Hundreds of student-designed masks, photos, drawings and poems were on display through a series of digital projections across Toronto in late October to celebrate art and building community in a time of COVID-19.
Students, teachers and school administrators gathered outside for the evening art exhibitions at four sites in late October, including Msgr. Percy Johnson Catholic Secondary School, Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, George Webster Elementary School and the grand finale at the Malting Silos on the Toronto waterfront. Spearheaded by educator and artist Kelvin Sealey, principal at CaST (City-as-School Toronto), the city-funded project called Mask4Aid received submissions from 15 Toronto schools.
At the beginning of the pandemic, for many, masks felt like an unusual addition to the daily wardrobe as they concealed parts of the face normally exposed. Through this art instalment, Sealey curates a reclaiming of the masks as tools for students’ individual expression during the time of virtual learning and social seclusion.
The projection of this pandemic art marks students’ re-emergence into in-person school life this fall, and the resumption of social interaction, albeit with masks still very much a part of everyday life.
For many, Sealey says taking in the exhibition was a moving experience that shone a “light in the darkness” of the COVID era.
“Several people said to me while they were viewing the art that they didn’t realize, and neither did I, that there was going to be so much emotion embedded in these shows, both through the poetry and through the art,” said Sealey. “You could literally feel what the students were feeling as they were making their art.
“When art is used as a tool to express one’s creativity and one’s identity in the midst of a collective that is a classroom, a school, a city, what you wind up seeing is a map of identity that tracks across the city.”
Jody Conley, senior art teacher at Marshal McLuhan, says projecting art on the school building was a powerful experience for students and staff. Under the theme of creating art around the five objects that got them through the pandemic, Conley received submissions in many different forms. A student’s ode to their mother working in health care was one of the standout submissions from the school.
Conley says students are still making art and remain very engaged in the mask project, which she hopes is a sign that the Mask4Aid initiative could continue well into the future.
“There are students that are still creating under the theme of the importance of the mask,” said Conley. “A lot of older people are saying it’s tough wearing them but for these kids, it’s just a part of who they are now, and they see it in art.”
When the call went out to the boards in September, teachers began contacting Sealey to say their schools were interested in being a projection site for the project. After Sealey received a permit to integrate the Malting Silos as a site for the installation, he amalgamated the art from four downtown schools for one all-inclusive projection evening which concluded the exhibition on Oct. 22.
One of the progressive things to have come from the pandemic, Sealey says, is the increase and greater investment in public art projects, which create opportunities to connect and engage around art. Mask4Aid was funded through the city’s ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-2022 program, a year-long celebration of Toronto’s public art to support artists and projects that reflect Toronto’s diversity and create opportunities for greater public engagement.
Making art more accessible to a demographically and economically diverse audience is a trend Sealey hopes will continue.
“This has nothing to do with commerce, but only to do with enjoyment, it’s to do with culture, it’s to do with expression, it’s to do with identity,” said Sealey. “For Toronto to recognize that, as multicultural a city as it is and continues to be, I think it’s showing a degree of wisdom. To let young people express themselves and learn about others through art is I think a very good direction in which to take the city.”
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Ladysmith Arts Council hopes a provincial grant can help get the art gallery back into its old venue – Ladysmith Chronicle – Ladysmith Chronicle
The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District has an opportunity to apply for a BC Arts Council grant, which could help the Waterfront Art Gallery return to its old venue at the Ladysmith Machine Shop. It requested a letter of support from the Town of Ladysmith, which was discussed at council’s Nov. 30 special meeting.
The grant could provide up to $250,000 for renovations of the old building. There is $4 million in the provincial fund to be distributed to arts organizations and the deadline to apply is Jan. 14. After discussing the letter, town council referred the issue back to staff to gather more information on the proposed project and grant application.
“We are disappointed of course because we feel uncertain about our future,” said Kathy Holmes, president of the arts council. “At this point, the arts council is going to be looking at all sort of avenues to find a home — wherever that is, permanently or temporarily.”
The grant application requires a detailed outline of the proposed project, with milestones and a timeline and it is required to have a completion date before the end of 2024.
Mayor Stone said the town would likely not hear back about the grant application within a year and it would take another year or two for design and construction work. “I am fully supportive of the concept of this — I just don’t see in my most optimistic viewpoint that we could find it as a reality between now and the end of 2024,” he said.
Coun. Duck Paterson said the town does not yet know when tenants will be able to return to the Machine Shop or where the funds to renovate it will come from — the grant, if successful, would only provide a portion. He questioned whether the town has the staff time and resources to help the arts council complete the application.
“We definitely have the staff to look after some of this. We do have a lot of this information we have compiled over the years through the Machine Shop project,” said Chris Barfoot, director of parks, recreation and culture. He added the town has cost estimates, but they are from 2018–19 and would have to be updated.
In order to find ways to plan a phased approach for the project, he said staff would have to go back and work with consultants. “We know that there is a price to complete the entire project. It would be a matter of how do we achieve a phased approach and what type of services and utilities need to be addressed to do that.”
Coun. Marsh Stevens supported sending the item back to staff to get more details to consider at the next council meeting. “I love that they are taking initiative as a community group to do this but I want them to be successful,” he said.
Paterson suggested the town give a letter of support for a separate part of the grant, which could provide $25,000 to assist with planning and consultation. “I know that’s not what they want, but I think it would be easier for us to accept,” he said.
The arts council will provide an annual presentation to council on Dec. 7 to update the town on its operations.
Rare First Nations Artwork Uncovered at Yukon Friendship Centre – CBC.ca
Staff at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre were shocked to find 183 art pieces in their basement recently, many of them created by well-known artists.
“This recent discovery during this year of significant hardship has been a very welcome surprise,” said Bill Griffis, the centre’s executive director, in a news release.
The art was originally donated to the non-profit organization in Whitehorse back in 1997, but forgotten over the years as staff left.
Among the pieces found, 28 belonged to the well-known contemporary artist Carl Beam. The other 155 were created by Stephen Snake and other Indigenous artists.
Griffis said the next step is to determine the value of each piece.
“Each one [of Beam’s art pieces] has an appraisal certificate with them,” said Griffis. “Part of the process is to figure out what the value is now because we have a collection [and] there may be some historical value to it.”
Out of the other 155, about a third of them also had appraisals from the late 90s.
Significant impact on Canadian art sector
As one of Canada’s most ground-breaking Indigenous artists, the art from Beam is of particular interest.
He was from M’Chigeeng First Nation, located on Manitoulin Island, Ont. He was born in 1943 and passed away in 2005.
Beam had a significant impact on the Canadian art sector. His work, which ranged from Plexiglass to canva and other media, provoked conversations about the Indigenous experience of injustice in Canada.
Beam’s cousin, Joe Migwans, is a long-time Yukon resident and cultural mentor.
“He was my cousin by blood, but he’s more like my uncle because in our way, when we have a cousin like that, that age, he’s more like my uncle. I always listen to what he said to me because he’s my elder,” explained Migwans.
He said Beam’s work has a powerful message and is even more relevant today.
“He’s basically preserving those kind of snippets in this time and telling, and it kind of like how he perceives the world to be and what his take is on it. And then in the future, people will see kind of what was going on here from from his perspective,” he says.
Towards the end of his life, Beam started to talk more about what life could be or what life is all about, said Migwans.
“What it’s about is overcoming and then achieving something in your life and not having to go through what you did in the past. So your life can move forward. I mean, that’s the vision, right? And a lot of us back home that knew him and worked with him, we always believed that he was more well ahead of his time,” he said.
Migwans said art is used to tell a story and capture a moment in time. He added that most of Beam’s work came from his anger from residential schools and injustices towards Indigenous people.
“Some of the things he would like to really do was to take any stereotype around First Nations people. One of the things was saying our people were dirty Indians. Except there never was. We never were like that,” said Migwans.
5:06Art by Carl Beams and Stephen Snake discovered at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse
Beam was the first Indigenous contemporary artist featured at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
“He did it on his own in his own way. Not as a First Nations artist, as the contemporary artist, which means he’s just like anybody else. He’s not under the guise of First Nations or the idea that he’s entitled to something because he’s First Nation.
“He didn’t have to use that as something to get him forward,” said Migwans.
Out of nearly 200 pieces, some will be sold to the public and some to private galleries across Canada.
The remaining pieces will be part of a silent auction on the Friendship Centre’s website from Dec. 4 to the 14th.
The auction is part of a fundraiser between the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre and Sundog Veggies Training Farm.
Heather Finton, owner of Sundong Veggies, said the organization is grateful they can use the found art to raise some money.
“Not only is this artwork like amazing and so timely but the way that some of these gifts are going to be available to the community to support the work Skookum does is … it’s just a privilege to be part of these amazing story,” she said.
The two organizations have been collaborating since 2020 for the community lunch program which feeds several families in Whitehorse. They share a goal of building food security in the Yukon and creating opportunities to develop land-based skills.
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