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How this local arts group is making art accessible in Calgary – CBC.ca

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In a pursuit to build a recreational facility for the arts, The Alcove has been encouraging the community to pitch in through a series of summer workshops and pop-ups. (Shay Blenkin/Fern and Pine Studios)

The corner of 8th ave and 1st street bustled with colour, music and dancing last week at The Alcove’s Hip-Hop Showcase, one of their several pop-up events this summer. 

“Hip-hop really brings people from different ethnicities, different races together, in ways that other spaces don’t,” said MC GoodMedicine who feels these spaces allow people to be authentic and tell their story.

These pop-ups by The Alcove Centre for Arts are an attempt to showcase how a physical recreational facility for the arts could benefit the community in many ways. This non-profit group is dedicated to making art more accessible by providing workshops and platforms to support local artists. 

“We have so many hidden gems here, and these workshops are helping pass down the knowledge to the youth,” said Ryan De Guzman a.k.a Rubix, a local rapper. 

“I believe Calgary’s still young, kind of like in its pre-teens…but we are growing and have the potential to be like Montreal,” Guzman said as he reflected on the arts scene and its future in the city.

The Alcove workshop attendees visited the CBC booth to create some acrylic art with CBC stencils. (Ishita Singla/CBC)

The first half of the showcase was a spray paint and street art workshop led by Anthony Russell who provided guidance on colour theory, spray can control, letter structure and style. After the formal instruction, the space welcomed a collaborative community mural, facilitated by a graffiti trio, Spreason. Attendees and community members had the opportunity to spray paint their own name tags to this four by eight foot mural. 

CBC Calgary was on location with canvases, custom CBC stencils and paint supplies, for aspiring and professional artists to express themselves. While some captured yellow and orange gradients of a sunrise, others were inspired by bright patterns, and even monochrome palettes. 

In collaboration with ANTYX and TRIBE Artist Society, The Alcove opened up the floor to an open jam, or a “cypher.” DJ Playtime spun some tunes for rappers and dancers to come and vibe together.

“Cyphers welcome hip-hop artists to come together, practice and perform. This is an opportunity for strangers to mingle and develop friendships through arts and music,” as The Alcove explained. (Shay Blenkin/ Fern and Pine Studios)

The showcase was aimed to be “for the community, from the community and by the community.” The workshops were made possible in partnership with the Calgary Downtown Association and the venue was a collaborative effort by University of Calgary’s faculties of Social Work and School of Creative and Performing Arts

The Alcove is hosting a multicultural themed arts showcase on August 27 and once again, CBC Calgary will be on-site to creatively stimulate conversations about art, community and more.

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This project brought art and quirky commentary to Calgary's parking lots – CBC.ca

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If you noticed art displays popping up around Calgary this weekend, you weren’t the only one. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Calgary-based artists took over several parking lots with art projects built into and around a number of vehicles that traveled throughout the city. 

The exhibition, dubbed Idle Worship, is a mobile showcase of art and performance in trunks, back seats, box trucks, minivans, and automobiles, designed specifically for the context of parking lots across the greater Calgary area. 

“We dedicate a lot of our cities to roads and parking lots and these spaces, I think, could be more absurd,” said Caitlind Brown, an organizer and part of the artist-driven project.

“[The spaces] could be weirder and come with more conversations.”

The movement brought art to unsuspecting crowds near malls, big-box stores and grocery shops.

Keith Murray’s piece about “neutrality and nothing” was among those that were set up over the weekend. (Helen Pike/CBC)

People were climbing into a U-Haul, peeking in car windows — and jumping into the mouth of an unidentified species. 

Abebe Kebede was just out to grab a coffee with a friend when he noticed something next to him.

While they were chatting in the car, one of the art pieces was set up right beside them. 

“When I saw that [being set up], I thought, ‘what, I have to go see it,'” he said. “It looked like a weird animal’s mouth opening, it’s so amazing, I really like it.”

The exhibit popped up in every one of Calgary’s quadrants.

Idle Worship has a performance art component, too. One artist sat in his vehicle with dirt and flowers, giving the viewers a choice: water the plant or water the boy. 

And there was some tongue and cheek commentary.

Khalid Omokanye said his piece is about ‘greenwashing’, a popular marketing tactic that brands use to give the impression that their business practices are sustainable and fight climate change, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Khalid Omokanye said his piece is about greenwashing— a popular marketing tactic that brands use to give the impression that their business practices are sustainable and fight climate change, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

His project is housed in the back of a pick-up truck.

“I made a little sculpture there, that drops seeds as I am driving, potentially planting a forest in my wake,” he said. “So this vehicle becomes no longer an issue because it plants enough trees to fix its problems.” 

Given the circumstances of the art show, Brown was surprised that there were no issues at all. 

“This has been a remarkably problem-free exhibition, considering we are literally just touching down in parking lots without asking for permission from the property owners, and then getting up and driving away,” she said. 

“The great thing about this exhibition is that if there had been any problems, we could’ve just packed up and left.”

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Vancouver Art Gallery protest condemns Iran regime | CTV News – CTV News Vancouver

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An afternoon rally was held at the Vancouver Art Gallery Sunday following the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman while in police custody.

Mahsa Amini died earlier this month in police custody, after being detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. Her family says she was beaten by police. Officials say she died of a heart attack.

Since her death on Sept. 16, protests and rallies have erupted in Iran and around the world.

“People are frustrated,” said Farad Soofi, an Iranian-Canadian who also attended the UN General Assembly in New York last week to protest the Iranian regime.

“They’re coming to say, ‘We don’t want that regime.’”

Chants of “women, life, freedom” could be heard coming from the crowd.

“It has always been like this in Iran,” said Lena Kruk, who moved to Vancouver from Iran four years ago.

“It is an anti-women kind of regime.”

Clashes between Iranian protesters and security forces have turned deadly, and the government has restricted the population’s internet access to help prevent more demonstrations. https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/at-least-9-killed-as-iran-protests-spread-over-woman-s-death-1.6079121

Iranian-Canadian Amir Takbash says he’s been unable to speak with his family.

“It’s really hard. I haven’t heard from my mom for more than a week and it’s really, really hard for us here,” said Takbash.

“You just feel so bad,” said Kruk. “I feel like, you know, I couldn’t stop crying.”

“It’s heartbreaking to not be there with them, to not fight with them,” said Iranian-Canadian Parisa Moshfegh.

“So we’re going to do whatever we can from here.”

Despite living thousands of kilometres away, some in the crowd said they’re still fearful of protesting against the current regime.

“Even in the protest in Vancouver, a lot of people are wearing masks because they are afraid of being recognized. This is how much we are scared of speaking out,” said Moshfegh.

The rally spilled out onto Georgia Street, with thousands of people chanting and holding signs while marching for several blocks.

Vancouver police tweeted that the public should avoid the area as officers work to keep traffic flowing.

Several people at Saturday’s protest told CTV News that more rallies are being planned for next weekend.  

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Montreal percussive dancers step in to tell stories of Black art and history – Montreal Gazette

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Children are always in motion. Yet when they experience it in rhythm, they are linked with their peers in an intangible way, Kayin Queeley says.

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Kayin Queeley expresses himself with his entire body. One can feel his enthusiasm in every sweep of his hand, in the set of his shoulders and the widening of his eyes.

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He uses language that echoes his passion in phrases like “tapping into” and “taking the step” and “resonance.”

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Queeley is the director of the Montreal Steppers, a team that uses their bodies to create rhythms and beats. The non-profit percussive dance group performs for themselves, for the community and visits schools for workshops and discussions that Queeley says quickly become “next-level.”

Percussive dance has origins in West Africa. It was a form of celebration and communication among slaves in North America and became popular among Black fraternities in the 1940s and ’50s, making its way to Canada by the ’90s.

Queeley, who is now a crisis case manager for students at McGill University, joined and went on to lead a stepping team while doing his undergrad in Upstate New York in 2007.

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“What I didn’t realize then,” Queeley says, “was that stepping was going to introduce me to part of my history, a rich art form rooted in blackness, rooted in Black expression, Black healing. These are ways we are communicating with each other. For me, it was very superficial at first. It was cool, it looked good. Yet it has meant so much more for us.”

Although he had fallen away from stepping by the time he moved to Montreal with his wife in 2014, the need to “keep the art form alive and keep the passion of using my body to make music” was never far from his thoughts. Montreal Steppers was formed in 2019 and has 18 members, 13 of whom are active steppers, while the others take charge of such things as stage management, music direction, media, photography and spoken word.

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When Queeley goes into a school for a workshop, the children will learn how to step. Yet the first thing he tells teachers is that he will allow the students to ask anything they want. A statement like that makes teachers nervous, he says, but he is blown away every time by the depth of conversation children set in motion.

He introduces himself and, with mid-elementary and older children, will begin, “About a hundred or so years ago (I’m just being generous), I would not be allowed to be in your classroom. The kids stop and say, ‘Mr. K., why?’ I say, because of my skin colour. At that time, although slavery had ended, there was segregation. Some ask, ‘What do you mean, what is that?’ It starts questions right away. As a Black man, I would not have been allowed into a white school. I would only have been allowed to teach at a Black school.”

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In this way, the Steppers are bold about centring Black history and acknowledging what some children might not have had to think about. Kids, with their finely tuned sense of justice, “call out what is wrong,” he says. The workshops are wrapped up by talking about people’s differences and the importance of appreciating them.

Children stomp and clap, they walk and clap, they are almost always in motion. Yet when they experience it in rhythm, they are linked with their peers in an intangible way, Queeley says.

“We use our bodies to tell the story of stepping and history. We use the art form as a starting point to have dialogues and conversations around blackness, Black art, Black history, Black importance, around creating a safe space and taking up space for ourselves.”

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It has been healing for the Montreal Steppers, Queeley says.

“As we dissect deeper into stepping, we connect the history. We recognize that this is not new. This has always been part of our ancestors’ expression. Going back to 14th century, back to West Africa before these folks were displaced against their will and brought to this North American context, these were elements of expression they were tapping into.”

The only time Queeley grasps for words is when attempting to define the connection his team experiences while stepping.

“Some folks say, ‘As you step on the ground, as you hit your body, you’re activating your land and you’re waking up your ancestors. It’s something we can’t really describe. … We’re tapping into something our ancestors laid down.”

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The team has done more than 300 workshops and has met close to 10,000 students, Queeley says. It is one way they want to sow into Montreal communities.

“We want people to see us and know who we are: ‘This is in response to everything you have said about Black people and believe about us.’ We are incredible. We are gifted. We are intelligent. We are impressive.”

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AT A GLANCE

The Montreal Steppers are part of the English Language Arts Network’s education program, wherein schools are granted an amount to invite artists to hold workshops.

The Steppers have made an intentional decision to not do any workshops during Black History Month, to avoid being tokenized or made a checklist item. They use that time to focus on their own healing.

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The group has set a fundraising goal of $4,000 for the month of September. The money will go directly to four community groups that have identified specific needs. The Steppers want their performances to be accessible and therefore not tied to fundraising, so donations are accepted online only. The groups benefiting are: The West Island Black Community Association’s robotics program; Côte-des-Neiges Black Association’s teen program; South Shore Youth Organization’s tutoring program; and Tinsdale Community Association’s high-school perseverance program.

“We want to continue to find ways to serve, teach, heal ourselves,” Queeley says. “Wherever this goes, if they feel a need to connect with us, we are happy to. We have seen the impact. We are very optimistic about what lies ahead.”

To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/q3pusj-back-to-school-fundraiser. More information can be found at montrealsteppers.com.

Sign up for our parenting and advice newsletter at montrealgazette.com/newsletters.

hjuhl@postmedia.com

twitter.com/hjuhl

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