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Calgary's arts community 'cautiously optimistic' about public art program changes – LiveWire Calgary

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Balancing Act was first erected in 1989 by Calgary-based artist Roy Leadbeater. The 12-foot structure sits at the south end of the Calgary Municipal Building. THOMAS BOGDA / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The City of Calgary is officially transitioning their Public Art Program to a third-party organization, and artists are positive, if uncertain about what that means for the community.

Calgary Public Art Alliance – a group of artists and arts professionals – released an open letter on Feb. 10 criticizing the city’s decision to move the program to an external organization. Most notably, they called out the lack of consultation with the community ahead of the move.

“Probably more than anything, we’ve been a little frustrated that there are decisions that were made about public art in this city that don’t respond to actual people working in the field,” said Caitlind r.c. Brown.

Brown is one half of the local artistic duo that also includes Wayne Garrett. Both of them signed the February letter to council.

Starting this month, the City committed to an engagement and consultation process with citizens and arts professionals. It will go until mid-June before they begin looking at proposals from external organizations bidding on the program.

All of this is dependent on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bureaucracy slows Calgary public art program

Brown and Garrett say they’re “cautiously optimistic” about the changes. There’s potential to alleviate problems that plagued the current program. In particular, they said the City’s bureaucratic nature makes it difficult to engage with the public and give context to their artwork.

“What we’re talking about, specifically, is being able to communicate a public artwork, the concept, videos of it, photos of the work and writing about the work. That hasn’t always been possible when working through the City of Calgary’s channels for communication,” Brown said.

Wayne Garrett and Caitlind r.c. Brown.
CONTRIBUTED/ MIKE TAN PHOTO

“They have such a rigorous way of internally reviewing communications that you lose the dexterity of immediately being able to, say, tweet about something.”

Garrett said there are some positives moving forward.

“The biggest thing is some of the flexibility that comes with the autonomy, and so the potential for real, clear, transparent communication,” Garrett said.

Jennifer Thompson, the acting manager of arts and culture at the City, also hopes the new program will rid of the bureaucracy for artists as they interact with the program.  

Flexibility and limitation

One of the new changes the program includes is separating the program from its infrastructure mandate. That means future projects won’t be tied – in budget or location – to new infrastructure projects. Thompson said this change will help with accessibility of the artwork, which has been criticized in previous projects.

The “one per cent for art” funding that has been a staple of the Public Art Program will now be free of infrastructure budgets. It will be pooled into a capital program and granted to the external organization.

Inversely, artists are worried the separation from the municipality will threaten the potential for projects like the Chinatown Artists Residency.

That program allows artists to embed in and explore the culture of Chinatown for three months while they develop public artwork using what they’ve learned.


“Edmonton Arts Council (their arms-length organization for Public Art) has been trying unsuccessfully for two years to implement a similar project with their community in their own Chinatown, but cannot because they are not able to get to the table with the City stakeholders,” reads part of Calgary Public Art Alliance’s February letter.

Light in a time of trouble

Shauna Thompson, head curator at the Esker Foundation and a member of the Calgary Public Art Alliance, said the alliance’s meeting with the City on May 8 was positive.

“We’ll see what they come back with,” she said.

“We really put it back on them to say, what can you offer? How do you foresee this working? They’ve been receptive to that, and I think they want to see the program succeed and they’ve committed to working with us.

“The best-case scenario is that the program can become something that is more responsive, more nimble, closer to the community, and more in service of artists and citizens outside of the cage of bureaucracy,” she said.

“That’s definitely what we’re all hoping for.”

Thompson, Brown and Garrett are all excited about the future of the Alliance and what it means for the future of the arts community. Thompson said she’s never seen the arts community rally together the way it has now.

Brown said she’s observed how people are turning to art of all disciplines during this pandemic. She said she sees people gaining a new understanding of how art can fit in our lives.

“It’s something that you turn to when you have everything and something that you turn to when you have nothing,” she said.

“I think that’s so wonderful.”

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Art will suffer if online displays are the norm – Asia Times

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Almost 15 years ago, a group of artists, filmmakers, curators and critics came together at the Oberhausen Film Festival in western Germany to discuss the introduction of a new technological medium: YouTube.

How would watching film and video online differ from regular venues such as cinemas or the Oberhausen festival itself, which played an important role in European art-house cinema?

Would films be meaningful in the same way – watched alone, in poor resolution, on a computer – rather than on the big screen by a community that had come together to see them?

“They’re like photocopies,” said the curator, Stuart Comer. Comer, now chief curator for media and performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, argued that while watching videos on YouTube was not the same as watching 35mm film on the big screen, home viewing served a different function, and there was room for both.

It’s interesting to think back to that debate now. Many of the early qualms around online viewership have since been ironed out. The quality of streaming has gotten better. Museums and artists run dedicated channels, instead of the free-for-all of early YouTube days when historical films were often altered – edited, overlaid, given new soundtracks – and passed off as original.

We now know that audiences will watch a film from start to finish. This had been another fear, that without the social contract of buying a ticket and sitting in a cinema space, spectators would dip in and out, catching glimpses rather than following a story.

In 2020, with the Covid-19 lockdown, we are lucky to have YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and other streaming and sharing platforms, but we should also be grateful that the platforms have been around long enough to generate material made for online consumption.

In most cases, we are now not watching “photocopies” of films transferred to the small screen, but works made for the small screen in the first instance.

It is unclear whether the traditional art world – the one of paintings, installations and sculpture – is now in a transition similar to that of the film industry a decade ago.

Museums are digitizing whole rooms of paintings; commercial galleries and art fairs are hastily constructing online selling platforms; and Google Arts & Culture, a digitization project reaching back to 2011, is being recommended by schools as a lockdown activity.

Will these be seen as photocopies, a temporary fix until the era of social distancing subsides? Or will art organizations, some of which have been buoyed by a stratospheric rise in online audience figures, continue these platforms once lockdowns end?

The answer won’t be driven by fidelity to the experience of seeing work “in the flesh,” but by economics. Museums and galleries will face significant budget shortfalls when they begin to open up, whether because of a curtailment in public funding, reductions in private donations or months of loss of revenue.

Exhibition commitments will come stacked upon one another as postponed shows are folded in among future programing, while works meant to be lent out to one place might be needed elsewhere or back home (or might just be too expensive to ship).

Online exhibitions will most likely persist for some time to fulfill these logistical needs – and they might well continue afterwards as an inexpensive strand of quantifiable audience engagement.

But we shouldn’t be lured into thinking that online engagement is a consequence-free decision. Like most instances of outsourcing to technology, online exhibitions mean job losses: the technicians, the restorers, the authenticators, the shippers, the insurers, the guides and the guards who enable the public showing of precious objects.

These roles support others: the technician might be an emerging artist, the guide a student, while conservators and guards might support families at home. Artworks might be digitizable for those who simply want at look at them, but not for the people who make their living in the trade. The art world hinges on the buying, selling, preserving and showing of material goods.

The economic impact goes beyond the art world. For years the trump card of the arts, when it was making its case for public support, has been its economic multiplier effect. For every £1 spent on the arts by Arts Council England, the government recoups £5 in taxes, the Arts Council found in 2015.

The “Bilbao effect,” pertaining to the economic transformation wrought on the northern Spanish city of Bilbao after Guggenheim Bilbao was established there, has dominated numerous city development strategies in the decades since – including, arguably, that of Abu Dhabi. And the argument continues to be made by international consultants, who show how visitors head to F&B outlets, gift shops and hotels after viewing museum exhibitions –benefits likewise not likely to be recouped digitally.

What the crowd in Oberhausen was concerned about all those years ago was YouTube’s effect on its community of filmmakers, curators and critics. As museums and galleries move to online exhibitions, they need to understand that they are risking much more than the loss of authenticity of experience.

This article was provided by Syndication Bureau, which holds copyright.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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Art school in Penticton forced to vacate historic home during pandemic – CBC.ca

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A 60-year-old arts school in B.C.’s Okanagan is scrambling to find a new home after the Penticton school district opted not to renew the lease.

The Okanagan School of the Arts says it’s being booted from the historic Shatford Centre in Penticton, B.C., where it’s rented space for community groups and hosted art, music and theatre classes for the past 10 years.

The school has leased the building from Okanagan Skaha School District 67 for the past decade. 

The district has asked the school to clear out by June 30 when the lease ends. Kim Palmer, the school’s executive director, says it faces the “enormous task” of emptying the building within weeks.

The school, she said, is filled with valuable and specialized equipment, including pianos, commercial kitchen appliances and art supplies. 

“At the moment, we don’t know where it will go,” she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the school in March, eliminating its rental and programming revenue.

The school leased the century-old building for a dollar a year but was responsible for maintenance, utilities and insurance. When discussing the June lease renewal, the arts school asked the district to cover $80,000 in operating costs and keep the site running for the community.

Palmer said, in response, the district told her the lease would not be renewed and to vacate the building by the end of the month. 

She said the province’s  emergency order protecting small-business tenants from eviction during the pandemic does not apply to the school, given its yearly $1 lease.

Priority is spending on students, district says

School District 67 chair James Palanio said the district can’t afford to keep the school afloat.

The arts school has spent about $2 million on maintenance over the past 10 years but more is needed and the district can’t afford it, he said.

“We just can’t spend anywhere other than on the kids,” Palanio said on CBC’s Daybreak South.

Palanio said the district is not evicting the arts school. He said it failed to provide insurance information in January when the lease renewal came up. The school only submitted its proposal in late May, he said.

“We have our own deadlines to meet as well,” he said. 

The district has no plans to sell the building, Palanio said, and will be eyeing future plans for the site in late fall.

Palmer said the arts school is also looking at other locations.

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Inuit artist's works featured in Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art – Nunatsiaq News

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This untitled drawing by Kinngait artist Qavavau Manumie is one of eight works by him included in an exhibition that opens today at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The exhibit, “The Penumbral Age: Art in the Time of Planetary Change,” runs until Sept. 13. You can view the exhibition online. (Photo courtesy of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative)

By Nunatsiaq News

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