I’m on that tree and can get three canoes out of one tree. I pay homage to the tree.”

Harrison’s passion project has also led to displays, talks and workshops at Culture Days, Orillia Public Library, Rotary Club of Washago along with Cape Croker and Rama powwows.

As well, he teaches students at Rama’s Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School how to build a one-foot canoe and also wrote lesson plans for a canoe program.

“The last day, we had a regatta down the Black River. They had so much of a connection to what they built.”

But Harrison comes by his love of building Canada’s traditional watercraft honesty. His father Ron Harrison was a machine-shop teacher at Park Street Collegiate Institute from 1962 to 1995 and started the school’s Outward Bound program in the late 1960s.

“I was always around it; the essence, respect and joy of being in nature,” Harrison said, noting his father also helped students learn to build canoes.

“My father has built 86 canoes in cedar strip or fibreglass. I’ve built six, so I have a long way to go.”

Harrison has also been busy writing a collection of essays for an upcoming book entitled The Last Algonquin, which is a guide on how to build a traditional Canadian canoe that also features insights into life, Indigenous history and one’s place in nature.

“What technology utilizes birch bark’s water repellent nature, sewn in a blanket with spruce roots, structured internally with split cedar ribs, and sealed with spruce gum housing?” one essay excerpt asks before pointing out the canoe was created by combining three existing First Nations’ technologies found in other traditional items like snowshoes and toboggans “for travelling over frozen water.”

Harrison said he loves living in his tipi and being one with nature.

“I get so much peace and quiet for weeks at a time up at my site,” he said.

“I’m taught by nature and you renew your senses of sight, smell and sound. I get a better balance then when I was just living in the city.”

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Local man tries to keep 'Canada's original art' afloat (6 photos) – OrilliaMatters.Com

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John Harrison wants to bring back what he views as a nearly forgotten art.

For the past eight years, the Orillia native has spent eight months a year living in the bush near Algonquin Provincial Park as he hones his skills at making traditional birch-bark canoes.

“The whole project has been about releasing a craft that’s been out of favour,” he said, noting that craft involves building canoes on the ground with three simple hand tools, sustainable harvesting and following a traditional process.

“I show my canoes and people are in amazement, but they often don’t see the art and this is the original (Canadian) art,” the 53-year-old said.

“It’s a really good project for arts, culture and history because it all ties in with that…Canadiana.”

Harrison, who has a fine arts’ university degree and is also an accomplished musician, is just finishing building 17- and 18-foot racing canoes and would now like to build a racing canoe side-wing as his next project.

“That original Canadian idea still hangs out in every canoe that you see today,” he said, noting he sold a 12-foot trapper canoe that’s now on display at Rama’s Bare Butts Smoke shop.

Harrison, who lives in a large tipi on the shores of Kimball Lake when not in the city, takes about three weeks to build a canoe.

“It takes a certain consistency of environment to produce the right tree,” Harrison said, noting he first uses a ladder to climb to an appropriate level before harvesting the bark from mature trees.

“You want 15- to 16-inch diameter (trunks) since with a tree like that you’re getting a quarter-inch of bark. I’m strictly doing a sustainable thing. I’m a surgeon when I’m on that tree and can get three canoes out of one tree. I pay homage to the tree.”

Harrison’s passion project has also led to displays, talks and workshops at Culture Days, Orillia Public Library, Rotary Club of Washago along with Cape Croker and Rama powwows.

As well, he teaches students at Rama’s Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School how to build a one-foot canoe and also wrote lesson plans for a canoe program.

“The last day, we had a regatta down the Black River. They had so much of a connection to what they built.”

But Harrison comes by his love of building Canada’s traditional watercraft honesty. His father Ron Harrison was a machine-shop teacher at Park Street Collegiate Institute from 1962 to 1995 and started the school’s Outward Bound program in the late 1960s.

“I was always around it; the essence, respect and joy of being in nature,” Harrison said, noting his father also helped students learn to build canoes.

“My father has built 86 canoes in cedar strip or fibreglass. I’ve built six, so I have a long way to go.”

Harrison has also been busy writing a collection of essays for an upcoming book entitled The Last Algonquin, which is a guide on how to build a traditional Canadian canoe that also features insights into life, Indigenous history and one’s place in nature.

“What technology utilizes birch bark’s water repellent nature, sewn in a blanket with spruce roots, structured internally with split cedar ribs, and sealed with spruce gum housing?” one essay excerpt asks before pointing out the canoe was created by combining three existing First Nations’ technologies found in other traditional items like snowshoes and toboggans “for travelling over frozen water.”

Harrison said he loves living in his tipi and being one with nature.

“I get so much peace and quiet for weeks at a time up at my site,” he said.

“I’m taught by nature and you renew your senses of sight, smell and sound. I get a better balance then when I was just living in the city.”

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