Two local artists are nearly finished creating a mural on the side of a shipping container in a Stratford restaurant’s parking lot as part of an initiative by the Stratford City Centre BIA and the regional tourism organization to bring more public art to the city.
Rhiannon Giddens on making art during a pandemic, and how music bridges divides – CBC.ca
Grammy Award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens says the pandemic is forcing artists to re-examine why they make art in the first place.
“I do think that art and commerce are uneasy bedfellows,” the singer-songwriter and founding member of old-time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops told The Current‘s Matt Galloway.
“So I think this is the moment, since nobody’s making money … to go, OK, so what is the role of art in society and how can we decouple this?”
Giddens is well-known for making music across genres; she also co-founded the group Our Native Daughters, an Americana-folk band. And like many performers, Giddens has had to adapt her approach to making music during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She’s kept busy in recent months by taking part in virtual concerts and collaborating with other artists from their respective locations around the world.
“At a moment where I really needed to make some music and to be in that space, it was a kind of a godsend,” Giddens said about the experience.
Watch Rhiannon Giddens and Yo-Yo Ma’s virtual collaboration
But, she added, she misses the interaction and feedback she normally gets from performing for live audiences.
“Nothing’s being fed back to me because I’m not performing. So I have to figure out how to keep the well stocked, you know?”
Part of that comes from these creative moments, even if they’re from a distance, she said.
She’s also trying to find the positives in every moment, and the purpose of difficult situations like the pandemic.
“For me, it was stopping,” said Giddens, who realized how burnt out she was once her gigs and tours were cancelled because of the pandemic.
While that has been a challenge, she said she doesn’t get worked up about it.
“I just kind of firmly remain grateful and thinking about what I can do with what I have, the advantages that I have, in terms of making art that hopefully will speak to someone and … make a small difference.”
Music as a bridge
Giddens told Galloway she has always been intrigued by how music reveals the commonalities among people.
She hopes to explore that idea further in her new role as artistic director of Silkroad. Started by cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, the Boston-based non-profit organization seeks to create music that sparks “radical cultural collaboration.”
There are things that bind us. And I’ve always been interested in how that is reflected in our culture and our arts and our music.– Rhiannon Giddens
“When you look at history, when you look at different cultures, we actually are very similar,” she said. “There are things that bind us. And I’ve always been interested in how that is reflected in our culture and our arts and our music.”
Giddens was born and raised in North Carolina to a white father and Black and Native American mother. Although she now lives in Ireland with her two children, she remains vocal about the political and social issues currently gripping the United States, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming presidential election.
A MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ recipient who plays several instruments, Giddens is best known for her work on the banjo. She said the instrument parallels the history of America because it was created by African descendants before being adopted as a white ethnic cultural instrument.
Watch Giddens’s song Cry No More, recreated in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death.
While many Americans are unaware of this history, she added, it’s important to understand it.
“So much of the heart of what American culture is, a lot of it comes from the struggles and the story of Black America,” she said. “And the conversation that is being had between cultures like that is America. That is American music. And the banjo very nicely represents that.”
She said her own personal experience informs her belief that music can serve as a powerful bridge.
“I think it comes from being a neither nor,” she said. “That’s what I am. I was neither Black nor white. I was neither city nor country. I’m neither classical nor folk.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in each world … and I think [I] have a deep understanding of each world. But I’ve come to accept pretty early on that my job is as a bridge between those worlds.”
Written and produced by Idella Sturino.
Revival House mural part of local push for more public-art projects in Stratford – The Beacon Herald
Over the past few weeks, those who have passed by the rear parking lot at Revival House in Stratford may have noticed a colourful, new addition to the normally drab space.
At the far east side of the lot, Stratford artists Claire Scott and Amparo Villalobos have been painting a colourful and striking mural on the side of a large shipping container as part of a public-art initiative launched this year by the Stratford City Centre BIA and RTO4, the regional tourism organization for Waterloo and surrounding region.
“For a number of years, we’ve been looking at different walls, speaking with different owners of buildings, and just trying to convince them in general to be able to secure a wall for a mural, which is a little bit more difficult than you would imagine,” said Rebecca Scott, general manager of the Stratford City Centre BIA.
“We’re in this premier art town, and we don’t have a ton of public art going on.”
In January, the BIA partnered with RTO4 to embark on one of these mural projects. Though they had a Toronto artist lined up, the project was pushed to the side as the BIA focused its effort and budget on pandemic responses and recovery efforts.
But the project wasn’t forgotten and, by the time summer began to wind down, Rebecca Scott approached Revival House restaurant owner Rob Wigan about having some local artists paint a mural on a shipping container sitting in the restaurant’s back parking lot.
“We didn’t think we were going to be able to do a mural this year, and then toward the end of the summer we started to look at some of the objectives we had throughout the year and we tried to start the ball rolling again after a big pause,” Rebecca Scott said.
Without the time to secure permission and permits to do a mural on the side of a building, the Revival House shipping container seemed to be the perfect way to bring some colour to the city and start business owners and local artists thinking about where and how additional murals could be painted in the years to come.
For the Revival House Mural, Claire Scott and Villalobos were asked to design something that fit the title, #LoveWins – one that Rebecca Scott and the BIA felt was fitting in a year when every member of the community has come together to support one another through the pandemic.
“The phrase #LoveWins is pretty self-explanatory,” Villalobos said Friday, alongside Claire Scott, as the pair took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get the mural as close to complete as possible. “We’ve tried to incorporate the idea of freedom and a combination of all the things we feel are attractive about Stratford and things that correspond with the experiences we’ve had over the years in Stratford.”
Though the artists submitted a basic design to the BIA depicting what they intended to paint, they said they were given a lot of freedom to explore their creativity and almost improvise the piece as they worked.
The result of that improvisational art is a symphony of colour and imagery, both recognizable and abstract, that immediately draws the eyes of passersby.
“We’re really just building upon layers and feeling the moment. … It’s kind of this reflection to inspire artists to keep doing what they’re doing and symbolizing the appreciation for the spaces that we do have,” Claire Scott said.
Both the BIA and the artists hope this mural and those to come will help transform more of Stratford’s outdoor spaces into places where locals and visitors can congregate – once it’s safe to do so – to enjoy live events and music.
Claire Scott and Villalobos expect they will complete their mural by the end of this weekend. Those who pass by and like what they see are encouraged to snap a photo of the mural and share it on Instagram with #LoveWins.
Anthony Kiendl sets a new course at the Vancouver Art Gallery – Vancouver Sun
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“(Plug In was) definitely internationally known in contemporary art but probably not with everyday people in suburban Winnipeg,” he said.
“They wanted to grow and take that next step.”
Kiendl realized the best way for Plug In to do that was to approach the University of Winnipeg and create a joint venture partnership.
“That’s what gave us the gasoline and critical mass to make the project happen,” he said.
In a four-year capital campaign, Kiendl raised $4 million as Plug In’s share for the $15 million building at 460 Portage Avenue, across from Hudson’s Bay and next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Plug In’s attendance increased ten-fold.
In Regina, he took over as CEO and executive director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2014. The gallery began to struggle financially when it was hit with major funding cuts, including $100,000 from an annual grant on its $2 million operating budget.
One area he targeted was free admission. When the MacKenzie started charging $10 for adults it was offset by several measures to ensure community access such as free admission for anyone under 17 and free days covered by a corporate donor.
The public voted with their feet: attendance over three years increased by almost 40 per cent. With the addition of a café, earned revenue jumped by 247 per cent.
“It is kind of sad but I did come to believe if something has a value attached to it, people value it,” he said.
“If it’s free, I think at a certain level, people are thinking, ‘Maybe it’s not that good.’”
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