Edmonton Arts Council’s Sanjay Shahani see bright arts future for the city
It’s easy to feel gloomy about prospects for the quality of life in Edmonton and Alberta in light of dramatic provincial budget cuts, threatened job losses, talk of separation and ongoing squabbles between Premier Jason Kenney and Ottawa.
But as 2020 approaches, take comfort in the arts scene in Edmonton — a spectacular bonus of living in our beloved, far-flung northern outpost.
Even as Alberta artists are poised to feel the provincial pinch — the Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and the Status of Women will lose 27 per cent of funding over the next three years and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts lost five per cent for 2019/20 — the city of Edmonton’s commitment to the arts remains strong, with additional investments planned over the next three years.
“The city values arts and culture in a different way than other cities,” said Shahani in a wide-ranging year-end conversation about the arts scene in River City.
As he points out, Edmonton is second only to Vancouver in municipal arts funding per capita nation-wide. While many other municipalities have art departments within their bureaucracy, Edmonton funnels all arts and culture funding through the Edmonton Arts Council, an arm’s length non-profit with its own board of directors.
With an operating budget of $14 million per year, the council helps support some 160 arts organizations, including key players such as The Citadel, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra — each of which receive roughly one million dollars a year.
The council is transparent about grants; the 2018 annual report lists which groups and individuals received city dollars, giving Edmontonians a good picture of how their taxes contribute to the city’s quality of life.
On top of its operating budget, Edmonton’s city council has pledged an additional $5 million to the EAC, distributed between 2019 and 2022, to fund its 10-year-plan to transform arts and heritage in Edmonton. The plan, which kicked off last year after broad consultation with the arts community and the public, aims to turn Edmonton into a “hub for extraordinary creation,” said Shahani.
Part of the plan’s thrust will see more local creativity in neighbourhoods, through free events such as this weekend’s Swing and Skate. Taking place at Ottewell community hall and arena on Jan. 4, and at city hall on Jan. 5, each of these events pairs live music by Edmonton bands with dance lessons by Sugar Swing Ballroom. There are free skates at each location for those who like to have their fun out-of-doors. (For more details, go to edmontonarts.ca and click on the picture of Winston Churchill.)
“We want to get people talking about art in a non-intimidating way,” said Shahani, referring to Swing and Skate and its equally popular summer counterpart, the Public Art Picnic. “It pushes art into the neighbourhoods. People say they want to have art in unexpected places.”
Well, not everybody says that. When the council, which is responsible for administering the city’s public art program, put a new, million-dollar sculpture by Berlin artist Thorsten Goldberg on top of the new city transit garage on Fort Road earlier this year, there was major pushback from city council members and community members alike. People thought the sculpture, called 53°30’N and representing abstract topography at the same latitude as Edmonton from around the world, should be in a traditional location, like a city park or prominent square.
But I like the piece where it is. Ideally, art should surround us as we live and work everywhere in the urban landscape; a glimpse of beauty during a commute can provide hope on a dreary day.
Asked what he’s looking forward to in 2020, Shahani points to the re-emergence of Churchill Square as a centre for summer festivals including the Street Performers Festival and Taste of Edmonton. Tix on the Square is expanding to offer a larger shop at Churchill Square, and more opportunities for local artists to sell tickets for a small administrative cost. The refurbished Stanley A. Milner library is to be unveiled this spring, when the public will see the newly restored, 50-year-old Norman Yates mural, brought back to its original splendour by the EAC’s conservation team (the only municipal team in the country).
Shahani, who came to Edmonton from Toronto three-and-a-half years ago to run the EAC, says he continues to be impressed with the city’s artistic perspective.
“It’s a city which is very warm, welcoming and friendly for anyone who wants to make room for themselves. It’s also bold and fearless in how it sees itself in its relationship with the world,” he reflects. “Edmonton has found a way to get noticed without having to brand itself as something it is not.”
Dan Fumano: Questions, shock as art studio's death blamed on COVID-19 – Vancouver Sun
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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.”
Smithers Art Gallery and Bulkley Valley Museum now open to the public – My Bulkley Lakes Now
The Smithers Art Gallery and The Bulkley Valley Museum have reopened to the public.
As of Monday(June 1), the gallery and the museum have opened and will be operating Monday to Friday from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m.
According to Smithers Art Gallery Manager Nicole Chernish, the planned exhibitions have been postponed until 2021 but artists who were invited to have exhibitions this year to provide work in a pop-up gallery.
Artists that will be featured in the gallery are Sarah Zimmerman, Mark Tworow, and Emily Klassen.
Chernish said getting the gallery ready for reopening was nerve-racking but now that they are open it feels amazing.
“It feels absolutely fantastic. We’ve got all this fantastic art on the walls and it just feels really refreshing and satisfying to have that visual art surrounding me so I can’t wait until we have more people come in and experience that for themselves,” she said.
Chernish added on the first day of the reopening the gallery had six people walkthrough.
She called it fantastic due to having a max capacity of five people for the building.
According to Chernish, during the gallery’s closure, they moved a lot of their content online, so they could still interact with the community.
Chernish said having the virtual exhibitions was difficult because they haven’t done a lot of them on their own.
“I think people are able to access it but it doesn’t feel quite the same as coming into a gallery and seeing a piece of art right in front of you so, I think it’s been an adjustment not only for the gallery but for visitors as well,” she said.
The Lakes District Museum is also open and the Witset Museum is set to open on Friday (June 5).
Local artists participating in upcoming national arts drive – OrilliaMatters
On June 20, many creatives in our area are participating in a country-wide National Arts Drive, organized by RAW Artists and Orillia native Michelle Bylow. This event was originally scheduled for June 5, but has been moved to later in the month.
Creatives in all areas —art, music, performing arts, film, fashion, photography, craft, beauty — as well as cultural institutions and local restaurants nation-wide are invited to showcase their work to a driving, socially distanced audience for attention, tips, and hopefully sales.
Local musician Olivia Duck will be participating, along with various other drop-in members of the band, Hobo Jam.
“We will be located at 77 Lewis Drive in Orillia. It will be a Hobo Jam collective performance featuring myself, Jakob Pierce, Jamie Drake, and Dennis Rizzo. Perhaps other drop-in musicians as well. We will do a variety of music which will be jammed out as we aren’t officially rehearsing at this time for obvious reasons,” said Duck.
Several artists and galleries along Peter Street between Mississaga and Colborne streets will be out, including Patti Agapi, MJ Pollak and Molly Farquharson from Hibernation Arts.
“We will have tables out showcasing our art, and of course participants are welcome to stop, park, and safely come into the gallery to view and purchase,” Farquharson said.
RAW artists executive director Bylow is excited about this first-time event.
“We have expanded the event to include local eateries and food trucks,” Bylow said. “We have partnered with the Orillia District Arts Council to spread the word to local artists.”
Anitta Hamming’s Creative Nomad Studios will also be participating, through the gallery’s 2020 Unlimited show, on display now in the windows of the gallery.
She said “2020 Unlimited is all set up for an event like this. We have over 30 works of art in the windows of the gallery and drivers can safely purchase through our website. We hope to see lots of drivers out and are excited to be part of this event,” said Hamming.
The event will be live in our area on June 20 from 4 to 7 p.m., and the map will go live the night before. There is also an app you can download. For this and other information about the National Arts Drive, go to their website.
Would you like to support art and an important cultural institution in our town? Orillia Museum of Arts and History’s (OMAH) online art auction, QuarARTine is now live!
This auction will run from now until the end of September. Twenty new pieces of 6-inch by 6-inch art will be posted every 20 days. You can purchase art outright for $30 or bid on it and see how high it goes!
All proceeds will go towards OMAH which of course is suffering in these pandemic times. Many items of the first 20 are already sold, only three days in, so check in often to get your first choice. For more information and to bid, go here.
This week’s Essential Concert series will feature Sean and Bayze Murray, of the local band, Reay. Reay’s debut single, Lemondrop Girl, is available for download and you can purchase the band’s debut album, Butterfly Tongue Revisited, here.
Tune in to listen to Sean and Bayze live on the Essential Concert series this Thursday at 8 p.m. here.
Local dance therapist Miriam Goldberger is involved in an amazing event this week to celebrate Seniors’ Month. Young at Art presents Golden Hour this Thursday June 4 from 2 to 3 p.m. This is a virtual interactive event for older adults, presented through Zoom.
There will be an interactive sing-a-long with music therapist Thyra Andrews, an improv dance with Miriam, and a co-created art experience with Tonya Hart. You can get your Zoom invite by emailing email@example.com. Enjoy!
Have a sunny first weekend in June and send me your arts news by Tuesday at noon, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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