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Climate change themes everywhere in Canadian art



Brett Story made a film about climate change that doesn’t once use the phrase.

Instead, “The Hottest August” walks a camera down everyday streets and asks people: “How do you feel about the future?”

“I was reflecting on my own disinterest in watching climate change films, despite a very profound investment and sense of the stakes,” said the Toronto-based filmmaker, whose work has won awards around the world.

“One of my own frustrations with a lot of climate change films is that they assume the problem is that we don’t have information. For me, there’s a different set of questions I wanted to ask.”

Canadian artists from singers to sculptors are doing the same. From writer Margaret Atwood’s climate fiction, or cli-fi, “MaddAddam” trilogy to an upcoming album from singer/songwriter Grimes, climate change permeates Canadian art.

“Climate is a hugely prominent topic and has been for a little while,” said Julian Carrington, programmer for Toronto’s Hot Docs and Planet In Focus documentary festivals. “It’s not niche anymore.”

“Absolutely,” said Mia Feuer, a Winnipeg-born sculptor teaching at the California College of the Arts. “As a grad student, I don’t remember climate issues being addressed in people’s work. I would say now, it’s absolutely everywhere.”

The challenge is to make work that addresses an inescapable fact of modern life without churning out agitprop.

“We’re not just getting together and making signs to take to the protest,” Feuer said.

For some, climate change is a new lens through which to look at some old themes.

“Where do we as individuals fit with society? Where does society fit with nature?” asks Edmonton poet Alice Major, whose most recent collection is titled “Welcome to the Anthropocene.”

“That just kind of grew constantly in me and that’s what the title poem is about — where do we belong?”

For others, the work itself raises the issue.

Feuer often uses petroleum-based materials such as Styrofoam. One afternoon, she was sitting on the banks of the Suez Canal watching tankers glide by.

“It was almost like a light bulb fired off in my mind. I needed to understand where these materials come from.”

Eventually, that led to work such as “An Unkindness,” an assemblage of what looks like oil-soaked industrial detritus that has shown in Washington’s prestigious Corcoran Gallery.

Whatever the inspiration, art isn’t a lecture, said Marcus Youssef, a Vancouver playwright whose one-hander “Dust” has been performed across North America.

“We as humans have a natural resistance to being hectored,” he said.

“(Art) is a perspective that isn’t didactic. It reflects some sort of human response to the question that has the potential to affect people more deeply or in a surprising way.”

Not that artists are averse to changing people’s behaviour. They just think there’s a better way than haranguing them.

“I like to make films that respect audiences and give people space to do thinking and feeling on their own terms,” Story said.

“That’s what art can do — make us both feel alive and also able to see things differently. I think that’s a precondition to being political actors in the world.”

“There’s a potential through the arts to connect in an emotional way, in a spiritual way,” said Feuer. “That might be how people might be moved to seek out change, to ask bigger questions.”

Major agrees.

“Poetry is not a screwdriver. It’s not something you have clearly defined results from.

“Poetry comes out of something happening in our hearts and good poetry does connect. That connection — you have no idea what comes out of that, but it could be a small motivation to pay attention.”

Audiences are receptive. Major said “Welcome to Anthropocene” drew reviews and attention as far afield as Los Angeles.

When Feuer showed her work in Calgary, “it was very positive.”

“I was hesitant to show it, (but) it had a great reception.”

Good art, including art about climate change, brings people together, said Youssef.

“One of the places where political art can fall is that it makes it easy to go, ‘Oh, that’s the bad guy.’ I actually don’t believe there is a bad guy.

“It’s trying to find the humour and humanity in everybody, the recognition of the degree in which we are all complicit.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2019.

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Students explore art themes in Re/LAUNCH/ing, vol. 3



With school back in session, a new collaborative art project has been launched.

Re/LAUNCH/ing is aimed at hitting the same high notes that its predecessor with.draw.all did, but with the added emphasis on the intrinsic value of art to the artist.

Each month, will be displaying an online gallery of art created by high school students. October’s rendition features 12 creations from students at Paul Kane, Bellerose and St. Albert Catholic High.

Aisling ConneelyArtist: Aisling Conneely
Grade 11
Title: Bike Rack
Artist’s Statement: “This is an ink pen project of a bike rack. The most challenging part of this project was the amount of pens I went through!”
Sienna McEachernArtist: Sienna McEachern
Grade 11
Title: Bikes
Artist’s Statement: “My art displays the gears and parts of a bike. At times I struggled to capture the intricate details within the gears and spokes.”
Morgan PetrasArtist: Morgan Petras
Grade 11
Felt pen wash
Title: Suburbs
Artist’s Statement: “This is a perspective drawing done in the suburbs, then I used water based markers to create the felt pen wash.”
Caitlyn KurylowichArtist: Caitlyn Kurylowich
Grade 11
Felt pen wash
Title: Treehouse
Artist’s Statement: “This treehouse/boat is created using water based markers.”
GroupStilllife1Artists: Adam Steffes, Josh DeWitt and Taeghen Brezovski
Grades 11 and 12
Graphite pencil and charcoal
Title: Still Life
Artists’ Statement from Sam Mudryk and Josh DeWitt: “When COVID-19 unexpectedly hit our society, life felt so uncertain and stressful. Having the option to stay creative at home was a great way to keep busy during the lockdown. However, when school ended in June, it was hard to pick the pencil up again with the world moving at such a fast pace. Coming into art this second quarter has allowed my imagination to generate so much creativity and has been such an artistic release. I feel very fortunate to be able to have the chance to express myself and relax during such a difficult time.”
GroupStillLife2Artists: Sam Mudryk and Robyn Hickle
Grades 11 and 12
Graphite pencil and charcoal
Title: Still Life Start Up
Artists’ Statement: (see above)
Lauryn Taylor2Artist: Lauryn Taylor
Grade 10
Soft pastel and NuPastel
Title: Gunter
Claire BeauchesneArtist: Claire Beauchesne
Grade 10
Soft pastel and NuPastel
Title: Cow

Source:- St. Albert TODAY

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'Imagine Van Gogh' art show coming to Vancouver with 'exceptional COVID-19 measures' – Agassiz-Harrison Observer



More than 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings are coming to Vancouver for what’s billed as an “immersive exhibition” from Europe.

The touring “Imagine Van Gogh” show will feature works by the Dutch master at Vancouver Convention Centre starting in February 2021, with a ticket pre-sale period already underway.

The exhibition has sold more than 300,000 tickets in Canada this year in Montreal, Quebec City and Winnipeg, and is now set to debut in Vancouver.

“Exceptional COVID-19 Measures” are promised by show presenters Encore Productions, Paquin Entertainment Group, Tandem Expositions and Fimalac Entertainment.

“The exhibition is a contactless experience,” notes a news release from Artsbiz Public Relations. “A limited number of guests will be allowed in on a timed-entry basis, hand sanitizer will be provided, physical distancing of two metres will be required, and masks will be mandatory upon entering. The exhibition will adhere to all safety guidelines established by the B.C. government.”

The tour website says the Winnipeg exhibit site is temporarily closed due to current COVID regulations in that city.

(Story continues below video)

[embedded content]

The website promises “visitors wander amongst giant projections of the artist’s paintings, swept away by every brushstroke, detail, painting medium and colour.”

Created by French artistic directors Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, “Imagine Van Gogh” involves an “immersive concept” that transports the viewer “on a journey to the heart of the artist’s work,” according to an event advisory. “The exhibit brings Van Gogh’s canvases to life in a vivid, spectacular way; the audience will literally enter the artist’s world of dreams.”

According to Mauger, original canvasses are “expanded and fragmented,” then projected into unusual shapes to emphasize the exaggerations and distortions of Van Gogh’s work. “Visitors experience their energy, emotion, and beauty like never before,” Mauger explains.

More details are posted to

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Art cards highlight student talent | The Star – Toronto Star



Art has been part of Lucy Kerr’s life as far back as she can remember.

One of nine students (along with a 10th collaborative piece by a Grade 6/7 class) whose piece has been tagged for a set of greeting cards produced by the district, the Grade 11 student at McMath says art is a way for her to unwind.

“Art is really relaxing for me, and just a creative outlet that is really a big part of my life,” she says. “My family has always been really appreciative of art—I’ve been going to art galleries and and talking about that for my whole life as well.”

Kerr’s piece “Sunny Day” was inspired by the work of acclaimed Canadian artist Ted Harrison, whose style Kerr says she has “always loved.” She adds that the process of looking at different artists’ styles has helped her to create her own: she prefers to paint portraits, which recently she has been doing by commission.

“I want to make something that moves people, and I like getting the emotional reaction when someone sees the art I created for them,” she says. “It’s different than a photograph—there’s so much more meaning that you can draw from (a painting), and it gives a lot more dimension.”

Emi Fairchild, a Grade 4 student at Homma elementary, echoes Kerr’s love of art.

“Art is a great way to express yourself, and it takes your mind off things that you don’t want,” she says.

Her piece “Trumpet of the Swan” was part of a school project inspired by the book of the same name. The artwork mostly uses oil pastels, but Fairchild also chose to add Sharpie to her piece at the end “to make it stand out from all the details.”

She also creates art in her spare time, mostly using pencil and paper. Recently, she’s started weaving, which she says is “easy and fun.”

Kerr and Fairchild are two of the student artists chosen for the Richmond School District’s art card project. Spearheaded by district fine arts administrator (and Blair elementary principal) Catherine Ludwig, the project aims to highlight the work done by students and art teachers across the city, as well as circulating student art broadly.

Ten selections—which reflect a balance of different schools, ages, and genres of art—were printed on greeting cards. Packages of cards were initially given to district administrators for their correspondence, but they will also be available in the near future to members of the school community who want to place an order.

Ludwig says the arts educators in the district started making plans for the project in February, along with trustees and other stakeholder groups.

“One of the goals that came forward, as we imagined a vibrant place for arts education in the district, was creating opportunities for our learners beyond the four walls of our school,” she explains. “(Art) speaks loudly and it amplifies who you are, and ultimately it helps with that uncharted territory of who you are as the self.”

With a desire to make Richmond learners feel supported and part of a larger community, Ludwig and her team asked teachers to submit students’ works for the project. The selections were professionally scanned and a graphic designer in the district ensured they were uniform with things like backdrops, while staying true to the original works. And each student submitted an artist statement, reflecting on their piece, that appears on the back of the card.

By chance, two of the selected works were self-portraits: one by a Kindergarten student from Blair and one from a Grade 12 student at MacNeill. Ludwig has copies of those two pieces displayed in her office.

“It gave the direction of why we’re doing this—look at what happens when we dedicate arts education with passionate arts educators teaching our young ones,” she says.

Ludwig adds that she hopes to repeat the project every two years to represent the changing students within the Richmond school system. And next time, she wants to make a call out for other mediums, too—including sculpture, photography and textiles.

“Connecting with others, having your masterpiece or your image experienced by another is so powerful,” says Ludwig. “It propels you and inspires you to grow and learn and it also encourages you. You get that feedback from others and get a sense of your legacy as an artist.”

She says the kids have recently been picking up their sets of cards from Blair, and their excitement is visible.

“This project had a hand in helping them feel something beyond themselves—that their art had a bigger impact beyond the page,” says Ludwig. “You can just sense how powerful this is for them. I’m so proud of them.”



The students whose art is featured on the cards are equally as enthused. When she found out her piece would be featured on one of the school district’s art cards, Fairchild was “really excited.”

And while Kerr doesn’t see art as a future career, she expects to never give it up completely regardless of where she ends up in the future.

“I know that art will always be a part of my life, and it will always be a very strong hobby of mine,” she says.

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