This summer, the Winnipeg Art Gallery published a letter written by Winnipeg-based Nigerian artist Chukwudubem Ukaigwe in response to the injustice and police brutality Black and Indigenous communities experienced.
Though we know this targeted violence persists on a systemic level, I found it interesting that the WAG would publish a letter addressing this type of violence — but would not take this as an opportunity to publicly acknowledge their shortcomings to promote and support Black artists and address the anti-Blackness within their organization’s landscape.
When confronted last year about the poetic demonstration at the gallery lead by Black artists in the community, a WAG official said he totally agreed with Ukaigwe’s callout, going on to say he believes there is room for more representation of Black artists, and is open to learning more on what the students want to see.
If we can say the WAG is “open to learning,” they had nearly over a century to do so (since the founding in 1912).
What seems obvious for people frustrated with the lack of diversity within the walls of different art galleries is the general lack of consideration and implementation for showcasing Black art.
Black artists have been subjected to this anti-Black racism in the cultural sector as an afterthought — or not even thought about at all, in major curatorial decisions.
When you’re one of Canada’s most prestigious arts institutions and remark that you’re “open to learn” and “there’s room for more representation,” it conveys that Black artists were never in the institutional plans from the beginning. Only when people publicly call out these institutions do they respond.
It begs some deeper questions. Where would we be without the call to action we saw this summer? Would there have ever been this amount of attention in a summer that wasn’t drowning in “white guilt?” And what will it take to restructure the Canadian art world that excludes our artists and histories?
In this week’s episode of Uncensored, titled White Walls, we respond to the Eurocentrism of the Winnipeg and Canadian art world.
Information Radio – MB13:21Uncensored with Alexa Joy Episode 5
Sally Frater, the current curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Guelph, and Winnipeg’s own Allison Yearwood, executive director of the Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art, expanded on this dialogue, calling attention to the performative attempts galleries display to increase inclusion and representation.
“We need staff members who represent the underrepresented communities. We need Black voices curating Black artists, versus other people borrowing pieces of us again and again,” Yearwood says.
Both Yearwood and Frater stress the importance of this responsibility to involve Black curators and arts administrations within the artistic infrastructure.
“There needs to be a commitment in supporting Black artists,” Frater said. “We need to be a part of the infrastructure and there needs to be a commitment on the part of non-Black curators as well, to be familiar with the practice of Black artists.”
It’s not just the Winnipeg Art Gallery we’re talking about. There’s a deep-rooted problem amongst numerous arts collectives and galleries throughout the city.
This summer, Ace Art Inc. acknowledged their lack of accountability, in prioritizing support and space for Black artists and creatives alike. Most arts collectives and organizations in the city are overwhelmingly white, contributing to the Eurocentric culture of the arts scene.
Don’t believe me? Just go on the arts organizations’ staff lists. They speak for themselves.
Personally, after working with more than 10 arts organizations, consulting and hosting artists events, running a film festival and performing in Winnipeg, it’s safe to say we need more than a statement saying there is “room for representation.”
The next time you’re at a Winnipeg gallery and see nothing but white on the walls, maybe ask yourself, is this what you want to see?
If not, help make it better.
Uncensored — a show airing on CBC’s Information Radio, Thursdays at 7:35 a.m. CT — explores the realities facing Black communities in Canada, including Manitoba.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
GRT public art display misused to display hate symbol in Cambridge – KitchenerToday.com
A quick response from the region’s transit provider after a hate symbol was briefly seen on Sunday on the Cambridge Centre Mall transit terminal’s public art display.
Peter Zinck is the Director of Transit Services for the Region of Waterloo – speaking with 570 NEWS, he said that the station’s pinboard had been manipulated to show a swastika and that the behaviour was promptly addressed by GRT staff in under an hour.
“We’ve turned the matter over to police, who will investigate. We will be fully supporting their investigation in any way that GRT can.”
Zinck said that the report came through from a media service on Sunday morning around 9:00 a.m. Staff members were sent to the Cambridge Centre station to re-arrange the board before forwarding the issue to regional police. He said that Grand River Transit places a high priority on these kinds of issues – whether it’s a public art display or a reported piece of graffiti.
When asked about problematic behaviour with the pin-board display and whether a decision would be considered to remove it, Zinck said that this is the first reported circumstance of the public art piece being misused in this way.
“Hopefully this is just a one-off, and that people recognize this is there for public art and not for use of hate symbols.”
Zinck said that Grand River Transit remains committed to providing a safe environment for all riders and that they condemn symbols of hate or racial intolerance without reservation.
He added that if members of the public see anything like this on transit, they can report the behaviour on GRT’s website or through their call centre.
“… it’s just not acceptable on our services. We’ll deal with the matter quickly, and follow-up through the Waterloo Regional Police Services to ensure it’s investigated.”
Squamish Art Walk on tap – Squamish Chief
In a year where events of all types have been wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s comforting that a couple of cornerstones will be returning, albeit in a different form.
The Squamish Arts Council’s annual Art Walk is set to run from Nov. 1 to 28, with some pandemic adaptations, of course.
Executive director Amy Liebenberg said that while the number of participating artists, at roughly 25, is consistent with past years, there are understandably fewer hosting venues in 2020.
“They’re either not open or not interested in encouraging excess clientele, especially if they’re just coming to look and not necessarily coming to patronize the business,” she said.
The venues taking part this year as Zephyr Café, Saha Eatery, Squamish Academy of Music, Northyards Cider, the Squamish Public Library, The Ledge Community Coffee House, Andy Anissimoff Gallery and Britannia Mine Museum.
While the event’s art-viewing element is similar to years past, the more radical change has to do with studio tours and other artist interaction, as many of the studios are small and not suited to welcoming the public for a peek behind the curtain at this time.
Instead, artists will share “the tools they use, the processes they use and how their wonderful, creative imaginations transform ordinary materials into the magic you see all around,” Liebenberg said. The tours will be available on Instagram by searching the hashtag #squamishartist.
“Enjoy the behind-the-scenes tours and enjoy what these incredible artists are making,” she said.
As well, the Anonymous Art Show will be back for a second go-around.
“We have some of the most amazing artists I’ve ever known who live and work in Squamish and so it’s going to be really fun to have them back again for some Anonymous Art Show pieces,” she said.
Artists will submit their pieces by early November, while the show is set for Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
“You hope to be the first in line to grab a piece that most delights you,” she said.
Introducing our Zephyr Cafe location of collaborative art work that will be displayed for our Art Walk program launching…
In terms of participants, Liebenberg said there are always a few surprises, as last year, there were several who hadn’t painted in many years if ever before, while there were some who work in a different medium, such as textiles, trying their hands at something new.
Liebenberg said that with many artists having had tough times this year, they would appreciate a purchase or, at the very least, a message of support for a job well done.
“Our creative community deserves all of our support and a big round of applause for continuing to do some pretty heavy emotional lifting on behalf of the community,” she said.
For more, visit squamishartscouncil.com.
Foyer Gallery set for fundraiser
One of the Art Walk participants, Foyer Gallery at the Squamish Public Library, will hold a fundraising event of its own in November.
The gallery was unable to host its traditional events, a May gala with an exhibit in the lead-up, where for a $50 sponsorship, patrons can take part in a “raffle for art” event.
This year, supporters are encouraged to take part in a pay-what-you-can campaign of sponsorship. Each supporter will be entered into a random draw for one of six pieces of artwork by a local artist or a one-on-one virtual art lesson from curator and painting instructor Toby Jaxon. To donate, head to squamishlibrary.ca.
“We formatted it and decided that we’d take a stab at getting some donations before 2020 ends,” she said with a chuckle.
Among the artists donating pieces are three volunteers, also known as the “hanging crew” for their work installing new exhibits monthly or, now during COVID, every six weeks: 20-plus-year veteran Fran Solar, 13-year helper Linda Wagner and, in her third year, relative newbie Karen Yaremkewich.
The three have not only diverse mediums, with Wagner being an oil painter, Yaremkewich being a fabric artist and Solar working with metal, but they also have distinct skills when installing the shows.
“Fran is a master at creating interesting vignettes. We’ve got these three beautiful display cases, so that’s her specialty. Linda, she’s super gifted at figuring out where all the wall art should go and coordinating the pieces based on size and style and colours. Karen, she’s really proactive at moving the inventory around, getting up on the ladder—and it doesn’t hurt that she’s super tall,” Jaxon said.
Jaxon added that she’s also been creating virtual versions of the galleries so visitors can decide if there’s a piece they’d like to see more closely or purchase before arriving, especially given the library’s limited hours.
Yellowknife drugstore stocking local art for holiday season – Cabin Radio
Craft sales face a tricky time this holiday season, so a downtown Yellowknife drugstore is stepping in to provide shelf space for local artisans.
Sutherland’s Drugs will spend several weeks setting aside room for the city’s craftspeople to sell their goods. Pharmacy owner Aaron LaBorde said the store wants to give back to customers and the arts community.
“We’re just trying to help some [customers] that otherwise, in a regular year, would have had the opportunity to attend some shows and stuff like that,” LaBorde told Cabin Radio.
“And of course, support the local artisans and give people a little bit of a chance to buy stuff that was produced locally.
“With the way the things are this year, it’s something that we thought would be a nice thing to do for the town.”
While some of the city’s usual festive craft fairs are going ahead, others have been cancelled outright and even those proceeding will have restrictions on numbers.
LaBorde said a couple of artists have already reached out to the store, looking to participate. Sutherland’s can’t guarantee everyone’s items will be displayed, but is trying to assess the level of interest from the arts community.
“We’re a local business here too, and we appreciate all the support that we get,” LaBorde said.
“We’ve been really trying our best to support other local businesses … just to try to improve the situation here in Yellowknife, because that’s where everybody’s at right now.”
Those interested in selling their products at Sutherland’s this Christmas are encouraged to call the store at (867) 873-4555.
This coverage of the NWT’s business sector during the Covid-19 pandemic is sponsored by the NWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment. Visit Buy North for more information on businesses near you.
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