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Bringing art into public spaces can improve the social fabric of a city – The Conversation CA

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You don’t need to look far to see the impact of art in public spaces. Art can connect us to place and record history as it unfolds.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stories on the importance of public art are being told globally. And this isn’t new. Times of crisis have often inspired some of the most influential artistic movements.

Displaying visual symbols of resistance publicly, like the face of George Floyd, can connect social movements across the world. And in Canada, the display of statues like Egerton Ryerson have been deemed unacceptable as we reckon with our ongoing colonial history.

Public art can be defined as art that is available to the general public outside of museums and galleries; publicly funded; and related to the interests or concerns of, and used by a public community.

Public art is referred to by some as creative placemaking: a process of artistic creation and collaboration that helps to shape the surrounding built, natural and social environments.

An elderly woman walks past a mural that depicts a Black health-care worker wearing a blue face mask and scrubs.
An elderly woman walks past a mural that pays tribute to health-care workers in Toronto, Ont.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

For French philosopher Jacques Rancière, art is disruptive. Done right, he says, it can make the spectator rethink their understanding of politics and society by calling to attention previously hidden inequalities.

For many, the power of public art rests in its ability to turn artistic practice into a social practice. It challenges the viewer to confront social issues that affect the very place they stand.

Art in times of crisis

COVID-19 is just one example of a period of shared adversity when our connection to the arts has flourished. The Dadaists’ commentary on the 1918 flu reflected an intense and collectively frustrated desire for meaning in a world filled with chaos.

During the Great Depression, the arts became increasingly experimental. In the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal saw the largest public art funding initiative the country had seen. A few decades later, in the 1980s, provinces and municipalities in Canada followed suit and began significantly investing in public art.

A man stands infront of a mural depicting Bernie Sanders. The word demos is written above.
A mural inspired by a photo of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders bundled up and wearing mittens and a face mask at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on a legal graffiti wall at the Leeside Tunnel skateboard park in Vancouver.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Protest music during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War expressed anger, despair and hope. Gay artists and writers during the AIDS crisis memorialized a collective grief that was being either ignored or vilified. The art from both eras came at an immense cost, and has been profoundly culturally and socially influential.

Today, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated inequalities that were already present.




Read more:
Coronavirus discriminates against Black lives through surveillance, policing and the absence of health data


But there has also been engagement and social solidarity: from Black Lives Matter, to the Indigenous Land Back movement and support for unhoused people.

Those who have the privilege not to pay attention are finding this option less viable. This engagement arguably comes with its own set of problems, but it is a momentum that can be built upon to imagine and do the work needed to create better futures for society.

Artists are well positioned to do this creative imagining.

Art beyond the gallery

As we each search for meaning throughout our intensely local and geographically limited lives during the pandemic, public art finds, creates and shares the beauty, joy and solidarity that can be found in public spaces.

Galleries are often isolated from the communities in geographical proximity. They have often been places of exclusion, and have historically served to uphold a dominant, European settler-centred narrative. They have played a role in perpetuating colonial and racist attitudes towards Indigenous communities, their art and histories.

Indigenous artists have long been challenging these narratives. Mainstream art is catching on, and there has been an unprecedented level of Indigenous representation and leadership within gallery spaces in recent decades.

People walk past paintings in a museum.
Galleries can often be places of exclusion that uphold colonial and racist attitudes.
(Unsplash/Diogo Fagundes)

This leadership should shape public art in Canada. Public spaces, like art galleries, have also privileged some more than others. Bringing art outside of the gallery space is not a catch-all solution. What matters more is how it’s done.

Toronto’s year of public art

In Toronto, the municipal government has announced that its “Year of Public Art” will begin in the fall with a total budget of $4.5 million in 2021. This is the inauguration of a 10-year public art plan. It responds to calls for an improved public art strategy, with a greater commitment to equity in the location of installations, the level of engagement with communities and the artists who create works.

Toronto has promised a strong commitment to Indigenous self-determination, leadership and placemaking within its public art strategy.

The city’s public art installations have increased in the past 50 years, with over 700 installations added between 1967 and 2015.

Toronto’s Percent for Public Art program, a commonly used strategy in cities in North America and Europe, encourages developers to donate one per cent of their gross construction costs towards public art in their development’s direct vicinity.

The program is voluntary though. And because most development is happening in the downtown core, this is where public art has been concentrated, meaning neighbourhoods with less development have received less investment in public art.

Nonetheless, the city is home to a multiplicity of adept communities and talented artists who continue to use public art to build community capacity and foster social inclusion.

Listening to artists of diverse backgrounds and elevating communities to participate meaningfully will support important conversations that determine our collective future. And that makes the investment in public art worthwhile for us all.

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Open Studios and Drive-By Art returns to Jamestown on August 7 – What'sUpNewp

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Open Studios and Drive-By Art returns to Conanicut Island on Saturday, August 7 from 10 am – 5 pm. Jointly hosted by the Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) and Conanicut Island Art Association (CIAA), Open Studios is a one-day, island-wide event where participating artists invite the public into their studios or to see their work outside while passing by. 

There are more than 30 participating artists across the island as well as groups of artists with pop-up displays at Out of the Box Studio and Gallery and behind the JAC on Douglas Street. From 10 am to 3 pm at the Community Mural Wall at the JAC, all are welcome to join in a participatory project called the “People’s Patchwork,” which will offer coloring sheets based on the Ohio Star quilting pattern.  

Participating artists of Open Studios and Drive-By Art include: Shirley Bell, Coffee Bell, Kathleen Caswell, Rose M Chase, Clancy Designs Glass Studio, Bernie Courtney, Daniel Dunn, Joannie Ellie, David Gagnon, Joanne Koehler, Deb Lichtenstein, Sue Mailloux, Jody Pandelidis, Wilson Pollock, Elaine S Porter, Christopher T Terry, Ernie Wulff, Honest Forms, Jillian Barber, Looking Upwards, Peter Diepenbrock, Peter Marcus, Kelly McDermott, Rick Meli, Out of the Box Studio and Gallery, Melanie Saunders, Susan Schaffer, Gillian Stoneburner, Didi Suydam, Brad Vaccaro, and Christi Work. 

Maureen Coleman, Executive Director of the JAC, explains “Last summer, we expanded the number of participating artists and added outdoor Drive-By Art as a way to bring art to the community during the peak COVID-19 restrictions. The community was so enthusiastic that we are continuing with that expanded format this summer. Jamestown is home to so many talented artists, so it’s exciting to have this one day of special inside access to their studios and artwork. With more than 30 artists participating, there’s a huge variety of artwork to explore!”

An interactive tour map is available on the JAC’s website: jamestownartcenter.org/events/open-studios. It provides full details on participating artists, their location, hours, and more. Flyers will be available at the JAC beginning at 10 am on August 7 or the map can be accessed on your mobile phone for point-to-point directions. In case of inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, August 8 from 10 am – 5 pm. 

At a Glance: 

WHO: Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) and Conanicut Island Art Association (CIAA) bring together 30+ local artists

WHAT: Open Studios and Drive-By Art

WHERE: Artist studios throughout Jamestown, detailed map available at jamestownartcenter.org/events/open-studios 

WHEN: Saturday, August 7, 10 am – 5 pm (rain date on Sunday, August 8) 

The Jamestown Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts space that hosts art exhibits, theatre, dance and musical performances, film screenings, and educational programming including artist talks and hands-on art classes for all ages. The JAC opened in 2010 in a former boat repair shop redesigned by award winning architects Estes/Twombly. Since 2014, it’s won 5 of Rhode Island Monthly’s ‘Best of Rhode Island’ awards, including the Editor’s Pick for Outdoor Art in 2021.

Programming partners include: Heifetz International Music Institute, FirstWorks, RISCA, FabNewport, RISD, Manhattan Short Film Festival, SENE Film Festival, Spectrum Theatre, Providence Art and Design Film Festival, Island Moving Company, the Jamestown Schools, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, The Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Acting & Directing Program and many individual artists and local organizations. The Jamestown Arts Center has quickly become a leading arts and cultural hub for Rhode Island and beyond, where creativity, ideas, and innovation flourish. For more information visit: jamestownartcenter.org

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By Robynblair Talks The Art Of Merchandise And Collaborations – Forbes

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Making a living as an artist today isn’t easy. Financial success is extremely rare. Merchandise and collaborations are two of the best ways to spread brand awareness and establish a loyal customer base. And no one has mastered this quite the way Instagram’s “Candy Artist” Robyn Blair Davidson aka by robynblair has.

With prices for her work starting at $3200 for an original 16 x 24 inch piece, these ventures have allowed the artist’s brand to grow. “Many collectors absolutely start off high-end and become repeat customers whenever I have a new drop. However, I know that other clients are saving up for their first custom piece, but get their fix on the lower price-point items,” Davidson tells me. 

Sweet Beginnings

After her brand started to grow in popularity in 2018, the artist launched her first collaboration with Name Glo. “I was a client of theirs before I started by my brand. Right in the beginning, the founders and I went to lunch and I told them about my art and how happy I was about the piece I made for myself. Right then and there we decided to join forces, making my pieces with their neon on top.” 

That grew into a pop-up at American Two Shot in Soho, which then turned into a spot at the Affordable Art Fair with Art Star. “As luck would have it, the Vice President of Home from Bergdorf Goodman walked through, saw our pieces, and asked us to be their next Artist in Residence. It was an incredible journey and I was so glad to do it together with Name Glo.”

Davidson feels she made smart business decisions from the beginning, and expanding the brand early was a logical step. “It was important to me that from the beginning I could offer different price points to my clients. My goal at the end of the day is truly to make people happy and smile through my art and my designs.”

Making Art Accessible

Davidson has always felt it’s important to diversify her offerings because it allows as many people as possible to enjoy her work. “I love that I can offer the principles behind my brand at various price points. It’s huge for taking a business like mine to the next step, especially since the core product is on the higher end.” 

The theme and vibe of Davidson’s work truly lends itself to a variety of products and merchandise. For example, the lollipop swirl placemats and coasters coordinate perfectly with her art. 

The cake serving set is another example of her sophisticated approach to brand expansion. While it is packaged in a sprinkle print box, the pieces have modern white handles and the blade features Davidson’s signature statement box reading “Eat Cake.” At $85, it’s accessibly priced and a great introduction to the brand.

But Davidson is extremely particular. She doesn’t just slap her name or branding on any product. “I like to start with the story,” she says, “For me, if there isn’t a good story behind a piece or collection, it isn’t worth building out. For example, with the Hostess Collection, the story was that we all wanted to gather again. And with our placemats and coasters, I made sure that your gathering would be that much sweeter.”

There are also has several less expensive, giftable merchandise offerings including baseball caps, iPhone cases she designed with Off My Case, as well as puzzles.

The Queen Of Collaboration

Davidson has collaborated and co-branded a list of products. This includes Mini Melanie cookie boxes, Baby Noomie children’s pajamas, Apparis furry flip-flops, as well as with Stephanie Gottlieb on a jewelry box.

Most recently, the artist created keepsake acrylic boxes with celebrity-lauded brand BondEye Jewelry (Olivia Rodrigo and Gabrielle Union are fans) on a box that was sent out to their VIP customers. “I love projects like this, especially when I know my art will be seen by new people and used in a special way. I’m also a huge fan of Jess [Klein, the founder] personally and professionally,” she tells me. 

Still, Davidson is still very particular about who she works with. “It’s important for me to make sure the collab makes sense for both brands, and do more long-term ventures together instead of the quick, one-offs that are definitely tempting, but not as sweet.”

Three Cheers 

In summer 2021, Davison launched a line of Spritzy Rosé with Cooper’s Hawk featuring three colorful ombre-style labels. She was also very involved with product development, even doing a tasting with Tim McEnery, who founded the brand. “The Cooper’s Hawk collab was the dream scenario for me,” the artist says. “I love rosé and was so excited when they reached out to me. The team at Cooper’s Hawk offered me complete creative control, which was both gratifying and humbling. Together we made a set of wine that I am incredibly proud of.”

Cooper’s Hawk Winery produces approximately 700k cases of wine each year and has received over 500 awards in various local, national, and international wine competitions.

What’s Next

As for the future, Davison plans to continue her very successful business model. “I am very intentional with the projects I pursue, and make sure that in each category I partner with the best or I consult with experts to make sure everything I launch is a success. I am very proud of this because I know how easy it is to spread yourself thin and just do it all.”

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Culture camp teaching about world through art – Toronto Star

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Habitat of the Arts is open for the summer and with that comes all of their amazing new camps.

A new camp that just started this year is the culture camp

Habitat usually has art camps, even theatre camps, but they felt that they were missing something.

With the unfortunate events of COVID the past year, Jasper hasn’t had many of its usual international visitors.

“It may not have much to do with our youth, but the whole community cannot help but feel that void,” said Marianne Garrah, director of Habitat for the Arts.

Heritage Canada has come out with some grants to renew and revive the arts.

“Why not make art more visible when our visitors return? How can we do that? How can we include our youth?” Garrah asked.

And with that came the first year of the culture camp.

Habitat noticed a need to engage our youth in art and education and build towards an appreciation for the world that chooses Jasper for their holidays.

Tina Byrd will be running the camp. She has designed the program on what she would have loved to have had access to when she was young.

“Imagine being 10 and being given all the tools and paint and inspiring enthusiastic instructor and the freedom to just do,” Garrah said.

Besides running the culture camp, Byrd also works at the elementary school.

The culture camp is all geared towards learning about the world through the power of art.

Jasper relies a lot on its visitors. But how much do youth know about where they come from?

“How do we ensure our youth appreciate the cultures that come here?” Garrah asked.

The culture camp has guests coming to share their real-world experiences with the youth.

A couple of the cultures that the youth will learn about will be Mexico, Indigenous Canada and Africa. Each day, they will also get to try food from the country of the day.

The camp is similarly designed from the multicultural night that Habitat of the Arts ran in previous years.

The camp starts on Aug. 2 and will run up until Aug. 13, ending with a fair in the park, weather permitting.

The kids will be designing their own “fair” throughout the duration of the camp.

“I think we underestimate the potential to consult youth when it comes to community engagement,” Garrah said.

The kids will get to make masks, paint like impressionists, create mandalas and learn about colour and even Bhangra dance.

The camp will highlight the need for youth to engage in the arts for diversity and inclusion.

The youth will be distanced for health and safety and making as much art as they can in the nine days.

There are only a few spots left, so contact arts@iotad.ca for details.

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