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Aydin Aghdashloo, Under #MeToo Cloud, Faces Art World Repercussions – The New York Times

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A famous and well-connected Iranian artist who has been accused by at least 13 women of sexual misconduct is starting to see signs of repercussions in the art world that once exalted him, both in Iran and Canada, where he has dual citizenship.

The artist, Aydin Aghdashloo, whose work has been auctioned and shown around the world, is the most prominent figure to be accused in Iran’s burgeoning #MeToo movement. He has denied wrongdoing and taken legal action against at least one of the women.

But their accounts, detailed in an Oct. 22 New York Times article, have been widely shared in Iran and generated more criticism of the artist. Mr. Aghdashloo’s Instagram account appears to have restricted comments since the Times article was published.

Through his lawyers, Mr. Aghdashloo has demanded a retraction of the article. The Times is standing by it.

A solo exhibition of Mr. Aghdashloo’s work that had been planned for a Saturday opening at the Dastan art gallery in Tehran was canceled by the artist’s representatives in late August, a few days after the first allegation surfaced on Iranian social media, Hormoz Hematian, the founder of the gallery, said this past week. Mr. Hematian also said the gallery has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct that extends to artists it showcases.

Tehran Auction, an important annual venue for Iran’s art where Mr. Aghdashloo’s work is prominently featured every year, said it was considering withdrawal of his two paintings set for showing at the auction tentatively planned for Dec. 11.

“I recommended to the team to pull the paintings out,” said Homa Taraji, head of international relations for Tehran Auction. “We do care about these allegations. Including him in the auction is going to create a negative perception about Tehran Auction and affect our work internationally.”

A documentary about Mr. Aghdashloo written and directed by his daughter, Tara, is also facing uncertainty. The film, described by the executive producer as part love letter, part confrontation between father and daughter, has been scheduled for release and screening at two festivals this year in Greece and Switzerland. But the film’s completion predated the allegations of sexual misconduct, said the executive producer, Mahyad Tousi, a Los Angeles-based writer and producer who has mentored Ms. Aghdashloo.

“I believe women. Period. Ever since the allegations, my recommendation to Tara has been to find a way to include them,” Mr. Tousi said. If the film is released as is, he said, “I would have to withdraw my name and affiliation with it.”

Representatives of Mr. Aghdashloo and his daughter did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Mr. Aghdashloo’s supporters, including some of his former students, have taken to social media to reject the allegations and recount positive memories of their experience in his workshops. On Wednesday, his 80th birthday, they shared photographs of previous parties with Mr. Aghdashloo surrounded by female students and a birthday cake.

“I learned great lessons in life and art from you, happy birthday dear teacher,” Sanaz Barzegar, an artist, wrote on her Instagram page with a photo of Mr. Aghdashloo.

In Canada, a petition started by a handful of women in August has now garnered more than 800 signatures calling for the hugely popular biannual Iranian-Canadian Tirgan cultural festival, which drew 160,000 people last year, to announce publicly that it will no longer invite Mr. Aghdashloo.

The festival’s chief executive and board have remained noncommittal about the accusations.

“Our board decided this has nothing to do with Tirgan,” said the chief executive, Mehrdad Ariannejad. “We invite as many artists as we can to our gatherings and performances. Are they going to ask all the organizations, all the museums around the world, all the people that have been in contact with Mr. Aghdashloo to come out and take a position?”

In 2017, an interview with Mr. Aghdashloo at the festival was posted to the Tirgan YouTube channel.

“I personally, definitely, condemn any violence against women. I’ve always supported women’s rights,” said Mr. Ariannejad, adding that he believed the accounts should be investigated by an independent judicial body before any conclusions are drawn. “You can’t go out and condemn this person,” he said.

Mr. Ariannejad also co-owns an art gallery with one of Mr. Aghdashloo’s former wives, Fay Athari, in the trendy Distillery District of Toronto. The Arta Gallery is known as the cultural heart of the city’s small Iranian community, hosting book launches, art shows and lectures.

In August, just as public accusations against Mr. Aghdashloo were coming out on Iranian social media, the gallery highlighted Aghdashloo works and publicized art workshops with him over three days, stating, “Are you ready for a workshop with a legend?”

The workshops were canceled because of concerns around Covid-19, Mr. Ariannejad said.

Credit…Farhad Irani

Found at the gallery, Ms. Athari said she had no comment, other than that she was “disappointed” by the Times article outlining the allegations against her former husband. Though divorced, they are regularly photographed in public together. She posted a photo of herself outside the gallery with him on her private Instagram account on Aug. 26.

Mr. Ariannejad said the gallery would not host Mr. Aghdashloo now, in the aftermath of the allegations. “We are not taking a position,” he said. “But we try to avoid the noise.”

Hajar Moradi, an Iranian-Canadian artist in Toronto who helped create the petition, said it was impossible for women to get justice in Iran, where they can be criminalized for simply reporting sexual assault, because extramarital relations are illegal. It was in Canada, she said, that she expected some kind of public support for the aggrieved women.

“Is it not enough that these women came out with their own names, putting their own pictures on the news and doing interviews in Farsi media as well, saying this happened to me?” Ms. Moradi asked. Referring to Mr. Ariannejad, she said, “Why does he not believe the women?”

Other Iranian-Canadian women also criticized Mr. Ariannejad’s refusal to emphatically dissociate the Tirgan festival from Mr. Aghdashloo.

“What does it say about him, this is who he works with?” said Safaneh Mohaghegh Neyshabouri, a Canadian-Iranian professor at the University of Calgary who helped create the petition. “I don’t think the Tirgan festival can morally afford to not take a stand. Not taking a stand in this case means the festival is not a safe space for women.”

In Iran, the allegations against Mr. Aghdashloo have led to fiery criticism of him on social media, setting off conversations within families about the nature of sexual abuse and the meaning of consent, including in conservative religious households where discussions about sex are ordinarily taboo.

Abdulreza Davari, a senior adviser to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he had discussed the subject with his own wife and daughter because of the Times article about Mr. Aghdashloo, which he described as having created “a huge impact on public opinion about Iran’s MeToo movement.”

Some Iranian artists and cartoonists have also publicly criticized Mr. Aghdashloo through their work. A sketch by the artist Behzad Kambouzia of Toronto, for example, depicts a female student of Mr. Aghdashloo’s covering a portrait of his face with black marks. A Tehran-based writer and artist, Fazel Torkaman, posted a message on his Instagram account chastising Mr. Aghdashloo’s defenders and saying his accusers deserve to be heard.

“Truth has a way of finding its way out, in the long run it will crash down from the sky,” he wrote.

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Art is good medicine in these trying times – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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The pandemic has placed unique stresses on our community, with economic anxiety — combined with worry for the well-being of loved ones — affecting our collective mental health. That’s why it’s important to remember that Peterborough has always had the arts to bring us together. For years, artists, art therapists, and community organizations in Peterborough have worked with the shared understanding that the arts can have a beneficial effect on our mental health.

“Over the last 10 years I’ve been part of a number of art projects that engage with community members,” says John Marris, a community artist and consultant based in Peterborough. “Particularly those who face marginalization through poverty, disability and mental illness.”

Over the years — and to this day — a number of local artists in Peterborough have been involved in projects at The Mount Community Centre, the Youth Emergency Shelter (YES), Peterborough Regional Health Centre, and the Abbey Retreat Centre cancer care facility — to name only a few.

“There are many local artists involved in these projects,” says Brian Nichols, a Peterborough-based artist and psychotherapist who uses art therapy in his practice. “We don’t teach artmaking — we explore possibilities with folks who attend. It’s usually not possible to discern who is the ‘teacher’ and who is the ‘student.’ We’re all in it together, and that’s the fun of it.”

Prior to COVID-19, the open studios program at The Mount Community Centre had between 20 and 30 participants each week. Now, the program is limited to eight people who must register to attend, and must be residents at The Mount.

“Brian and I have just completed a six-week program of weekly art making sessions at The Mount for Mount residents,” says Marris. “Historically, before COVID-19, Brian was facilitating a roster of artists working in sessions that were open to the whole community to drop in and make art. This had been going on for two years.”

The pandemic has made these kinds of practices more challenging. Fortunately, there are innovative ways to work around the restrictions.

“I’ve just been involved in a pilot project where folks were sent a package of fabric and fibres, needles and thread and invited to ‘Take a Thread and Follow it,’” says Nichols. “The pilot was created for people living with health challenges.”

Nichols says he often leaves out the word “art,” as it can intimidate or exclude some people. Instead, he thinks of the practice as simply “making stuff.” The idea is to make the process as open as possible.

“Not everyone can be a Picasso,” says Marris, “but everyone has the capacity to express themselves, and needs to.”

Whether one considers oneself a serious artist or not, these kinds of programs, and the active involvement of both artists and non-artists, have been proven to have real societal benefit.

“There’s a ton of data now on some almost miraculous healing effects of immersion in various forms of art,” says Gord Langill, director of programs and services for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge. “Many mainstream community mental health programs in our communities now offer expressive arts groups and activities.”

There is great diversity in how arts and mental health can interact. There is Expressive Arts Therapy, the form of therapy Nichols employs, which is a proven tool for all sorts of healing, whether physical, mental, neurological or spiritual. There are galleries like Artspace, an artist-run centre in Peterborough, which has a history of supporting mental health recovery work. And then there are multidisciplinary arts organizations like Workman Arts — one of Langill’s favourites — which promotes a greater understanding of mental health and addiction.

“I have collaborated with Workman Arts on projects in my field of Early Psychosis Intervention, hosting visual and performance art exhibits at our conferences,” he says. “All of the work is produced by people living with mental health issues. For these shows, we brought visual art pieces and the young artists who created them from all over Ontario to our conferences in Toronto. They are always so moving for audiences, so empowering for artists.”

Many of these approaches have one thing in common: they bridge the individual creative experience with a sense of community. This can help to address mental health issues that are connected to social isolation.

“There is a lot to be said for thinking of art as a collective experience,” says Annie Jaeger, a Peterborough-based visual artist. “Sit in a theatre, or listen to music, or read the same book — it is not entirely a solitary enjoyment. I think that’s kind of profound.”

That said, it would be wrong to assume that all artists are necessarily engaged in self-therapy. Though there is plenty of evidence to support the mental health benefits of art — for individuals, as well as for the community at large — the practice of making art is multifold.

“I resist the ‘art as therapy’ characterization,” says Jaeger. “Certainly, it is therapeutic — but so is fresh air. We need it.”

What is clear is that artmaking, and the appreciation of that making, can help to create community, which is good for the mental health of us all. It can empower and enrich, providing, in Brian Nichols’ words — “another way to think about and imagine the world.”

And that world can be an interesting an inspiring place, perhaps a little brighter than the one we inhabit in the day-to-day. As the celebrated Peterborough poet PJ Thomas says in the poem “Crimson Flowers,” from the recently released collection, Undertow: “ … the weather always changes, / and we will someday have / clear sailing again.”

Tim Wilson is a freelance journalist working in Canada and Mexico. In his native Canada, for his nonfiction writing he has received a CBC Canadian Literary Award (first) and a National Magazine Award (gold). Writing as TE Wilson, he is also the author of the Detective Sánchez series of crime novels.

EC3

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This series of articles about the arts, culture and heritage sector in Peterborough is presented by the Electric City Culture Council (EC3).

EC3 is a not-for-profit service organization supporting the arts, culture and heritage sector in Peterborough and the surrounding region.

EC3 provides strategic leadership, research, resources and connections that build and strengthen the sector.

EC3, along with the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, is currently raising funds for the Peterborough Arts Alive Fund, to provide Strategic Recovery and Resilience Grants for local arts organizations affected by COVID-19. You can donate at https://cfgp.ca/project/arts-alive-fund/.

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Three to See Saturday: Churchill lights, SNAP art sale and the awesome VISSIA – Edmonton Journal

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Holiday Light Up: The Downtown Business Association is teaming up with multiple partners to add a little warm glow to the core, and being outside we can all easily keep our distance. Six installations will be rolled out at different downtown locations over the next week, lit in stages though Jan. 8 in the evenings. The first two are Transformation: Promise and Wisdom by Sharon Rose Kootenay and Jason Symington — with an assist form The Works Art & Design Festival — and Winter Wonder by Vicky Mitall, and can now be viewed at Sir Winston Churchill Square. New installations around the inner grid will be updated on the DBA website — edmontontondowntown.com/holidaylightup.

Holiday Light Up has begun on Churchill Square, adding new outdoor features over the next couple weeks. Photo by supplied

Details: Every night at — so far — Churchill Square, no charge

SNAP Annual Members Show & Sale: From personal experience I can tell you this is one of the easiest and most appreciated ways of getting your “happy season” shopping out of the way, the gift of magnificent, meticulously-crafted art — now just a click away thanks to the hated 2020 plague. That said, if you book ahead at snapartists.com, you can still wander through the space. “When people make an appointment they have the entire gallery to themselves for 30 minutes,” explains SNAP exec April Dean. “The whole show is up and framed in the gallery and it looks beautiful. There’s 85 framed prints up, ready to deck your halls, if you will.” If you can’t make it Saturday, don’t worry, show’s up though Dec. 19, at which point the hardworking staff will take a break and be back in the new year, just another thing about 2021 that’s going to be awesome.

No Feeling is Final by Laurel Westlund is on sale at SNAP. Photo by supplied
Veiled Immersion: Suspension by Liz Ingram is on sale at SNAP. Photo by supplied

Details: noon on at SNAP Gallery (10572 115 St.) or online at snapartists.com

VISSIA: If all that sounds a little too “near any other human” for you, it’s about time you spent some virtual time with local singer Alex Vissia, who’ll be having some musical quality time with her fans and having a party to celebrate the release of her new single, About Moving On. This all happens on facebook.com/vissiamusic, you can do it!

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Charlottetown's arts advisory board to compile report on public art for city council – The Guardian

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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Charlottetown city council will be receiving a report about adding public art to the downtown by the end of January.

The city’s arts advisory board met on Tuesday to begin the process of summarizing its Imagine Charlottetown initiative.

“We’re going to write a summary of our campaign and each (arts advisory) board member is going to write a page on their expertise,” said Barb MacLeod, chairwoman of the board. “We’re going to present that to city council.”

The board hosted an open house in March just before public health restrictions were introduced around the COVID-19. The goal was to give residents a sneak peek at ideas that were submitted as part of the initiative as a first step in the process.

However, everything quickly came to a halt, all but putting the process on hold. Things got moving again in late October. Board members begin soliciting expressions of interest from building owners who might be keen to have a mural placed on the side of their structure.

As with anything, money is an issue and there are bylaws to navigate around. The board wants to make sure council is as educated as possible before moving any further.

“Hopefully, if we’ve done a good job (on the report) we will start to have them consider public art as a priority for the city; something that needs attention,” said MacLeod.

The report will include various funding channels money for public art can be accessed through.

MacLeod points to the success of public art in Halifax as what is possible. The Halifax Regional Municipality facilitates the creation and acquisition of quality public art and ensures that professional artists are involved in its creation. The Halifax region has more than 250 pieces of public art projects and installations.

“We have had such incredibly fun conversations and our visions for the city are so wonderful. We’re really hoping to be able to encapsulate what we talk about in our meetings into this summary.”

MacLeod said the ultimate goal is to have public art projects and installations reflect the people of Charlottetown.

“It’s not just about putting a mural on the side of a building,” she said. “It’s about lifting up a community in so many different ways.”

Dave Stewart is the municipal reporter for The Guardian.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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