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A New Elephantine Age: Arts Council opens new space, launches book – Cranbrook Townsman

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Pictured above are the authors and artists who collaborated on “Fourteen Trumpeting Elephants.” Back row: Dawn Fenwick, Kirsten Taylor, John de Jong, Author Norma Kroegar, Ann Holtby Jones,Front row; Yvonne Vigne, Bill McColl, Lynn Taylor, Anne Anderson, LaVerna Peters. Missing from photo: Josie Ruoss, Monique Cudbertson and Sam Millard. Photo courtesy Jenny Humphrey

For the Townsman

An elephantine event took place at 1401 5th Street North, on Sunday December 15.

Cranbrook and District Arts Council officially opened phase one of their newly acquired art space with the launch of their cooperative book project Fourteen Trumpeting Elephants.

The book has been a runaway success so far with over half of the first print run sold.

A slightly embellished story of Cranbrook Ed and the notorious Cranbrook historical event forms the basis of this book.

1401 was stampeded very quickly on Sunday with curious locals, friends and supporters of the arts.

Visitors were treated to the opportunity to have their books signed, Christmas treats and a first tour of this long awaited building addition to Cranbrook’s art scene.

Artists who participated in this project, including some of the students whose drawings formed the circus tickets are pictured on Page A1.

Cranbrook Arts invites members of the public to check out their new Activity Guide for January, February and March. A copy can be picked up at the Gift Shop on Baker Street or found on their Facebook page.

Cranbrook arts would once again like to thank Columbia Basin Trust for their support through the Community Initiatives and Capital Project programs. Thanks also goes to Cultural Spaces Canada for helping us to grow.

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Art Gallery of Grande Prairie plots new path as COVID-19 recovery rolls on – My Grande Prairie Now

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Now fully re-opened as the economic recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on, the Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie says even the darkest of times can provide a light of clarity.

Jeff Erbach says, when the gallery closed, along with nearly everything else in March 2020, they relied heavily on digital presense to help keep up not only interest in the gallery but the spirits of those who love the arts. He adds they also realized more clearly their role in keeping a historical archive of major regional happenings.

“It brought a lot of things into focus for a lot of organizations, and for us, it was the primacy of being an art museum, of our responsibility and role of serving as a cultural archive,” he says.

“20 years from now, if you want to have a conversation about the pandemic and what it meant for people, there are art pieces that say that,” he adds.

Erbach believes as an organization invested in working directly with the community the art gallery must play a vital role in that conversation.

“If anything, just to be a place where people can feel reconnected to people,” he adds.

Erbach says like the private sector, many not-for-profits went through real, extraordinary tribulations through the pandemic. He adds as a location with free admission, they lean heavily on a healthy private sector to succeed.

“Often, folks like us as a free admission art museum rely on donations, memberships, community support, and that action can be as small as participating in our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or physically coming to look at [the] artwork,” he says.

You can find more information on what exhibits are ongoing, and upcoming, on the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie website.

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Major museum and art gallery shops duped by fake Indigenous carver – CBC.ca

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Until recently, gift shops in some of B.C.’s most famous museums and art galleries have sold wood carvings by an artist identified as “Harvey John” for hundreds of dollars a piece.

According to the standard biography used by these shops, Harvey John is Nuu-Chah-Nulth from Vancouver Island, and learned traditional Northwest Coast formline carving from an uncle.

But none of that is true. There is no Harvey John, and the person responsible for these carvings is not Indigenous at all.

Thanks to some pointed questions from Indigenous artists, an art dealer from the Fraser Valley has admitted that Harvey John is a pseudonym and that he’s been knowingly deceiving buyers across the country and around the world for years.

“It’s really troubling, just in the sense that someone would project such a false identity,” said Curtis Collins, director and chief curator of Whistler’s Audain Art Museum.

The museum’s shop recently notified people who’ve purchased Harvey John pieces about the deceit, letting them know they can get a full refund.

Along with the Audain, the Museum of Anthropology and the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver both confirm they’ve removed Harvey John pieces from their shops and cut ties with the supplier.

“We deal with everybody in good faith,” the Museum of Anthropology’s shop manager Sharon Haswell said.

“We are expecting people to be truthful in their business dealings. Unfortunately, this was a scam.”

The art dealer in question is Steve Hoffmann, who is based in Langley.

Hoffmann admitted in a phone interview with CBC that he intentionally misled people, and said he’s made financial restitution to shops that were duped.

“I’m sorry for it,” he said. “I’ve got a conscience.”

He claimed the pieces are the work of one carver based in B.C. — not overseas as some have suggested online — and said the artist is responsible for the phoney biography. He added that in the beginning he believed the carver was Indigenous, but when he discovered the truth he chose to continue with the lie.

“One way to look at it is, I was helping somebody make a living,” Hoffmann said. “But another way to look at it was that it was a pseudonym. It was not accurate.”

Hoffmann would not reveal the artist’s true identity, explaining that “I don’t want to be ratting out anybody.”

‘I knew instantly’

Fittingly, it was a sloppy description of the fake artist that caused the whole scheme to unravel.

Erin Brillon, the Haida/Cree fashion designer behind Totem Design House, noticed a listing from an Alberta art shop that described Harvey John’s work as “original Haida carvings” — not Nuu-Chah-Nulth, as the official biography says.

Brillon posted about her find in a Facebook group devoted to exposing fraudulent Indigenous art.

“I knew instantly it was not done by a Haida person. It was not Haida-designed in any way, shape or form,” Brillon recalled. “And I know that John is not a Haida last name.”

Her post was soon inundated with comments from people who shared her suspicions and others who’d found shops around the world that were selling Harvey John artworks.

Eventually, someone tagged a Vancouver business owner who’d sold the carvings. That person confronted Hoffmann, getting him to admit the hoax, and the news spread through the B.C. gallery world.

“A whole lot of people stepped in and recognized that something bigger was going on here. I’m really glad that we actually got to the bottom of the source of fraudulent art,” Brillon said.

Fashion designer Erin Brillon is pictured at the Haida Now exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver on Sept. 22, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But she points out that this isn’t just about one artist using a pseudonym and a phoney identity.

Fake Indigenous art is disturbingly common — right now, members of the Facebook group “Fraudulent Native Art Exposed and More” have been occupied with daily sightings of T-shirt sellers ripping off Indigenous artists to sell “every child matters” merchandise.

Brillon recalls visiting gift shops in Alaska where knockoff Northwest Coast-style masks and carvings are sold to cruise ship passengers, who are informed that their purchases are “inspired by” Indigenous art rather than authentic pieces.

“They sell loads of this stuff to American tourists because legitimately, people don’t care if they just want a cheap price,” Brillon said.

“It’s insane to have artists up there and … none of these artists are wealthy, and yet these galleries are selling these knockoff pieces hand over fist, making a killing.”

‘There was a lot of people turning a blind eye’

The U.S. does have a law that protects Native American artforms and makes it illegal to market and sell fake products, with penalties that can be as high as $1 million or even five years in prison. Brillon wants to see Canada do the same.

But she also thinks museums and art galleries need to be accountable for the products they sell in their gift shops and take more care in making sure they’re authentically Indigenous.

“The uncovering of [Harvey John] should have happened a lot sooner. I think there was a lot of people turning a blind eye,” Brillon said.

Haswell, the shop manager at the Museum of Anthropology, said this experience has made her more cautious about the products she sells, and she will likely begin requesting face-to-face meetings with artists.

At the Audain Art Museum, Collins said the upside to this experience is that people are now paying more attention to charlatans.

“From our perspective, that’s refreshing because it means that both buyers and dealers need heightened scrutiny to ensure that First Nations art — in this case, Northwest Coast formline design — is not being exploited at all,” he said.

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Kingston art thriving in Martello | The Journal – Queen's Journal

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Queen’s alumni David, ArtSci ’83, and Wendy Dossett, Con-Ed ’87, launched Kingston’s Martello Alley back in 2015. Martello is an immersive installation featuring the works of local Kingston artists, while also challenging the formal atmosphere of traditional galleries.

In an interview with The Journal, David Dossett credited the inspiration behind the showcase to his late father. 

“He used to spend all his time on the water in a little boat his dad made for him,” Dossett said. 

“He was a very interesting person. He liked art, he could fly, he learned how to play music and everything, and he painted.”

Dossett ultimately found they shared a love for painting. 

“He painted this picture of this French street, a copy of a Maurice Utrillo painting, and it always struck me. I never knew that I could paint, and I discovered I could paint, and that was the inspiration for this spot,” Dossett said.

“[Martello] is to honour him. Unfortunately, he died two years before I opened this up, but I know he would have been beyond thrilled with this place.”

When engaging with gallery visitors, Dossett is always telling stories about the art in Martello and Kingston’s history. Being bilingual in both English and French allows him to connect with his visitors on a personal level. 

As an artist himself, Dossett understands the importance of having local artists run Martello rather than salespeople. While art galleries often draw people in for what’s inside, Martello attracts visitors with its exterior art. 

“When you see limestone in Quebec City, they always have bright colours with it—yellows and blues and greens and reds. I thought we’d bring that here,” Dossett said.

“We had the basis of it, we had the old stone walls and the beautiful courtyards, but they were very dark.”

Realizing Dossett’s vision for Martello involved strenuous work. The restoration prior to its 2015 opening proved arduous, with Dossett doing much of the work himself. 

“One of the first things I did was paint the ground, which took a month on my hands and knees.”

Martello isn’t the only art space in Kingston the Dossetts have revived. They also took over another store on Brock street, now known as Martello on Brock. After transforming it into a thriving art shop and gallery, they invited the space’s previous artists back to share and sell their work. 

Despite receiving little attention early in the pandemic, Martello has since implemented technological innovations that have kept their sales and engagement at pre-pandemic levels. 

Those who visit the Martello website can now explore the gallery in augmented reality with 360-degree viewing. It allows potential buyers to see how a piece of art will look in their home before purchasing it. Both pick-up and shipping are offered. 

“We have to bring art and art galleries into the twenty-first century,” Dossett said. 

Nevertheless, for Dossett, the work behind Martello was never about making money. 

“It’s not to have a store to sell stuff to people,” he said.“When you’re here, you’re always talking to an artist, always. The story is the critical thing. There is a ton of history all around you. This place has a story. Kingston has a story.”

Dossett emphasized the importance of patience and consistency in building community. For some of Martello’s featured artists, making art is an important emotional outlet. 

“You make a difference in people’s lives, and to me that’s what it’s about.”

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