Toronto art community mourns death of Katharine Mulherin - Canadanewsmedia
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Toronto art community mourns death of Katharine Mulherin

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Katharine Mulherin at the opening of her New York gallery in July, 2014.

Yuula Benivolski /Handout

Toronto art lovers gathered on the sidewalk at Queen Street West and Dovercourt Road Tuesday night with flowers and tears. They had come to pay their respects at the former site of Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects. These days, the storefronts that once housed the centre of Toronto’s indie art world are empty or changing hands, now, Mulherin herself is gone. The pioneering art dealer took her own life Sunday, just a few days before her 55th birthday.

Credited with establishing the new Queen Street West art scene in the 2000s and developing a ground-breaking model for an experimental commercial gallery, Mulherin was “a true gatekeeper,” said colleague Paul Petro of Paul Petro Contemporary Art. “She was honest, loyal and deeply committed … She helped with the composting of ideas in the community, and she wore a few hats – as a curator, an artist, a gallerist and a shopkeeper.”

Mulherin was born July 19, 1964 into a family of shopkeepers. Her father Kent owned a grocery store in Grand Falls, N.B., while her mother Noella ran a flower shop. After studying fine art and photography at colleges in New Brunswick and later at Laval University in Quebec City, she moved to Toronto in 1988 to enroll at the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University). She dropped out but re-enrolled after the birth of her son Jasper and completed her degree while juggling the responsibilities of a single parent.

“It was just her, and me on the back of her bike,” Jasper Mulherin said.

After her graduation in 1998, she immediately opened a gallery to give her former classmates a place to show. With the BUS gallery on Queen Street in the Parkdale neighbourhood, she began developing the mixed model that would become her signature: renting cheap storefronts to provide both exhibition and studio space for emerging talents, and building a business that operated as much like an artist-run centre as a commercial gallery.

“She ran a looser, more collaborative and curatorially-driven commercial gallery program,” said Sophie Hackett, photography curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario. “And through her, a new crop of Canadian artists found new collectors, new curators found space to try new ideas, and new galleries followed, inspired by her risk-taking, do-it-yourself example.”

It was never about making money, Jasper Mulherin said, recalling that in the early days the goal was simply to pay the rent on run-down premises: “The bones of the buildings were terrible, but we made the rooms look good.”

Mulherin developed an impressive roster of artists, including Lisa Neighbour, Kris Knight and Dean Baldwin, as she gradually expanded westwards, establishing her flagship storefront at 1086 Queen West in 2000.

That address and several nearby storefronts became the core of a many-tentacled endeavour that included a traditional gallery roster of artists, one-off shows for others and special project spaces where people could try both artistic and curatorial experiments.

“She was doing it all, coming at it from all angles,” said Emelie Chhangur, interim director at the Art Gallery of York University.

Mulherin quickly developed a reputation not only for her energy and inventiveness but also for her curatorial eye.

“Katharine was fierce and discerning,” Chhangur said. “She had a really good sense of work that was ahead of its time, especially in relationship to painting. She really championed work that had a sublime grotesqueness that kept painting alive … with an eye to younger painters,” she added, pointing to artists such as Eliza Griffiths and Clint Griffin as examples of the exuberant painting Mulherin favoured. “She always supported the underdog and made them superstars. That was scene-changing here, because she was able to shift the values of the art community and the art community’s own aesthetic values.”

In 2010, Mulherin tried moving the model she had developed in Toronto to New York, starting her first curatorial projects inside other commercial galleries before opening her own space in the Bowery district, where she showed both Canadian and U.S. artists.

“She created a space here that was of this place and she took it to New York. That’s bold,” Chhangur said, pointing out how unusual it is for Canadians to export rather than import cultural models.

Mulherin closed the New York gallery in 2017 and returned to Toronto, moving her headquarters to new premises at Dupont Street and Lansdowne Avenue, again pushing into a gritty neighbourhood with ambitious plans. The project at Emerson Avenue foundered this year as Mulherin battled a deepening depression, finally leaving friends and colleagues gaping at a hole in the arts scene.

“In many ways, Katharine defined Queen Street West for an important decade. It was an energizing place to be, and I will miss her,” Hackett said.

As well as Jasper, Mulherin leaves her son Satchel, her husband Daniel “Paco” Paquette and her siblings Jennifer, Erin, and Shawn.

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Penticton’s Arts Rising Festival included as BC Culture Days 10th anniversary celebration – Pentiction Western News

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Penticton’s Arts Rising Festival will be part of the upcoming BC Culture Days’ 10th anniversary celebration.

Organized by the Penticton and District Community Arts Council, the event will take place at various locations across the city on Sept. 27, running from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Other Okanagan city’s will also be hosting their own Culture Days events in honour of the beloved province-wide arts and culture celebration.

“This vibrant weekend of artistic expression will explore the intersections of creativity, the arts and well-being. Featuring painting, theatre, experimental performance art, literature, design, cinema, and beyond, BC Culture Days is a thrilling family-friendly weekend that builds community, fosters well-being, encourages exploration and discovery and celebrates creativity in all its forms,” states a release.

READ MORE: Arts Rising festival painting a more intimate feel

BC Culture Days will officially launch with a provincial kick-off event in Mission on Sept. 22, 2019 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Heritage Park Centre. Mission: A Mosaic of Cultures will showcase a broad range of cultural activities by notable and emerging artists from the Mission community. In addition, the release states the cultural hub for the Okanagan and surrounding regions is A SIGNATURE IN TIME — Kelowna Arts and Culture Festival 2019 and is located at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 27, Penticton residents can learn how to make paper slurry from natural materials with Harmony Paper at the Leir House, located at 220 Manor Park Ave. Song Catching with Yanti kicks off at the same location from 3 to 4 p.m.

The audience can have their say and help artist Lyse Desellier create a new painting at the Tumbleweed Gallery, located at 452 Main St., from 4 to 6 p.m. Then it’s back to Leir House for the Magic & Mystery opening night and reception, which will include a thank you party to Sharon Lawrence, who recently retired after 13 years with the council. This will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.

All events part of the BC Culture Days celebration in Penticton are free and ope to the public. For more information, or to see what other cities are doing to celebrate, visit www.culturedays.ca.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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Disaster in store for Prince Rupert, announces Lester Centre of the Arts – Prince Rupert Northern View

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Disaster will be coming to Prince Rupert in April, but don’t worry, not in the literal sense.

The Lestre Centre of the Arts’ announced that Disaster! was chosen as the 2020 community musical.

Disaster!, is a musical comedy created by three-time Emmy Award nominee and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky.

“We chose this production to appeal not only to audiences but artists as well. We’ll be searching for performers and instrumentalists with a wide range of specialties and talents. The lighthearted script and the infectious rhythms of the score guarantee this will be fun for everyone,” stated Kristy Tillman, who will lead the musical production.

READ MORE: Council briefs: Gurney marks one year as Lester Centre’s manager, marina revenues down

The score features favourites from the 1970’s like ‘Knock on Wood’ and ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ with a “storyline set in a floating casino and discotheque”.

Tillman led the orchestra for the Lester Centre’s 2018 production of Spamalot and 9 to 5: The Musical, put on by Charles Hays Secondary School. Joining her on the Disaster! team is Hans Seidemann who will serve as the show’s artistic director. He most recently directed Neil Simon’s Rumors for the Lester Centre’s spring production.

READ AND WATCH MORE: “Spamalot” crowned a hit

“The comedic chops of Prince Rupert’s artistic community will get a thorough workout,” Seidemann stated. “The bell-bottomed A-listers who are outrageously lampooned in this story are going to infect our city with disco fever, whose side effects include dancing in the aisles.”

Dwain Harrison will oversee the show’s design and Scott Langille will serve as stage manager.

Auditions will be held at the end of October with the musical taking place in April.

READ MORE: Memorable quotes, moments, from Prince Rupert’s first TEDx


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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Aboriginal arts organization forced to cancel conference plans due to Ontario funding cuts – Global News

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After the Ontario government eliminated the Indigenous Culture Fund earlier in 2019, some Indigenous organizations have been left without funding.

The Aboriginal Arts Collective of Canada (AACC) previously received $25,000 from the Indigenous Culture Fund through the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). The funding was administered on behalf of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

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Dawn Setford, the founder and president of the AACC, said now that the Indigenous Culture Fund has been eliminated, the organization does not have enough funding to continue some of its efforts to preserve Indigenous arts and tradition.


READ MORE:
Ontario government eliminates Indigenous Culture Fund, cuts millions for the arts

Setford said she used the money to hold a conference earlier in March to teach Indigenous women about the spirituality behind the techniques of Indigenous arts and tradition. She said they brought in elders and artists who taught the participants about drum-making, ancient basketry, porcupine quilling, and caribou tufting — important ancient Indigenous art forms lost as time passed.

Without the funding, Setford said she’s unable to hold another a similar conference in 2020.

“I won’t be holding another one next year because I don’t have that funding,” said Setford.


READ MORE:
Ford government cuts funding to Ontario Arts Council, impacting Indigenous Culture Fund

“I can’t foresee having another conference without the support of the Indigenous Culture Fund and other funds that are similar,” she said.

Additionally, Setford said there is a difference between how Indigenous individuals perceive art and how non-Indigenous people do.

“Our art is completely based on spirituality and culture. In everything we make, there’s symbolism to a story, reference to a map or a pattern,” she said.

Dawn Setford (pictured in black) at the Indigenous Art Conference in Ottawa in March at the ribbon skirt workshop.

Shrestharth Ghosh / Fuzd

The Ford government cut arts sector support to $6.5 million from $18.5 million in May. The Ontario Arts Council was set to receive $10 million less in funding in 2019, which resulted in the elimination of the Indigenous Culture Fund.

However, Setford said the Indigenous Culture Fund did more than just support the arts.

“The Indigenous Culture Fund did not just support our artistic endeavors, so when somebody sees that that programming or funding was cancelled, it’s not just that we can’t paint anymore,” she said.

“That funding was actually very sensitively directed towards reclamation of our language; mentorship that helped us to relearn and then teach our children.”

Setford said the funding was meant to help them revitalize their languages, songs, performance art and traditional art, adding the fund also helped Indigenous women to gain momentum and relearn their traditions.

“We came together, a group of a couple hundred women, and we gathered in order to make sure that the original purposes of our arts weren’t forgotten,” she said.


READ MORE:
Doug Ford to move ahead with Ontario municipal funding cuts in 2020

“That’s why this really hurts. Because generally speaking, we as Indigenous women were just getting momentum. We were just coming back to pride and not being afraid.”

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport recently provided Global News with a statement regarding the cuts.

“The government believes that all artists, including Indigenous artists, play an important role in sharing cultural practices and strengthening communities’ well-being,” the statement read.

With respect to the elimination of the Indigenous Culture Fund, the spokesperson said it still supports Indigenous art in other ways.

“A $60-million investment in the Ontario Arts Council is seeing the continuation of numerous core programs that support Indigenous artists, musicians, and other individuals,” the statement continued.


READ MORE:
A list of cuts and changes Doug Ford has made this year as he tries to balance the budget

The programs cited by the government include Indigenous Arts Projects and Indigenous Presenters in the North: Music Projects.

Meanwhile, Setford said without the Indigenous Culture Fund the organization doesn’t have any other options in terms of funding.

She said the AACC is a Canada-incorporated not-for-profit organization that can’t afford to move forward and become a charity. Setford said corporations are more likely to give money to charities so they can claim it as a charity donation.

“Our funding is really limited to government sponsored councils, such as the OAC,” she said.

“Without the ICF, the Canada Council for the Arts is inundated with proposals and funding is spread thin – leaving gatherings like ours without any funding.”

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