By March 17, 2020 — a day that shall live in infamy — every artisan fair, community space, concert hall, club, festival, gallery, museum, and theatre in the Kawarthas had gone dark, which led to a never-ending list of cancelled cultural events that has since devastated the arts and culture sector.
Like a black hole, from which no light can escape, the pandemic consumed everything in its path; yet, somehow, this year has miraculously seen much incredible work in the arts.
2020, our year of the virus, has also been the year of art in spite of all.
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In the early days of uncertainty, people all over the world turned to the arts — whether they binged-watched Netflix, read books or poems, scrolled through collections of images and inspirational quotations, or listened and danced to music, art made the lockdown bearable.
As much of our lives went online, so too did the arts. Local musicians, poets, dancers, actors, artisans, and visual artists created much online content to keep us inspired and connected during the first lockdown.
Local musicians brought us memorable moments such as the #TogetherAtHome video with Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor and the Peterborough Singers’ virtual choir performance of the song “Bobcaygeon” in support of Pinecrest Nursing Home where COVID-19 claimed the lives of 28 residents. The Live! At the Barn video series safely connected us to our favourite local musicians.
VIDEO: Live at the Barn! featuring The Weber Brothers
Public Energy Performing Arts livestreamed archived performances of theatre, dance, and circus-arts in The Rewind Room, which provided financial support for the featured artists.
Local photographer Julie Gagne documented local citizens and business owners for her portrait series “Within”, which inspired The Essential Project that Gagne created with the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) to raise awareness of the precarious situation of local artists and arts organizations during the pandemic. As part of EC3’s Artsweek SHIFT, local painter John Climenhage chronicled the vacant, ghostly locked-down spaces onto canvases.
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As lockdown restrictions began to lift in the summer, artists found more ways to safely present their work to audiences.
Some local musicians were able to return to work on patios or behind plexiglas in our many clubs, while outdoor performances such as The Verandah Society and drive-in concerts in both Lindsay and Peterborough made the most of the warmer weather while it lasted.
Countless more online performances became available as the colder weather and the second wave of COVID forced us back indoors. Most recently, In From The Cold broadcast and livestreamed on Trent Radio, and the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert, Comfort and Joy, gave audiences near and far a collective musical experience. Many organizations and individuals turned towards research and development to make sure artists have the safety, security, and time to continue to create their work.
Notably, 4th Line Theatre brought on award-winning artist Beau Dixon to begin developing institutional strategies to deter the systemic discrimination faced by artists who are Black, Indigenous, people of colour, or living with disabilities. Artspace hosted ‘Breaking Down Stereotypes’, photo-based community art project from the First Peoples House of Learning featuring Indigenous students at Trent University. EC3 and Public Energy also demonstrated their commitment to diversity via declarations, programing, and exhibitions.
Artspace, EC3, and Public Energy all announced artist in residence programs to foster creation during the pandemic, including performer Brad Brackenridge as the 2021 artist in residence at Artspace and poet Justin Million as downtown Peterborough’s first artist in residence — a partnership between EC3, the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA), and Leslie Menagh of Madderhouse Textile Studios.
Against all odds, works of art — across all disciplines — have escaped the black hole that is this godforsaken pandemic. Though it is paramount that we celebrate the remarkable adaptation, improvisation, and resilience required of our local artists to create art in spite of all, we must also recognize that we are at risk of losing our beloved cultural institutions and practitioners.
The arts and culture sector – an immense economic driver — is among the hardest-hit in the economy. The situation is dire. For this reason, the most important work that has been done in the arts this year is the oft-invisible, behind-the-scenes administrative and fundraising work.
New partnerships were formed among the arts community, such as the Peterborough Performing Arts Recovery Alliance, a group of local performance venues and arts organizations that formed to to advocate, organize, and lobby for support.
The sheer volume of fundraisers is both a testimony to the love for the arts and the generosity of our communities; and, an indication that the financial support available through multiple levels of government is inadequate.
Much like the team of professionals assembled by the Allied forces during WWII for the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (also known as the “Monuments Men”), the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) proved to be champions for the arts here in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough, fighting tirelessly to preserve the arts.
Long before the CERB program was expanded to include artists, EC3 immediately provided urgent, short-term financial support to local professional artists who had experienced the sudden loss of artistic income due to the COVID-19 pandemic by means of Micro Subsistence Grants. They also disseminated crucial information and resources regarding relief funds and grants for artists and arts organizations.
EC3 also worked closely with the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA), and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development to ensure that artists and arts organizations could participate in vital digital initiatives such as gift card programs and digital marketing consultancy sessions.
Throughout the pandemic, EC3 has been quietly raising funds for the Peterborough Arts Alive Fund which, thanks to Peterborough city councillors Kemi Akapo and Keith Riel, recently saw the City of Peterborough’s Budget Committee pledge to match the $40,000 relief fund.
2020, our year of the virus — of art in spite of all – has given us much to celebrate and even more to lament. Though there is hope on the horizon, it seems distant as we brace ourselves to enter 2021 in another lockdown. For better or for worse, we have made it this far and, together, we can make it to the other side.
Together, we can ensure the arts will be ready and waiting on the other side to help us process this collective trauma — that we can return to all of the things that make life worth living.
If you have the means (and if you’d like to get a charitable tax receipt before the end of the calendar year), please consider making a donation to the Peterborough Arts Alive fund, administered jointly by EC3 and the Greater Community Foundation of Peterborough, to help keep the arts alive in Peterborough.
Written by Taylor Brock Friday, Jan 22 2021, 5:00 AM
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A craft exchange is giving local artists who have been cooped up in their homes something to do together.
Katrina Craig, Program Director with Manitoba Craft Council (C2 Centre for Craft), says their members will be exchanging crafts next month.
“Our members can bring in any piece of craft, whether it be artwork or a functional piece, so you could bring in something like a mug as well, you write your name on them, we arrange them and return you a surprise piece of crafty,” the director says.
They are dropping the projects like pottery, paintings, and textile work off from February 10-13. The gifts will then be handed out to other crafters in the exchange.
“I am sure we are going to see some really gorgeous mugs, and bowls, and things like that, but also weavings and tapestries. Most people in craft work in textiles, ceramics, metal, glass, there is a bunch of wood.”
Craig is seeing the crafters’ excitement over the blind exchange
“We are really excited to see what comes out. There is such a variety.”
While sign up is not necessary, she is anticipating many members will be excited to share their crafts and get something in return.
The idea to exchange goods stems from missing regular interactions. Craig says many artists often work together and for some, being isolated means they are missing the ability to share creative ideas. A lack of in-person crafting fairs also meant artists could not see what others were making.
“Our crafters are really excited to do some blind trades, and it is also a nice way of connecting with folks from afar. We normally see a lot of our members quite often at openings and this like that, and I think it is a way of remembering all these folks that you see from time to time and have relationships with.”
One of the bonuses of exchanging crafts between crafters is the level of respect for the art. Craig says crafters are a generous community who typically exchange products and teach others skills. Craig says it has been difficult for some who are used to the interactions and is hopeful the exchange will help with connections.
“I am hoping they get a sense of community. We have a really strong cultural community in Manitoba, and I think that has been the hardest part for everyone is to not be as connected with that community.”
Craig is hoping the blind exchange creates a sense of excitement and encouragement within the group.
Local artists will be bringing their works to augmented reality in the windows of businesses in Inglewood during a limited six-week exhibition.
Northern Reflections is four years running and is an augmented reality exhibition that will feature 11 teams of artists celebrating the power that music, art and business have.
It will run from Jan. 21 through Feb 25.
“It brings business, it brings activation to a neighborhood, this is super COVID safe and it’s also making people think maybe what the future of art is and what that means in terms of participation and engagement,” said Maud Collective creative festival producer, Kevin Jesuino.
Rebecca O’Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area (BIA) was excited to bring this exhibit to the Inglewood community.
“I was like yes, this makes total sense because one of the main roles of the BIA is to bring vibrancy to the main street which is very challenging during a pandemic,” said O’Brien.
The exhibit will showcase the works of painters, animators and there will be murals paired with music produced by local and international entertainers.
“People can walk up and down the street, check out the murals, see the magic of the augmented reality but at the same time listen to this music that’s made by local musicians,” Jesuino said.
This is the first time the art will all be held within the one community for viewing.
“You can do a walk and see all 10, all 11 murals in one go, within 40 minutes you can see them all,” said Jesuino.
Uii Savage, an emerging artist in Calgary did the animating art for the exhibition.
“I’m really pleasantly happy with it, this is my first-time being part of the festival, so I am someone who works alone, I don’t really work collaboratively but this was a really great experience to work with other people,” Savage said.
Savage created 3D hands that reach out from the branches of the mural and coming together to hold each other which brings attention to the importance of human contact and how it’s missed during the pandemic.
Inglewood resident Dawn Warner was highly impressed by the artistry on display.
“It was just amazing, I’ve never seen anything like that in a picture in my life, like a bunch of hands were moving coming in to the picture, it was really cool,” said Warner.
Participants can download the free Augle app onto their phones to get involved with the interactive element of the exhibit.
The Northern Reflections exhibition is a part of a large winter art festival, Chinook Blast, taking place throughout the city from Feb. 11-28.
The music and cultural gathering that is the Rogue Arts Festival was among the many arts cancellations last summer, thanks to the pandemic. But the funkiest annual festival on the Coast is bringing last summer’s planned lineup of acts back for a mini-fest this weekend, online. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase a diverse sampling of 2020 Rogue Fest artists while remembering the volunteers, vendors, staff and supporters that have made us who we are today,” Rogue Fest said in a Facebook post. On Saturday, Jan. 23, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. you can catch Bits of String, Disco Funeral, Parlour Panther, Sadé Awele, Sarah Noni, Stephen Hamm, and Tetrahedron. “Hosted by the ever-awesome Ndidi Cascade.” Go to roguefest.ca for details on the performers and information on how to link up on Saturday afternoon.
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Also online this weekend is an opening reception, art exhibit, and meet-the-artist session all in one. On Sunday, Jan. 24, Sechelt artist Lynda Manson presents Tracing Footsteps, a collection of paintings based on sketches by her uncle, Bruce Black, who was killed in action in the Second World War. Manson will show Black’s sketches made while he was off-duty in the U.K., her re-imagined and elaborated takes on them, plus other works related to the theme. Proceeds from the exhibition will go to the bursary fund of the Sunshine Coast branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women. Tickets are $10 at eventbrite.ca or at cfuwsc.org.
The pandemic has been just as hard on the arts community as other parts of the community and economy since early 2020, so the B.C. government has come up with a new grant program to help out. “Together with the arts sector, we are working hard to make sure that dancers, writers, painters and other artists can continue being resilient and finding innovative ways to keep creating through COVID-19,” B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark said in a news release. The ministry has created a new, $500,000 Pivot for Individuals program through the BC Arts Council. B.C. residents can apply for up to $12,000 to learn new skills or adapt their practices. The program is available to professional artists and cultural workers, including: dancers and choreographers; visual artists; writers; actors; multi-media artists; and arts administrators. To learn more, go to bcartscouncil.ca and follow the links.
Due to the pandemic, all listed live events are subject to change. Check ahead. Space is limited in Art Beat but please let us know about your events at firstname.lastname@example.org
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