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COVID fails to curb creativity at Okanagan art gallery – Salmon Arm Observer



Take a tour of some local art, in your pyjamas.

The Vernon Public Art Gallery has closed its doors, but is giving online tours and virtual art lessons for those at home needing a creative outlet or simply looking for something to do. The online programming launches Friday, March 27 with a virtual art lesson.

“This is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone. In an effort to help ease the situation, the VPAG has decided to continue to provide opportunities for creative thought and practice through online activities to support our community as we practice social distancing,” said executive director Dauna Kennedy. “We hope our online tours and activities will help ease stress throughout this lonely and isolated time. We will be introducing additional online programs soon, so check our social media accounts to stay up to date.”

The VPAG’s learning and community engagement curator, Kelsie Balehowsky will be live streaming tours of their current Vernon School District exhibition, Art from the Heart, as well as Bryan Ryley’s exhibition Morning Briefing. The gallery will also be providing virtual art lessons where Balehowsky will walk participants through various art activities that can easily be completed at home with basic art materials on hand. These art lessons are simple and fun to do on your own, or as a family with kids.

The VPAG’s online programming will be posted on their YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, as well as on their website

Many local businesses are coming up with creative ways to deliver their services.

READ MORE: Vernon restaurant serves up unique option amid pandemic

READ MORE: Decorations aplenty to bring cheer in North Okanagan amid COVID-19 pandemic


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Victoria art gallery provides Open Space in an online way – Monday Mag



The operators of Open Space have been working to figure out the best way to continue sharing visual art with the community and supporting artists in need in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

While plans are still a work in progress, the gallery states that its key goals and focus continue to be, “to share the resources we have as an established artist-run centre to support artists in a time of need; to foster creative ways of engaging and sustaining community in a time of increased isolation; and to collaborate on exciting contemporary art projects that invite us deeper into relationship with the world around us.”

As it works to define what that might look like, Open Space is reaching out to the community for suggestions on how to make the arts meaningful at this time. It is encouraging the public to send feedback via email to

The sharing of work in a open gallery format may be on hold right now, but one current exhibition by Chantal Gibson entitled A Grammar of Loss – Studies in Erasure continues online, where you can view images of her show up close.

Also, Open Space is launching a new series of land-based livestreams called Online On Land on Instagram, with weekly walks and talks from different sites within Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories, where viewers can spend time with and learn from local Indigenous artists, educators and knowledge keepers.

The first livestream happens this Sunday (April 5) at 1 p.m. and features Songhees Nation member and artist Cheryl Bryce. The weekly schedule runs through May 10. Click here and access the stories by clicking on the Open Space logo.

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Art Gallery of Grande Prairie encouraging creativity at home – My Grande Prairie Now



The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie is giving the community a chance to get creative while self-isolating. A program called “Art at Home” kicked off on April 1st as a resource for interactive family projects and a way to showcase community art.

Executive Director Jeff Erbach says art can spur creativity and challenge people, especially while they are spending more time at home.

A Euphemia Mcnaught drawing (Art Gallery of Grande Prairie)

“In these times, when a lot of people are sheltered in place, art can still play a provocative and powerful role in people’s lives.”

The gallery has released three collections so far including drawings from Peace Country artist Euphemia McNaught. The program also launched its first at-home Carlstrom Family Green Space project, which encourages artists to create their own collages.

Erbach adds Art at Home will be the focal point of the gallery moving forward as its physical location remains closed to the public.

The Gallery’s first Art at Home Carlstrom Family Green Space project. (The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie)

“Our mandate and our role is to contribute to the quality of life in the community. We are simply transitioning all of our activities so that people can still engage with art and still find creative things to do.”

Erbach says the gallery is looking to support the already creative community the Peace County has to offer.

“That includes some of our local businesses and entrepreneurs. These are really creative people. We’re finding a way with art to nurture that creative spark.”

Through social media, the program will feature updates on one-time projects, ongoing series, and invitations to create on the gallery’s website. A variety of posts will be made throughout the week moving forward to keep new and existing art lovers engaged until the facility opens its door again.

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Pandemic shutdowns create a ‘triple whammy’ for Western Canada’s arts community – The Globe and Mail



The redesign concept for the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Glenbow Museum

In another lifetime, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stood in front of John Hammond’s oil painting The Three Sisters at Calgary’s Glenbow museum, talking up philanthropy. He recounted the generosity of Eric Harvie, who founded the museum, and had once owned the painting. Harvie, who eventually made a fortune, began dabbling in Alberta’s oil and gas industry at a time when “a lot of dry wells were drilled and a lot of hopes were lost,” Kenney said. The Premier then pledged $40-million to Glenbow for major renovations. It was Feb. 21.

“We felt at that moment that the sky was the limit,” Glenbow CEO Nicholas Bell said during an interview this week. “I think if you look at the calendar, that was, like, five weeks ago. Honestly, it feels like a decade ago.”

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Catastrophe is not a word to be used lightly, but the coronavirus pandemic is worthy and arts institutions were among the first to take a hit. Performance venues were immediately affected, with shutdowns ordered in certain cases just hours before showtime. What followed has been a raft of cancellations and layoffs, with no idea when the lights can be flipped back on. At the same time, in Alberta, the price of oil has tanked.

Handout photo shows Nicholas R. Bell, CEO of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary. The Alberta government announced a $40-million pledge for major renovations to the Glenbow on Feb. 21, 2020. “Honestly, it feels like a decade ago,” Bell says.

Chelsea Yang-Smith/Glenbow Museum

For cultural organizations in Western Canada, the difficulties in rebuilding may be amplified. There is a smaller population – and thus donor base – and more distance from most head offices and their vital sponsorship dollars.

“The whole corporate fundraising aspect of arts is a big challenge out west,” says Tom Wright, now Vancouver Opera’s general director (he had been interim director). “That is why we do a lot of corporate fundraising in Toronto.”

The problem is particularly acute in Alberta, which is dealing with what Janice Price, president and CEO of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, calls a triple whammy: the devastated energy sector compromising a major source of philanthropy, cuts in provincial government funding, and now a pandemic.

The Banff Centre’s temporary layoff of 400 people – 75 per cent of its staff – is a stark example of what has been happening at arts and cultural organizations. At institutions including Glenbow, Alberta Ballet, the National Music Centre, the Calgary Stampede – all of which have temporarily laid off about 80 per cent of their workforces – job losses have been an ugly necessity.

“It’s tough sledding in Alberta; very, very tough sledding,” says Annemarie Petrov, president and CEO of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Winspear Centre. “I think not-for-profits are relatively resilient, but there is a breaking point.”

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra president and CEO Paul Dornian projects a $2-million loss in earned revenues between the March shutdown and the end of the CPO’s season, June 13.

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“Two million dollars is a lot to make up; in fact, there’s no way to do it in this type of climate.”

At different companies, the numbers vary, but the experience is universal: unprecedented gravity and uncertainty.

“The one thing we do know for sure is that things are not going to go back to what they were three weeks ago,” says Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, which has created a $1.1-million relief fund for artists.

“It is unlikely to me that all of the companies that came into this crisis are going to come out the other side.”

Rose Ginther, associate dean of the faculty of fine arts and communications at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, agrees some companies will likely fold. “Arts organizations run very close to the bone,” she says. “There isn’t an ounce of fat.”

Fundraising has never been so critical, and yet it has never been so fraught. Oil and gas companies, once Alberta’s leaders in arts sponsorship, have made their own cuts. Many donors have lost jobs, or seen their financial holdings tumble.

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Soliciting funds right now to support an orchestra or art gallery could be perceived as insensitive.

“It’s not the best time to bombard people with a lot of asks,” says Stephanie Raynor, chief advancement officer at Theatre Calgary. “We know our donors will be there when the time is right,” Raynor says.

Will they, though? There is a danger of Alberta’s philanthropic wells running dry.

For now, organizations are reporting heartening generosity. Patrons are e-mailing with messages of support and often donating the cost of tickets for cancelled performances rather than asking for refunds.

The Banff Centre says it received some 50 donations the week after laying off 400 people. “Many of our major donors said … they’re going to continue to fund us no matter what,” says vice-president of marketing and development, Rosemary Thompson. “They want the Banff Centre to survive.”

The Glenbow is confident in the promised funding for that renovation.

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The CPO, after issuing temporary layoffs, this week recalled musicians and staff, but with reduced hours. “That leaves us in a much better position to, when this ends, come back with some strength.”

For groups that can’t come back, Pon vows to recognize their contributions.

“In my experience when a company closes, all we remember about it is its closure. And all we associate with it is its failure,” she says. “We’ll work as hard as we can to honour them and make sure that they exit with grace and dignity and celebration.”

Farther west, in British Columbia, among the big cancellations this spring is what would have been Vancouver Opera’s final festival. Next year, unrelated to the pandemic, it will revert to a regular season, scrapping its unpopular festival experiment – something it had hoped to announce at this season’s closing event.

Other big questions surround the Vancouver Art Gallery. Neither its interim director nor board chair was available for an interview this week, but it’s hard to imagine its nearly $400-million new gallery project — which has been in the works for years but never broken ground — proceeding as planned. The project has been seeking $100-million from Ottawa and $50-million from the province, in addition to $50-million already granted by the province project in 2008.

“I can’t see that in the next 48 months being a priority,” says Bob Rennie, a philanthropist and collector who has long been openly critical of the project.

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Rennie says there’s an old adage that has guided him through his own business dealings: “a man who adheres to a position previously stated when times change is a fool.”

At the National Music Centre in Calgary, president and CEO Andrew Mosker believes Canadian arts organizations have a responsibility right now: to keep the country’s spirits – and hopes – high as we await what he calls “the next normal.”

Artists’ responses to the crisis were almost immediate. Jann Arden was among the first to livestream a performance, from her southern Alberta home. Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre has launched a Stuck in the House series. Contemporary Calgary will launch an initiative on Monday called Art Where You Are, with an online interview with Luke Jerram, whose Museum of the Moon, hangs suspended under the dome – and in time – in the closed gallery. Jerram will discuss a new work in his Glass Microbiology series: a glass sculpture of COVID-19.

But the pandemic presents an opportunity for more than some cool livestreams.

“I think this is a watershed moment,” Price says. “I think there will be a lot of dialogue when this is over about ‘what did we learn?’ and ‘how do we manage our organizations differently in the future?’”

Resilience has always been a theme when it comes to Alberta. Floods, fires, economic downturns – the province has emerged from it all, not unscathed, but standing. Resilience is also a forte for artists. Through the worst of times, there is creation. Nobody knows what the cultural landscape will look like on the flip side of this staggering event. But for sure, there will be art at the end of it. And along the way, to help ease this grim journey.

Banff Centre for Arts temporarily lays off 400 staff via email

File photo shows an aerial view of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Paul Zizka Photography/Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

That Thursday was an excruciating day on the mountain for all: senior management making difficult decisions; hundreds of employees learning they were out of work. The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity temporarily laid off 400 employees on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Banff Centre has never faced a layoff of this size,” spokesperson Rosemary Thompson said.

“We can’t deliver our programs online,” Banff Centre president and chief executive Janice Price explained to The Globe and Mail the next day. “We are about being on this campus, in this location, where we also house you and feed you, which of course is something we should not be doing now, putting people into close quarters with each other.”

But some employees felt the layoff was mishandled. (They spoke with The Globe on the condition of anonymity, as they say they’re worried about not being called back from their layoff.)

The notices were not communicated personally but delivered by e-mail – and those e-mails did not arrive at a uniform time, so in some cases, employees in the same office spent hours waiting to learn if they had lost their jobs after their co-workers had received their notice.

Laying off staff is a brutal duty at the best of times. But the coronavirus pandemic forced arts organizationsto lay off staff in large numbers and with little warning. Still, when implementing a mass layoff due to an unforeseen catastrophe, are there ways to make the ugly process a little more humane? And safe?

At the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, for instance, where 112 people were temporarily laid off, the layoffs were communicated in person or by phone calls, followed by an e-mail. At the Stratford Festival, which laid off nearly 500 people, a virtual town hall allowed artistic director Antoni Cimolino and executive director Anita Gaffney to address everyone. “It was clear, direct and quite moving,” actor Miles Potter says. Directors and managers then personally called everyone who was affected. That evening, there was a follow-up by e-mail. Staff were given a week’s notice.

“Even in the worst of times, even when you have no choice but to let people go because there is no business option, how you do it matters,” says Kanina Blanchard, a leadership development consultant and lecturer at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.

Blanchard was speaking about best practices in general and not about the Banff Centre, which she declined to comment on.

The Banff Centre says it chose to inform employees by e-mail in order to adhere to social distancing measures, which it mentioned in the e-mails.

Thompson told The Globe that the senior team will reduce or donate their compensation during the crisis to support the Banff Centre’s recovery – 20 per cent of base salary for Price and 15 per cent by the other members of the senior leadership team.

The union says there was nothing illegal or grievable about how management handled the layoffs.

“It may rub some people the wrong way and that’s fine,” says Lou Arab, communications representative for CUPE. “They’re entitled to feel how they feel.”

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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