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Art lovers hit the streets for crafty show in Blenheim – Chatham Daily News



David Fife had a lot of time on his hands after the shutdown began in March, so he picked up a paint brush.

David Fife of Chatham, Ont., shows his painting Beached Buddies at Discover Art Blenheim in Blenheim, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

BLENHEIM – David Fife had a lot of time on his hands after the shutdown began in March, so he picked up a paint brush.

The retired Siemens worker from Chatham displayed his work Saturday during the first Discover Art Blenheim show and sale.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” said Fife, 68. “I’ve enjoyed painting for quite a long time now, but now I’m going to get more serious about it and see how it goes. There’s an awful lot of people that still like original art.”

If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, he probably wouldn’t have been at the show. He created approximately 75 per cent of the paintings at his booth since March.

The Blenheim Rotary Club and its Talbot Trail Place park also found a silver lining in the pandemic that’s led to the cancellation of most summer events.

When their annual Art in the Park show had to be called off, club officials adapted by setting up 41 artists and craftspeople at 22 locations around town.

Some artists were on their own front lawns, while volunteers offered their homes to out-of-towners.

“The public’s been unbelievable,” said Fife, whose company is DFife Art. “… It’s been non-stop, all day long. It’s been great. I couldn’t believe how many (people). “

Organizer Debbie Brush estimated 800 to 1,000 people turned out.

They began the tour by picking up a map at Talbot Trail Place and also received a passport that could be stamped by each artist. Everyone with 20 stamps was eligible for a $100 prize draw.

“It’s been a wonderful day,” said Bonnie Kyle of Bonnie’s Handmade Creations. “The people have been fantastic. I think everybody’s been waiting to be able to visit and gather. It’s nice to be able to have a craft show again.”

Kyle’s crafts included many Christmas decorations. Her favourites were some outdoor snowman signs.

“I enjoyed doing the snowman because it made you feel cooler when you were painting,” she said, laughing.

Kyle’s daughter, Christina Bertrand, was selling items from her CB Creative Concepts store in Glencoe. Decorative face masks were the hot items.

“I didn’t want to do them for the first several months,” said Bertrand, a Blenheim native. “I refused. ‘Not doing them. I don’t sell very well. Not happening. This is going to be over soon.’ But it didn’t.

“Now I’ve sold over 800 pieces. I’ve sold almost a hundred today alone.”

Like Fife, Bertrand has made the best of a bad situation during the pandemic. She said more people are shopping at local retailers than before.

“When we reopened after the government said non-essential business can start re-establishing again, I thought I’d have long days with no business, and I’ve been busy non-stop,” she said. “This has given our communities an opportunity to shop local and learn what’s local in their own areas.

“I’ve been two years open and I’ve had so many people go through the doors going, ‘When did you get here?’ It’s been a great opportunity.”

Beth Green of Chatham doesn’t have a shop, but she does have a Facebook page for Beth Green’s Treats & Treasures to promote everything she crochets, knits and sews.

“A lot of it is my own design and creation,” she said. “I try very hard to stay original and true to myself. That way if you buy something from me, you know where to find me and come back and get whatever you’d like again.”

She had good sales at the show, quickly selling out of flamingo drink cozies.

“I’m quite pleased with the turnout,” Green said. “It’s a different adventure from what I’m used to. We usually have the event down in the park. This was like a treasure hunt on its own.”

She was on Nichols Drive, a few doors down from Bernadette Lobbestael of My Pottery Creations.

“I thought I wouldn’t get many people being down at the end of a road, but it’s very busy. Extremely busy,” Lobbestael said.

“And I’ve checked with the patrons and they don’t seem to mind it. They don’t mind walking the street,” she said with a laugh.

Lobbestael had eight shows lined up this summer. All but one were cancelled because of the pandemic.

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Artist uncovers ethically dubious history of statue in MacKenzie Art Gallery collection –



The MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina are taking on a quest to return a statue to its original home in India.

Winnipeg artist Divya Mehra sparked the investigation when she uncovered the story of how the small stone sculpture came to be in the Norman MacKenzie collection. 

“Norman McKenzie was known for taking trips across the world and collecting artifacts for his collection,” said John Hampton, interim executive director and CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina.

In 1913, on a trip down the Ganges River, he saw a sculpture near Benares, India, in a shrine that was actively being used by people in the area.

“He said, ‘I want a statue like that,'” Hampton told CBC’s The Morning Edition. “And he found someone that was willing to get it for him.”

Hampton said this was ethically suspect, but was a common practice at the time. 

“You’ll find many similar and maybe even more suspect stories across all [Western institutions], which just brings into question how these collections are built.”

The centerpiece of Divya Mehra’s exhibition at MacKenzie Art Gallery is an inflatable Taj Mahal. The exhibition explores the theme of reproduced, misclassified, staged and stolen cultural property. (Supplied by MacKenzie Art Gallery)

Hampton said Mehra’s findings “set a wave of motion into effect,” including conversations about whether the gallery had a right to show the artifact and who the artifact truly belonged to.

Norman MacKenzie’s collection technically still belongs to the University of Regina, so the MacKenzie Art Gallery started conversations with the university about repatriating the work.

“We’re going to make the offer to the Indian government to return this object,” Hampton said. “There’s no guarantee that they’ll accept that offer. But we’re all in agreement that it’s something that we should be doing.”

The gallery is also taking a closer look at the other 5,000 objects in its collection.

“It’s sparked our interest to make sure that we have a fulsome history of the provenance of all of these objects and to make sure that we know if there are any more,” Hampton said.

‘Dude, that’s a woman’

Divya Mehra has an exhibit at the MacKenzie until January 2021. It examines some of the themes from her research — including a piece inspired by Indiana Jones.

“It’s a sack of sand that weighs the same as the sculpture,” Hampton said. “She wants to swipe that piece from our collection and return it to the proper home and then replace it with a bag of sand as if there’s some booby traps, institutional booby traps that could prevent it.”

The object was previously identified as a statue of Vishnu, but Mehra noticed that didn’t seem right.

“I think her words were, ‘Dude, that’s a woman,'” Hampton said.

Dr. Siddhartha Shah with the Peabody Essex Museum of South Asian Art correctly identified it as an Annapurna, Hindu goddess of food and nourishment. 

“We’re a cultural institution and we want to represent those cultures accurately and ethically, and we have to make sure that we have buy-in from the people who produce this work and where it comes from,” Hampton said. 

“If we don’t have that right, then we don’t believe that we should be showing it in that light.”

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Influential Social Practice Art Fellowship Program Shuts Down Because of Covid-19 – ARTnews



The New York–based nonprofit A Blade of Grass, which has supported the production of socially-engaged artworks through funded fellowships, has announced a significant restructuring of its operations and program as a result of financial challenges precipitated by the pandemic. In a sign of the health crisis’s impact on small arts nonprofits, the organization will end its fellowship program, with the artist fellows named in March 2020 representing the final cohort in the program.

A Blade of Grass also announced that it will lay off its current five-person full-time staff in October and cut salary and benefits for its executive director, Deborah Fisher. During the 2021 fiscal year, the nonprofit will launch a commissioning model through which it will support the creation of a selection of artworks and related public programs. In addition, the nonprofit will organize “listening sessions” with artists to discuss their needs and formulate new modes of meeting them.

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The organization’s annual Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art had awarded individual grants of $20,000 to eight artists during each cycle. Those funds went toward the development of artworks that address social, political, and economic issues across different communities.

Since the fellowship program was launched in 2014, it has been considered one of the top initiatives devoted to social practice art, which relies on outreach, conversations, and activism, and often does not take the form of physical objects. Major artists and groups, including Simone Leigh, Black Quantum Futurism, Ras Cutlass, Monica Sheets, Chinatown Art Brigade, Suzanne Lacy, and Dread Scott, have been named A Blade of Grass fellows in the past. The organization’s 2020 cohort includes Cannupa Hanska Luger, Taja Lindley, the theater collective Papel Machete, and others.

“In a moment when socially engaged artists have a particularly critical role to play, we are also being faced with the reality that arts funding, in its current form, is precarious precisely because the arts are perceived as serving too few,” Fisher said in a statement. “While we could not have predicted these circumstances, we have to deal with the moment as it exists and make the difficult but necessary decisions now to establish a more sustainable model that will allow the organization to continue to fulfill its mission and the commitment it made to supporting socially engaged art and the artists who create it.”

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Artch: From abstract to accessible contemporary art | Fringe Arts – The Link



Multimedia exhibition welcomes emerging artists in Montreal

One out of three artists does not live off their art after graduating due to a lack of resources for art professionalization, according to Artch’s director Sarah Kitzy Gineau-Delyon.

Every year, Artch holds an outdoor contemporary art exhibition in Dorchester Square made for young emerging artists.

The core purpose of this organization is to support new creators with an entrepreneurship training and a platform to showcase their work. Artch’s mission is also to popularize this art form with free exhibits and cultural mediators to bridge contemporary art, which can be abstract, to the population as well as enhancing the local art market by raising awareness on its relevance.

This initiative emerged in 2018 between Art Souterrain, the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Montréal Centre-Ville, and Jack Marketing. This inclusive project is developed in collaboration with Concordia, UQÀM, the RCAAQ and the RAAV.

“Each organization brings their own set of skills so if we support young artists, promote the art market to new investors and democratize contemporary art, we will make the Montreal artistic ecosystem durable,” said Gineau-Delyon.

Resources for emerging artists
For the third edition of Artch this fall, 19 selected creators received 50 hours of artistic entrepreneurship training. This helped them understand business models according to their careers goals, how to manage an exhibit, demystify the dynamics of the art markets, learn self-promotion, build a network, and so on.

“Being an artist is like being an entrepreneur. […] There is no defined path to live the art life but a thousand ways to be an artist,” said Gineau-Delyon. Art schools promote a conceptual approach, she explained, but there is a lack of education concerning art industries. Artch’s training guides emerging artists in understanding the direction in which they wish to pursue their career.

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“Being an artist is like being an entrepreneur. […] There is no defined path to live the art life but a thousand ways to be an artist.”

In addition to this training, creators receive a $1,000 grant and the opportunity to interact with other creators which may lead to collaborations and constructive feedback since they are physically present to see the installations.

The artists were selling their work through the events and during the festival. Their pieces are available for sale on the Artch’s website.

Unlike most art galleries, Artch does not take any commission when artists are selling an art piece to encourage emerging artists to stand on their own two feet. The call for artists for next year is launched and artistic criteria are originality, innovation, risk-taking, accessibility and coherence, explained Gineau-Delyon.

Photographer Isabelle Parson, featured in the festival, is interested in the materiality of things from a poetic, scientific and philosophical perspective. Parson enjoyed interacting with the public to get feedback and exchange on attendees’ interpretations of her work. She wonders what alternative views we can find out of everyday objects.

For instance, in January she collected microbes from a tablet to cultivate them on a thin plastic layer that she replaced on the device two weeks later with a massive amount of germs. “The matter resonates,” she said. “I am sensitive to what it can evoke.”

From a post-COVID view, it is fascinating to realize how one’s interpretation of this artwork can be shaped by the pandemic context. Before, contamination was out of sight, but over time our perception of everyday objects radically changed and therefore influenced the meaning of the photo.

Democratizing elitist art
A sizeable part of the population is unfamiliar with this conceptual medium. There is a struggle of education and accessibility to interact with this type of art, acknowledged the Artch’s director. She indicated that contemporary art can be seen as elitist so one of their goals is to democratize it. Indeed, not everyone can afford entrance to museums and galleries, and fewer have the time to intellectualize an abstract piece of art.

Raising awareness on art is relevant to connect it with the street, explained Sarah-Kitzy Gineau-Delyon. This initiative has agency to promote equity.

The cultural mediators are there to help attendees connect with contemporary art through free guided tours. Their role is not to teach a subjective interpretation as well as giving a background on the artworks as traditional art guides. They make it accessible by promoting the audience’s reflections. They suggest questions such as: “How do you feel? What is that piece evoking for you?”

Dorchester Square is a free open space therefore contemporary art suddenly becomes accessible and the park’s tumult becomes a feature of this happening. There are also workshops, held online this year, to make the population mindful of this misunderstood art form which is more emotional than intellectual in the end.

Flourishing local art
Raising awareness is also meaningful to acknowledge the importance of art in the community. Dorchester Square is a strategic location for Artch because the park is grounded in the everyday life of many skyscrapers’ workers who can afford art. Raising awareness about the art market is important to motivate potential clients to invest in local creativity instead of Ikea items for instance, explained Gineau-Delyon. In order to do so, Artch held online workshops about buying artworks and introducing contemporary art.

With all those means of reinforcing Montreal-based contemporary art, they witness the impact on artists’ careers who were promoted by the organization whether they are exposed in galleries, launching solo exhibitions, or selling pieces in prestigious collections. Artch is a springboard for emerging creators.

To illustrate that, Myriam Simard Parent is a sculpture artist who was selected last year by Artch and has made a living off her art and also started a MFA in sculpture at Concordia. She is selling her work on her Instagram account which seems to be a great platform for entrepreneurship.

Every year, Artch creates opportunities for new artists to dive right into Montreal’s art scene.

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