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Come to Vote, Stay for the Art – The New York Times

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While many California museums are still shuttered because of the coronavirus, and others are opening slowly at limited capacity, the Institute of Contemporary Art San José has come up with an ingenious solution to open the museum, legally, for four days.

Starting on Oct. 31 through Election Day, the museum will become a polling site. Alison Gass, its executive director, is hoping that civic-minded citizens will stream through the museum to vote and take time to appreciate the art inside (a local art exhibition called “Personal Alchemy”) and out.

It will be hard not to notice.

A 50-foot vinyl mural by the Iranian-born artist Amir H. Fallah will wrap around the museum’s facade, and two six-foot circular paintings of his will slowly rotate in two windows.

Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer

In his mural, titled “Remember This,” messages in vibrant colors read: “REMEMBER MY CHILD NOWHERE IS SAFE”; “THEY WILL SMILE TO YOUR FACE”; and “A BORDERLESS WORLD,” along with other text. By “child,” Mr. Fallah means his younger self — by the age of 6, he had lived in four countries (Iran, Italy, Turkey and the United States) — and his 5-year-old son. “In America, people have a false sense of security,” he said in a recent interview.

In late July, Ms. Gass, who also is the museum’s chief curator, asked Mr. Fallah to paint a mural that addressed “the social and political conditions happening in this election and beyond.” He told her that was what he was thinking about, too. His paintings would appear outside of the institute, “because we wanted a safe way for people to see art,” Ms. Gass said.

A few days later, she met with her longtime collaborator, Florie Hutchinson, who was about to become the museum’s director of external relations. Ms. Hutchinson thought of a way for more people to see Mr. Fallah’s art: Make the institute a polling place.

“Many people in the past voted at their neighbor’s garage or in retirement homes,” said Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state. That is no longer possible. California is promoting vote by mail “as a preferred option,” Mr. Padilla said. But for those wanting to vote in person, he said, counties have become “more creative.”

Santa Clara County, of which San Jose is the county seat, will be using libraries, empty schools, City Hall Council chambers, another museum and even a police department,said Paulo Chang, the county registrar of voters, election division coordinator.

As people enter the polling place, Mr. Fallah said, “I want them to think about what their vote means, how it affects everyone and everything around them.”

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

Mr. Fallah said his paintings for the museum are self-portraits with imagery from disparate cultures that express injustices all over the world. “This is a pretty political mural, but it doesn’t say to vote one way or another,” he added.

(California does not allow anyone within 100 feet of a polling place to engage in electioneering, which refers to displays of a candidate’s name, likeness on buttons, hats or signs. It says nothing about art that addresses anxieties or calls for more empathy.)

An American citizen, Mr. Fallah, 41, who lives in Los Angeles, said he has experienced what he calls the abuse of government power firsthand. In January 2017, when President Trump closed the nation’s borders to refugees and suspended immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries, he was detained “in a basement room at Newark Airport with other brown people,” almost all of whom were citizens, he said. He said his passport was taken from him.

Mr. Fallah’s paintings reflect his fears that “the world is getting darker and darker,” he said. His concerns include but are not limited to “the environment, the treatment of children by ICE, racism, social injustice, an almost war with Iran for no reason,” he said.

Mr. Fallah is also designing a giveaway button that says: “Vote like your life depends on it.” That message will be on signs in city bus shelters and on streetlight poles.

“We were poised to be nimble, especially in a moment of unimaginable crisis for arts organizations,” Ms. Gass said.

The institute, which used to be called the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art but was recently renamed, occupies a red brick, one-story building in downtown San Jose, the third-largest city in California, which Sam Liccardo, its mayor, has called “a city of immigrants.” As of 2014, 38 percent of residents were immigrants, including an Iranian community.

The institute, which is celebrating its 40th year, usually sees 30,000 visitors annually and has a $1.5 million budget. It received some assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program and has kept all seven employees.

At the end of July, Ms. Gass, the former director of University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, was sitting on a curb in Palo Alto, sipping ice coffee with Ms. Hutchinson. They wanted Mr. Fallah’s art to be seen by as many people as possible during “this most important election of our lifetime,” Ms. Hutchinson said.

The next day, in the shower, Ms. Hutchinson said, it came to her: “What if there’s a way we can open the building for the purposes of letting people vote?”

Ms. Hutchinson was familiar with the California Voter’s Choice Act, which is designed to make voting more convenient. It decouples voting from neighborhoods by offering “vote centers,” larger venues near parking and transit hubs. Voters can choose any center countywide.

Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer
Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer

“Throughout my career I’ve been drawn to art that is about politics,” such as Mr. Fallah’s work, Ms. Gass said, “in which you begin to find meaning for yourself.” She chose an artist from an underrepresented group: “artists from countries not given a big platform in American museums.” His work “is bound up in American identity and the immigrant experience,” she added, calling it “beautiful and disturbing.”

Mr. Fallah’s art has been exhibited worldwide in over 100 shows. He is best known for his veiled people — concealed behind gorgeously patterned fabrics. His work was featured in an online exhibition last spring called “How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?”

His painting is 16 feet by 3 feet. Through the use of high-resolution photography, it has been enlarged and printed on vinyl as a mural. It and the two circular paintings are mash-ups: Ancient script is set against skateboarders’ graffiti, Persian miniature horses against the Black Panthers logo. The circular paintings represent Earth and are edged with “the chaotic mesh of plant life,” he said. One is called “Cowboy,” the other “Cowgirl,” inspired by vintage Valentines. Mixed in are images of a Cambodian propaganda figure, mythical figures from old match boxes, “debris of life” that he finds online. When the paintings rotate, plants and cultures will tumble onto one another.

Explanatory text will appear in five languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Farsi.

Mr. Fallah said he hoped his art would make people “stop in their tracks and think about what their vote means.”

“The big thing missing in our society is empathy,” he said. Will his art make people care about others? “Will it? I don’t know,” he said. “That’s my desire.”

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In the Return of Art Fairs, Smaller Is Better – The New York Times

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Wearing a yellow face mask designed in Ethiopia, the gallerist Rakeb Sile greeted a trickle of visitors to her booth one recent morning at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. Addis Fine Art — the gallery of which she is a founder in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa — had on display a colorful cityscape, a portrait painted on fragments of used canvas and a gem-studded black cape worn in a recent performance-art piece outside Buckingham Palace.

“With the right precautions, we just have to keep things moving,” said Ms. Sile, who is of Ethiopian descent, referring to the pandemic. She said the gallery owed it to its staff and artists, and to the 1-54 fair, which was founded in London in 2013 and is now also held in New York and Marrakesh, Morocco.

“The narrative on Africa is always so flat, and very, very shallow,” she said. “Somewhere like this, you can come in and really discover things that you just never thought you would discover.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

The pandemic has led most of the world’s fairs to cancel en masse and instead have online editions. These include Art Basel, in Hong Kong, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach; FIAC, which was to have taken place in Paris this week; and the Frieze Art Fair in London, which usually coincides with 1-54.

Yet 1-54 and at least two other stalwarts, Art Paris and Viennacontemporary, decided to go ahead this fall.

The context could hardly have been tougher. The virus has caused severe restrictions on travel and crowds, two defining features of any international fair. According to a midyear art-market survey on the virus’s impact that was published by Art Basel and UBS Global, fair cancellations in the first half of 2020 have led to galleries’ generating only 16 percent of their sales at art fairs, down from 46 percent during the same period last year. Nine of 10 galleries predicted no second-half recovery in this sector of the business, and only a third forecast a sales increase at fairs next year.

Once Frieze went virtual, 1-54, which ran from Oct. 8 to 10, could have canceled. It was helped by its smallness and its location at Somerset House, a stately 18th-century building in central London with a warren of interconnected rooms that allowed one-way traffic flow and strict crowd control.

Though the fair, at capacity, drew only 3,000 visitors this year (down from 18,000 in 2019) and featured 30 galleries (down from 45), several booths sold out, including Ed Cross Fine Art, which featured ruglike textile works by the Welsh-Ghanaian artist Anya Paintsil. The fair itself broke even.

“In a world where people are more and more worried about large gatherings, about safety and about the prospect of getting sick, we have to think about more intimate formats, and ours happens to be one such format,” Touria El-Glaoui, the fair’s founding director, said after its end. “We’re already small, and already flexible, unlike a fair in a convention center that hosts more than 100 galleries.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

Ms. El-Glaoui said she hoped to go ahead with the New York edition of 1-54 next May — and to hold it in the photographer Annie Leibovitz’s former studio, the Caldwell Factory, as had been planned for this year before its cancellation.

Discounting also helped make the fairs happen. Viennacontemporary, which offered half-price booths, ended up hosting 65 galleries in total, down from 110 last year. Art Paris gave a 15 percent discount to established galleries and 14 newer ones, and gave the latter the proceeds of its ticket sales, a total of 110,000 euros (about $129,000). A total of 112 galleries participated in the Paris fair this year, down from 150 in 2019.

Art Paris was the first fair to take the post-lockdown plunge and proceed as normal, occupying the domed turn-of-the-century Grand Palais from Sept. 10 to 13. This year’s edition drew about 57,000 visitors, down 10 percent from last year. It also had first-time exhibitors that included the high-profile gallery Perrotin and multiple six-digit sales, among them those of a drawing by Giacometti and two sculptures by César.

Art Paris was long perceived as a largely local art-world outlier. But “what was previously singled out as a weakness in my case — that the fair wasn’t international enough — turned out to be an advantage,” said Guillaume Piens, its director since 2012.

Credit…Mohammed Badra/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Purchases were mainly by French collectors, challenging the commonly held belief that France has few collectors and that we’d be nothing without American buyers,” he added. “Things have changed a lot.”

Mr. Piens said he was right to have resisted turning Art Paris into a clone of other large, global fairs, where visitors see “practically the same things,” regardless of where they go, and “it’s like driving down the same highways, with the same names and the same galleries all over.”

Johanna Chromik, artistic director of Viennacontemporary, also noted that local — meaning Austrian — collectors made that fair a success this year, accounting for half of sales, up from the usual one-third. The Vienna event, which ran from Sept. 24 to 27, also caters to Austria’s neighbors, especially the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

Credit…Kristina Kulakova

Putting on the fair was difficult, Ms. Chromik said — “you can imagine how many sleepless nights I had” — but she added that collectors were “highly motivated” and “really buying; we had solid to really good sales this year.” Many visitors had not been to a fair since the Armory Show in New York in March, so they were pleased “to see art for real, in three dimensions,” she said.

Collectors’ enthusiasm was confirmed by the UBS/Art Basel report. Despite the virus, 82 percent said they planned to attend exhibitions, art fairs and other events in the ensuing 12 months. More than half hoped to attend events both at home and abroad. And 59 percent of the high-net-worth respondents said that the virus had increased their thirst for collecting.

Credit…kunst-dokumentation.com

So fairs seem here to stay, the events’ directors said; there will just be fewer of them.

“I don’t believe in returning to how we lived before 2019,” Ms. Chromik said. “We learned from this year.”

She said some of the practices introduced at Viennacontemporary this year — like shared booths, of which there were about half a dozen — could well continue.

What the Covid-19 pandemic has made clear, said Mr. Piens of Art Paris, is that the last several years featured “too much foie gras and too much Champagne, resulting in a giant indigestion.”

Mr. Piens added, “We’re all on a diet now.”

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Epilepsy education centre in Abbotsford holds online art classes – Abbotsford News

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The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education in Abbotsford is hosting monthly virtual art classes for people across B.C. living with epilepsy.

The next class is scheduled for Oct. 22 on Facebook Live.

The aim is to improve communication and concentration, reduce feelings of isolation, and increase self-esteem and confidence.

The charity has received a $4,500 donation from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation to support the organization as it continues to provide services to B.C.-based children, youth, individuals and families.

RELATED: B.C. epilepsy patient ends sit-in, awaits answers

The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education was incorporated in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization.

Since then, it has pioneered landmark education programs that have been adapted provincially, nationally and internationally.

They provide direct support to families and individuals struggling with seizures; create children’s education and materials and comfort items; send children to summer camp; and promote research.

The centre is located at 32868 Ventura Ave. Visit esebc.org for more information or to register for the next art class.

RELATED: Purple Day 2020: Epilepsy awareness heads online

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Windsor is known for many things, but street art isn't one — Derkz is on a mission to change that – CBC.ca

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The city of Windsor, Ont, is in many ways defined by its manufacturing heritage, its leadership in the automotive industry and its proximity to its U.S. neighbour Detroit. One thing it is not known for is its street art — but a number of local graffiti artists are hoping to change that.

Windsor-based artist David “Derkz” Derkatz is a graffiti writer and muralist. His work is all over the city, immortalizing everything from civil rights heroes, pop icons and animals to his most recent piece, which is one of Canada’s largest murals celebrating frontline workers.

In this doc by filmmaker Sasha Jordan Appler, Derkz is tasked with painting a wall on an abandoned building to revitalize a forgotten part of the city.

“The west end’s known for being a little bit more gritty, like a little bit of the rougher part, so they wanted something bold and tough,” says Derkz. “I came up with the two-hawk designs.”

Graffiti can completely change a community. Once criticized as vandalism, it is now in contemporary terms an alternative to traditional gallery space, showcasing work outside and defining — or sometimes redefining — a neighbourhood’s character. These colourful large-scale works, like Derkz’s hawk design, create a reason for people to flock to the area and make it feel more welcoming.

Mural artist Derkz in his studio. (CBC Arts)

Watch as Windsor gets transformed by Derkz and fellow graffiti artists Eugenio “Drevmz” Mendoza, Daniel “Denial” Bombardier and Briana “Athena” Benore in the premiere of “Graffiti: The Art that Changes a City” on CBC’s Absolutely Canadian series on CBC TV in Windsor and online on CBC Gem, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

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