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.”
Nature is an Artist explores relationship betwee art and nature – MorinvilleNews.com
Nature is an Artist was released last week and is available wherever books are sold.
by Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County’s intergovernmental advisor Jennifer Lavallee has published her first children’s picture book.
Vancouver’s Greystone Books released Nature is an Artist, written by Lavallee and illustrated by Argentinian artist Natalia Colombo, on May 17.
The book looks at the various art forms children can find in the natural world surrounding them and follows a group of children exploring nature and discovering an art show in front of them. They are inspired to create works of art, recreating what they have seen in nature.
Although Nature is an Artist is Lavallee’s first published picture book, it is far from her first published work. The author has previously written articles for local newspapers and magazines, including Morinville Online. She has also written for national publications and many of Lavallee’s short stories have appeared in anthologies.
“Those have been more adult-focused stories, Lavallee said of her short story work. “This is my first professional publication in the world of children’s literature,” and that is where I am focusing all my efforts. That’s really where my passion is.”
Lavallee explained that when she was trying to determine the direction of her writing, it dawned on her that children’s writing was a great pairing to where her interests were.
“I’m an adult, but I still read middle-grade books and YA [young adult] and that kind of literature,” she said. “So it just kind of clicked – yeah, I should be focusing my attention here.”
Lavallee recently spent the day at École Morinville Public School reading her new book to students. Children were surprised to learn that an adult enjoyed books written for children.
“I said absolutely I do because I think there is something so very special about pairing really beautiful illustrations [with words],” Lavallee said. “When you look at illustrations in picture books, you can find some really special artwork. Pairing that with beautiful text; it reminds me of magic, kind of, and it’s almost like comfort food.”
Lavallee said she has always been someone who loves fairy tales and someone who loves to watch classic children’s movies over and over again. Films like the adaptation of William Golden’s Princess Bride, Hook and Peter Pan have helped form her current writing path.
“I’ve always just been in that space,” she said of her interests and the types of books she wants to write, paraphrasing author Toni Morrison’s quotation – ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’
But writing a children’s book is challenging for the mother of three, balancing full-time employment with Sturgeon County, completing graduate school, and taking care of her family.
From the initial idea in the author’s mind, writing the manuscript, then being able to drive to Chapters and take the book off the shelf, was a four-year journey.
“It takes a long time. There are not even 500 words in here,” Lavallee said of the new book, adding that just finalizing the text with the publisher is a lengthy process. “It has to be exactly right, and the thing about this book is it’s a rhyming book. Not only do you have to find the right words, but the right rhyming words to match the story you are trying to tell. It was about a year to finalize the text.”
Working with Buenos Aires-based illustrator Natalia Colombo was also an exciting experience for Lavallee, which also took a year.
“This is her twenty-third book, so that was a neat experience. Most people think I drew the pictures, but I wish I could draw,” Lavallee laughed. “The illustrations are what makes picture books pop, and I’m so pleased with how it came out. It’s very bright and cheerful.”
Great art is significant for Lavallee’s book, which is about the artistic beauty found in nature.
“You can go into nature and see things that are like fine works of art,” Lavallee said. “A sunset is like a beautiful painting, or a rainbow is like stained glass. The point of it is to inspire young readers to see themselves as artists, but in the context of also having respect for nature, and wanting to get out into the environment and the natural world. It’s the pairing of those two.”
Lavallee said Nature is an Artist is perfectly aligned to the existing curriculum, lending itself to simple crafts based on the content of the book.
“Some of those things that you need to learn in the younger years about artistic styles are all interwoven into the story,” Lavallee explained.
The author worked with the publisher to create some free downloadable companion guides to the book for parents and teachers.
Nature is an Artist is available wherever books are sold, including Chapters and Amazon. It retails for $22.95 per copy.
Lavallee has written a sequel to the new book and hopes to see it published in the future. She is also working on a longer chapter book aimed at middle grades.
The author is also doing workshops at the upcoming St. Albert Children’s Festival.
Contest open to young artists; art grads needed more than ever – SooToday
Art students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 are invited to submit samples of their work to be included in a separate exhibition and contest within the annual St. Mary’s College art show to be held at the Second Line East high school beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14.
Students have until 3 p.m. Thursday, June 9 to submit their drawings, painting or digital art work with their identification and contact information in person at SMC’s main office.
While the SMC art show is an annual event – featuring work by artists from Grades 9 to 12 and including not only visual art but also musical and dance performances in one night – this year marks the first show and contest for students in Grades 6 to 8.
The contest is the brainchild of Adriano DiCerbo, SMC art teacher and Samantha Lance, an SMC graduate now pursuing a career as an art show curator in Toronto.
“Adriano approached me with this idea. He wanted to get the ball rolling on this and try to attract kids’ attention to this. We came up with the title Spring Back To Life, to get students to think about what inspires you about this new season?” Lance said.
- What images of spring best represent your personal connection to this season?
- What moments of spring do you cherish?
- Are there certain aspects of spring (flowers, plants, landscapes, animals) that hold a special place in your heart?
The contest poster has been designed and will be sent out soon to parents and teachers across the H-SCDSB system.
DiCerbo hopes word will get out to art students in Grades 6 to 8 students in other school boards.
Students and parents can contact DiCerbo by email
Lance will judge the Grades 6 to 8 art show.
“I first got immersed in visual arts in Grade 10 with Mr. DiCerbo’s class and then I started helping with the arts festivals from Grade 10 to 12 and I realized, while curating the work, that art is what I wanted to do as a career,” Lance said.
Lance graduated from SMC in 2017 and went on to study art for four years at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art & Design – OCAD University.
There she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Criticism and Curatorial Practice, learning how to organize art shows at galleries, museums, art shows and festivals.
She plans to attend the University of Toronto in September to begin a Master of Curatorial Studies program.
At OCAD, she was inspired by the work of many artists including Vincent Van Gogh, American photographer Nicolas Bruno and Christian painter Akiane Kramarik.
“After I graduated from high school I came back to help curate the arts festival at SMC. Every year it was nice to see the work and the talent students brought to the table,” Lance said.
“I appreciate art history and love looking at the different types of media people bring into their art. When I go for my Masters in Toronto I want to support local, national and international artists by showcasing their art,” Lance said, adding she’ll always enjoy keeping in touch with the Sault arts scene.
Admission to the June 14 SMC art show is free for kids, $10 for adults.
Proceeds from admission go to Tumaini Afrika, a Sault Ste. Marie-based, non-registered group of volunteers dedicated to working with children and women in Kenya in such spheres as education and nutrition.
“After COVID, everybody needs this art show,” Lance said.
Both Lance and her high school art mentor DiCerbo spoke of the importance of art and art education for kids despite the heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in schools.
“Art speaks when words can’t,” Lance said.
“Art gives anyone – students, young and old – to speak about their background, their culture and their response to everything that’s happening in the world in their own way, it gives them that freedom to do that. That’s so critical, to express yourself, and to have that confidence.”
As for exposing younger students to art at an early age, Lance smiled “if we nurture this at the beginning in younger students we could be fostering the next Monet or Van Gogh.”
“I believe in having a well-rounded education. Yes, science and math, but the arts as well,” DiCerbo said.
“That enables students to have creative skills, critical thinking skills and they need those opportunities to be self expressive. It’s an incredibly valuable skill for the 21st Century, more than we realize. It helps us to connect with nature and each other. An arts festival is a celebration of when we come together and celebrate creativity.”
“There are jobs out there for creative people,” DiCerbo said.
“They’re just not as visible as the teacher, the doctor, the dentist. There are so many creative people behind the scenes working in traditional and digital media, architectural studies, the business world needs creative thinkers. They’re needed.”
“Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower. What if the Mona Lisa vanished? It’s priceless. These are iconic pieces of art that help define who we are. The Group of Seven helps define who we are. Filmmakers, musicians give us a sense of identity and belonging. How can we possibly take that out of our world? We need more of that particularly during these times more than ever before,” DiCerbo said.
“Hopefully we get a lot of submissions,” Lance said.
“We’re not expecting students to donate a huge painting or drawing, but it’ll be exciting to see what comes in.”
Lance said she hopes it will be an encouragement for kids to start building a portfolio and consider a career in art.
It’s late in the school year but kids can submit work they’ve done earlier in the current school year.
Prizes of $100, $75 and $50 will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in the Grade 6-8 show and competition.
'Deaf Shame to Deaf Same': Art exhibit aims to destigmatize hearing loss – CTV News Regina
A new art exhibit at the George Bothwell Library is hoping to examine and remove the feeling of shame associated with people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Students in Winston Knoll’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program helped create the art installation “Deaf Shame to Deaf Same.”
Different dioramas illustrate the students’ collective experiences with isolation, bullying, humiliation and challenges with communication and acceptance due to their hearing loss.
The stories for the installation are based on personal narratives from the students.
The exhibit was made up of different dioramas representing the DHH students experiences within school. (Allison Bamford/CTV News Regina)
“I’ve often felt a lot of shame because in my past it was quite traumatic, going to school and even at home,” said Grade 11 student Amna Warda Wahid.
“A lot of people would bully me because I was deaf.”
Warda Wahid said she used to identify as a hearing person before she entered the DHH program.
Her experience is quite common among DHH students, according to Michelle Grodecki, certified teacher for the deaf.
“Many times students say, ‘I can’t do it, I’m stupid,’” Grodecki said.
“But it’s not that they’re stupid, they just don’t have the access.”
Six students from Winston Knoll’s DHH program helped create the dioramas at the centre of the exhibit. (Allison Bamford/CTV News Regina)
Yamama Alrweilei, a Grade 11 student in the DHH program, struggled in “mainstream classrooms” without an interpreter.
“I didn’t understand a lot of what the teacher was saying, people talk very fast and I was missing a lot,” Alrweilei said.
Through the DHH program supports and interpreter, she said she can now understand the lessons.
Grodecki said hearing loss needs to be normalized in society and in the classroom. If that happens, she said, bilingual education and supports of all modalities will be widely accepted.
For now, she said the goal of the art exhibit has been achieved, and her students have accepted themselves and their identity.
“For each of our students to stand in front of an audience and proudly say, ‘I am hard of hearing. I am deaf. I wear my hearing aids. I have my confidence back,’ I would confidently say we’ve achieved our goal,” Grodecki said.
The exhibit is a collaboration between the DHH program, SKArts and Deaf Crows Collective.
From Deaf Shame to Deaf Same will be on display in the Creation Cube at the George Bothwell Library until June 25.
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