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Dan Fumano: Questions, shock as art studio's death blamed on COVID-19 – Brockville Recorder and Times

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Although Vancouver has, sadly, seen the loss of many art spaces in recent years, many agreed the particular case of William Clark Studios seems unusual.

Artist Dana Cromie, who with other artists, has his studios at William Clark Studios in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop / PNG

Vancouver artists were devastated this week to learn of a long-running studio’s seemingly abrupt demise and are hoping it’s not too late to prevent yet another loss of crucial art space.

News has been spreading about the imminent closure of William Clark Studios, described as “an institution” of the city’s art scene for more than two decades where about 50 artists rent space. While the building’s managers blamed the facility’s closure this month on losses incurred because of the pandemic, artists who use the space and city staffers told Postmedia they have unanswered questions — as does the commercial landlord who ultimately owns the East Van property.

The disappearance of Vancouver’s cultural spaces is a long-standing problem faced by arts groups and city hall alike, both of whom released reports in the past year on the subject, warning of the risk of becoming “a city without art.”

The scale of this week’s William Clark situation — 50 artists told to vacate with only one month’s notice — makes it one of the biggest single losses in recent memory, said Esther Rausenberg, artistic and executive director of the Eastside Culture Crawl, which has used William Clark Studios in its annual event since its inception in the 1990s.

Vancouver “just can’t afford this type of loss,” Rausenberg said.


Artists Dana Cromie and Janine Brecker, who with other artists, have their studios at William Clark Studios in Vancouver, B.C., June 2, 2020.

Arlen Redekop /

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Although Vancouver has, sadly, seen many studio closures in recent years, Rausenberg and others agreed the particular case of William Clark seems different.

In Vancouver, as in other cities from San Francisco to Berlin, the biggest culprit in recent loss of art spaces has been real estate development pressures. But in this case, William Clark management blamed COVID-19 for the studio’s closure in a message sent the night of Sunday, May 31, telling artists to clear out by the end of June.

The tenancy arrangement at William Clark Studios is not uncommon for these kinds of art spaces. The property, a warehouse on Clark Drive, is owned by a group of investors, who lease it to William Clark Studios Inc., which then rents studio space to the individual artists.

When artist Janine Breck received the sad news Sunday night in an email from William Clark’s managers, she replied to inquire if her contacts at the city might be able to help save the space. But managers Tina Ozols and Gregg Steffenson replied to Breck saying the closure was a done deal, due to the “unprecedented pandemic event.”

Ozols expressed her sadness about the situation, but said she couldn’t discuss details. “I appreciate the care that people have for this situation, it’s too bad that I can’t really talk about it because it is confidential business,” Ozols said.

Ozols said William Clark was no longer viable after “a handful” of tenants moved out since the start of the COVID pandemic, and management couldn’t fill those spaces.


Artists Janine Breck (front-left) and Dana Cromie (front-right) with other artists who have their studios at William Clark Studios in Vancouver, B.C., June 2, 2020.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Dana Cromie, a painter who works at William Clark, said: “This place has been an institution. … It just doesn’t make sense to me to kick everybody out so it can sit empty.”

As is common in these situations, the artists said they had no idea who owned the property, but wondered whether plans might be in the works to redevelop the site.

But that’s not the case here, the landlords say.

Michael Chiang, a representative of the company that owns the property, told Postmedia that while his group might consider redeveloping the property in the future, they have no plans and “no timeline” to do so. Chiang said he only learned of William Clark Studios’ closure when Postmedia asked him about it.

The landlords had offered to waive some of the rent to support William Clark Studios’ application for federal assistance, Chiang said, although it seems the studio may not qualify for that program. The landlord also offered to defer half the rent until “an undetermined time,” Chiang said, but did not get a response from William Clark.

“We understand small businesses are having a tough time during the pandemic and we are trying to help out as much as we can,” Chiang said. “Now I’m finding out they’ve told their tenants over the weekend that they’re getting kicked out. It’s weird, I don’t know.”

The city is also stepping in to see if there’s anything they can do to help save William Clark.

Alix Sales, Vancouver’s head of cultural spaces and infrastructure, said Wednesday her team has been working to track down both the landlords and William Clark management since learning Monday about the “brutal” closure.

“It’s such a big blow, it’s such a critical space,” Sales said.

Sales and her colleague, cultural planner Kristen Lambertson, agreed some of the details and questions surrounding the William Clark closure make it an unusual one.

But, Lambertson pointed out: “We’re also in a very unusual time.”

dfumano@postmedia.com

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'Gerryfest' to celebrate Gerry Atwell's music and art, but also his advocacy against systemic racism – CBC.ca

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A festival celebrating the life of the late Gerry Atwell is taking place in Winnipeg next month — but the night will be about more than just music and art.

Atwell, a Juno Award-winning musician known for playing the keyboard for the Winnipeg band Eagle and Hawk, died after suffering a heart attack in late November 2019.

Family and friends knew they would celebrate his life with a music festival this summer. But with people in North America demanding change once again, a key part of the daylong festival will be focused toward the fight against systemic racism — a cause Atwell long advocated for.

“We’re all missing his humanity when it comes to these types of issues,” said Judy Williams, Atwell’s sister.

“He always had a different message for the different audiences he might have been speaking with,” she said, and were he alive now, he would say “something profound, but something that would be inclusive, whether he was going to encourage someone to take some action, or think of other people.”

Atwell also would see the positive opportunities that will come through the conversations being had, added Louise May, executive director of the St. Norbert Arts Centre, where she worked with Atwell for about 25 years.

“Even though it’s coming from such negativity and such a negative event, there is so much hope through it, and so much burgeoning awareness, and ability to talk about it and ability for people to confront themselves with it,” said May.

On Black History Month, musician Joe Curtis celebrates the memory of Gerry Atwell and his mother Frances, who was one of the first black pharmacists in Manitoba. 2:25

“It’s a very, very hopeful time and I know Gerry would be pushing us to see that hope and to really manifest it.”

Gerryfest will take place on Aug. 14 — Atwell’s birthday — at the St. Norbert Arts Centre. Both Williams and May said they felt his presence during the process of organizing the event.

“Even the term ‘Gerryfest’ was Gerry’s idea,” said May. “It was something that we talked about many times, kind of in a joking way. But I knew he always wanted to really do it, which was to have a day when all of his bands played back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

“To which I always said, ‘Gerry, what, you’re going to play for seven, eight hours in one row?'” she said. “That was going to be the very best day that he could imagine for himself.”

Although Atwell won’t be there in person, his presence will be there through former bandmates and other lives he touched, May said.

The planning of Gerryfest started before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba. So the original plan of a weekend festival has been whittled down to an afternoon and evening of music and art dedicated to Atwell.

If he were still alive today, Atwell’s sister says he would be joining the fight against systemic racism, using words that are profound but also inclusive. (Submitted by Carla Williams)

“I really think we can just keep his work alive and keep building on it year after year with this,” said May, adding that this will be the first of an annual festival.

The festival will also raise funds for the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Fund, an endowment fund that will have musicians and artists mentoring young people, just like Atwell once did, said Williams.

An invitation is needed to attend the event at the St. Norbert Arts Centre, but people can tune in through livestreams online, said May.

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Window shopping: Whyte Avenue Art Walk shifts from sidewalks to storefronts for 25th anniversary – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

“More than ever, it’s important for people to continue supporting artists,” said Zhelisko, who also teaches art classes at The Paint Spot. “I’ve had to put more effort into social media and promoting my work online, but I think the pandemic has shown people what’s really important. I’ve had some commissions from people who want portraits of family members or friends as a way to recognize them.”

First-time Art Walk participant Shelly Banks also works at The Paint Spot and specializes in oil, producing vivid nature and wildlife images that will be featured in the shop’s storefront.

“I’ve always been into art, but working at The Paint Spot and spending so much time around artists encouraged me to give it a try,” said Banks, regarding her decision to take up painting five years ago, producing watercolour, acrylic and coloured pencil art before settling on oil as her preferred method.

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Penticton Art Gallery hosts first Bob Ross exhibit in Canada – Globalnews.ca

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It’s the first time Bob Ross’ happy little exhibit has crossed the border to Canada, and it’s nestled itself right in the South Okanagan at the Penticton Art Gallery.

“There is something magical when you see them in the flesh. There is a greater level of skill than maybe you would believe when see them on TV,” said Paul Crawford, Penticton Art Gallery curator, of the exhibit.

Bob Ross’ TV show, which taught viewers how to paint with soothing words of encouragement and first aired 37 years ago, is seeing a resurgence in popularity online.

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During the lockdown, people have been making the most out of their downtime by picking up paintbrushes and are learning how to ’embrace happy little accidents.’

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The exhibit pulls back the curtain on a little TV magic by revealing that there were actually three versions of each Bob Ross painting.

Read more:
‘Grandmother of Canadian Indigenous Art’ honoured at Kelowna Art Gallery

“He’d have that first painting that no one would ever see, then there was the one he would do live half an hour on TV before your eyes,” said Crawford.

“Then he would do a third version which they would do if they missed a shot or for close-ups during the live taping.”

As Bob Ross said, “The secret to doing anything is believing you can do it.”

The exhibit will be open until Sept. 13.






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‘It’s given me dreams that come to life’: Penticton artist uses studio as creative community hub


‘It’s given me dreams that come to life’: Penticton artist uses studio as creative community hub

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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