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Pan-African exhibition seeks to herald continent’s art scene

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DAKAR — Five towering wooden figures dwarf visitors to the “Lend Me Your Dream” exhibition at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilisations. The sculptures of fire-darkened cedar stand in a circle, as if deep in conversation.

The imposing work by Ivorian artist Koko Bi is meant to show the strength of Africans outside their homelands. It also echoes a central goal of the ambitious traveling show: to forge stronger cultural understanding between Africans within Africa.

To this end, organizers amassed what they say is an unprecedented number of works by around 30 prominent contemporary African artists for the first pan-African art exhibition to tour the continent.

“Too often, the trajectories of artists from Africa have been built through exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, London, New York … ,” senior curator Yacouba Konate says in the introduction to the show.

In contrast, this project launched in the Moroccan city of Casablanca last June and will end in Marrakech later in 2020, after touring south via Dakar, Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa and Cape Town.

The drive to redraw the map of contemporary African art comes as African governments step up pressure on Western museums to return artifacts seized during the colonial era. Around 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage is believed to be held outside the continent.

The more than 100 artworks in “Lend Me Your Dream” are in a range of media, from photography and collage to painting and sculptures of wood, metal or salvaged materials.

Some tackle issues including migration and the legacy of colonialism. Burkinabe artist Ky Siriki’s sculpture “Africa facing its destiny” shows a white couple offering briefcases of loans to a group of black people in exchange for raw commodities.

Other pieces are more abstract, such as Algerian Yazid Oulab’s untitled paintings of tendril-like black, white and grey lines or the works by Senegal’s Viye Diba that incorporate vivid scraps of traditional wax cloth.

The artists’ countries of origin are not mentioned in the descriptions next to their work, as if encouraging the viewer to see the art in a continental rather than national context.

Senegalese painter Soly Cisse, whose oils are also featured, said he liked that the exhibition was adding works of art as the tour progresses.

“It is a journey that we are doing together. That is the dream actually,” he said. “We are in an idea of seduction, of dialog, of communication, of sharing.” (Reporting by Christophe Van Der Perre and Alessandra Prentice; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross and Alison Williams)

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Pandemic shutdowns create a ‘triple whammy’ for Western Canada’s arts community – The Globe and Mail

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The redesign concept for the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Glenbow Museum

In another lifetime, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stood in front of John Hammond’s oil painting The Three Sisters at Calgary’s Glenbow museum, talking up philanthropy. He recounted the generosity of Eric Harvie, who founded the museum, and had once owned the painting. Harvie, who eventually made a fortune, began dabbling in Alberta’s oil and gas industry at a time when “a lot of dry wells were drilled and a lot of hopes were lost,” Kenney said. The Premier then pledged $40-million to Glenbow for major renovations. It was Feb. 21.

“We felt at that moment that the sky was the limit,” Glenbow CEO Nicholas Bell said during an interview this week. “I think if you look at the calendar, that was, like, five weeks ago. Honestly, it feels like a decade ago.”

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Catastrophe is not a word to be used lightly, but the coronavirus pandemic is worthy and arts institutions were among the first to take a hit. Performance venues were immediately affected, with shutdowns ordered in certain cases just hours before showtime. What followed has been a raft of cancellations and layoffs, with no idea when the lights can be flipped back on. At the same time, in Alberta, the price of oil has tanked.

Handout photo shows Nicholas R. Bell, CEO of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary. The Alberta government announced a $40-million pledge for major renovations to the Glenbow on Feb. 21, 2020. “Honestly, it feels like a decade ago,” Bell says.

Chelsea Yang-Smith/Glenbow Museum

For cultural organizations in Western Canada, the difficulties in rebuilding may be amplified. There is a smaller population – and thus donor base – and more distance from most head offices and their vital sponsorship dollars.

“The whole corporate fundraising aspect of arts is a big challenge out west,” says Tom Wright, now Vancouver Opera’s general director (he had been interim director). “That is why we do a lot of corporate fundraising in Toronto.”

The problem is particularly acute in Alberta, which is dealing with what Janice Price, president and CEO of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, calls a triple whammy: the devastated energy sector compromising a major source of philanthropy, cuts in provincial government funding, and now a pandemic.

The Banff Centre’s temporary layoff of 400 people – 75 per cent of its staff – is a stark example of what has been happening at arts and cultural organizations. At institutions including Glenbow, Alberta Ballet, the National Music Centre, the Calgary Stampede – all of which have temporarily laid off about 80 per cent of their workforces – job losses have been an ugly necessity.

“It’s tough sledding in Alberta; very, very tough sledding,” says Annemarie Petrov, president and CEO of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Winspear Centre. “I think not-for-profits are relatively resilient, but there is a breaking point.”

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra president and CEO Paul Dornian projects a $2-million loss in earned revenues between the March shutdown and the end of the CPO’s season, June 13.

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“Two million dollars is a lot to make up; in fact, there’s no way to do it in this type of climate.”

At different companies, the numbers vary, but the experience is universal: unprecedented gravity and uncertainty.

“The one thing we do know for sure is that things are not going to go back to what they were three weeks ago,” says Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, which has created a $1.1-million relief fund for artists.

“It is unlikely to me that all of the companies that came into this crisis are going to come out the other side.”

Rose Ginther, associate dean of the faculty of fine arts and communications at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, agrees some companies will likely fold. “Arts organizations run very close to the bone,” she says. “There isn’t an ounce of fat.”

Fundraising has never been so critical, and yet it has never been so fraught. Oil and gas companies, once Alberta’s leaders in arts sponsorship, have made their own cuts. Many donors have lost jobs, or seen their financial holdings tumble.

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Soliciting funds right now to support an orchestra or art gallery could be perceived as insensitive.

“It’s not the best time to bombard people with a lot of asks,” says Stephanie Raynor, chief advancement officer at Theatre Calgary. “We know our donors will be there when the time is right,” Raynor says.

Will they, though? There is a danger of Alberta’s philanthropic wells running dry.

For now, organizations are reporting heartening generosity. Patrons are e-mailing with messages of support and often donating the cost of tickets for cancelled performances rather than asking for refunds.

The Banff Centre says it received some 50 donations the week after laying off 400 people. “Many of our major donors said … they’re going to continue to fund us no matter what,” says vice-president of marketing and development, Rosemary Thompson. “They want the Banff Centre to survive.”

The Glenbow is confident in the promised funding for that renovation.

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The CPO, after issuing temporary layoffs, this week recalled musicians and staff, but with reduced hours. “That leaves us in a much better position to, when this ends, come back with some strength.”

For groups that can’t come back, Pon vows to recognize their contributions.

“In my experience when a company closes, all we remember about it is its closure. And all we associate with it is its failure,” she says. “We’ll work as hard as we can to honour them and make sure that they exit with grace and dignity and celebration.”


Farther west, in British Columbia, among the big cancellations this spring is what would have been Vancouver Opera’s final festival. Next year, unrelated to the pandemic, it will revert to a regular season, scrapping its unpopular festival experiment – something it had hoped to announce at this season’s closing event.

Other big questions surround the Vancouver Art Gallery. Neither its interim director nor board chair was available for an interview this week, but it’s hard to imagine its nearly $400-million new gallery project — which has been in the works for years but never broken ground — proceeding as planned. The project has been seeking $100-million from Ottawa and $50-million from the province, in addition to $50-million already granted by the province project in 2008.

“I can’t see that in the next 48 months being a priority,” says Bob Rennie, a philanthropist and collector who has long been openly critical of the project.

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Rennie says there’s an old adage that has guided him through his own business dealings: “a man who adheres to a position previously stated when times change is a fool.”


At the National Music Centre in Calgary, president and CEO Andrew Mosker believes Canadian arts organizations have a responsibility right now: to keep the country’s spirits – and hopes – high as we await what he calls “the next normal.”

Artists’ responses to the crisis were almost immediate. Jann Arden was among the first to livestream a performance, from her southern Alberta home. Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre has launched a Stuck in the House series. Contemporary Calgary will launch an initiative on Monday called Art Where You Are, with an online interview with Luke Jerram, whose Museum of the Moon, hangs suspended under the dome – and in time – in the closed gallery. Jerram will discuss a new work in his Glass Microbiology series: a glass sculpture of COVID-19.

But the pandemic presents an opportunity for more than some cool livestreams.

“I think this is a watershed moment,” Price says. “I think there will be a lot of dialogue when this is over about ‘what did we learn?’ and ‘how do we manage our organizations differently in the future?’”

Resilience has always been a theme when it comes to Alberta. Floods, fires, economic downturns – the province has emerged from it all, not unscathed, but standing. Resilience is also a forte for artists. Through the worst of times, there is creation. Nobody knows what the cultural landscape will look like on the flip side of this staggering event. But for sure, there will be art at the end of it. And along the way, to help ease this grim journey.


Banff Centre for Arts temporarily lays off 400 staff via email

File photo shows an aerial view of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Paul Zizka Photography/Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

That Thursday was an excruciating day on the mountain for all: senior management making difficult decisions; hundreds of employees learning they were out of work. The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity temporarily laid off 400 employees on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Banff Centre has never faced a layoff of this size,” spokesperson Rosemary Thompson said.

“We can’t deliver our programs online,” Banff Centre president and chief executive Janice Price explained to The Globe and Mail the next day. “We are about being on this campus, in this location, where we also house you and feed you, which of course is something we should not be doing now, putting people into close quarters with each other.”

But some employees felt the layoff was mishandled. (They spoke with The Globe on the condition of anonymity, as they say they’re worried about not being called back from their layoff.)

The notices were not communicated personally but delivered by e-mail – and those e-mails did not arrive at a uniform time, so in some cases, employees in the same office spent hours waiting to learn if they had lost their jobs after their co-workers had received their notice.

Laying off staff is a brutal duty at the best of times. But the coronavirus pandemic forced arts organizationsto lay off staff in large numbers and with little warning. Still, when implementing a mass layoff due to an unforeseen catastrophe, are there ways to make the ugly process a little more humane? And safe?

At the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, for instance, where 112 people were temporarily laid off, the layoffs were communicated in person or by phone calls, followed by an e-mail. At the Stratford Festival, which laid off nearly 500 people, a virtual town hall allowed artistic director Antoni Cimolino and executive director Anita Gaffney to address everyone. “It was clear, direct and quite moving,” actor Miles Potter says. Directors and managers then personally called everyone who was affected. That evening, there was a follow-up by e-mail. Staff were given a week’s notice.

“Even in the worst of times, even when you have no choice but to let people go because there is no business option, how you do it matters,” says Kanina Blanchard, a leadership development consultant and lecturer at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.

Blanchard was speaking about best practices in general and not about the Banff Centre, which she declined to comment on.

The Banff Centre says it chose to inform employees by e-mail in order to adhere to social distancing measures, which it mentioned in the e-mails.

Thompson told The Globe that the senior team will reduce or donate their compensation during the crisis to support the Banff Centre’s recovery – 20 per cent of base salary for Price and 15 per cent by the other members of the senior leadership team.

The union says there was nothing illegal or grievable about how management handled the layoffs.

“It may rub some people the wrong way and that’s fine,” says Lou Arab, communications representative for CUPE. “They’re entitled to feel how they feel.”

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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David Driskell, prominent authority on black art, dies at 88 – Times Colonist

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FALMOUTH, Maine — David Driskell, one of the nation’s most influential African American artists and a leading authority on black art, has died. He was 88.

Driskell was a multimedia artist who used the trees around his Falmouth, Maine, cabin home as a feature in his work. A spokeswoman for the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland said he died on Wednesday. The cause of his death, in a hospital near his home in Hyattsville, Maryland, was not disclosed.

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Driskell went to Maine in the 1950s to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He was part of a wave of artists who came to the state from New York, the Portland Press Herald reported. He would go on to become the author of several books and more than 40 catalogues, and curated “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1970s. The show was pivotal in paving the way for the study of African American art history.

Driskell once said of Maine: “I dream about it when I’m not there.”

The spokeswoman for the Driskell Center said services are not planned at this time due to concerns about coronavirus, which has disrupted funeral services around the country.

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David Driskell, prominent authority on black art, dies at 88 – Powell River Peak

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FALMOUTH, Maine — David Driskell, one of the nation’s most influential African American artists and a leading authority on black art, has died. He was 88.

Driskell was a multimedia artist who used the trees around his Falmouth, Maine, cabin home as a feature in his work. A spokeswoman for the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland said he died on Wednesday. The cause of his death, in a hospital near his home in Hyattsville, Maryland, was not disclosed.

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Driskell went to Maine in the 1950s to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He was part of a wave of artists who came to the state from New York, the Portland Press Herald reported. He would go on to become the author of several books and more than 40 catalogues, and curated “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1970s. The show was pivotal in paving the way for the study of African American art history.

Driskell once said of Maine: “I dream about it when I’m not there.”

The spokeswoman for the Driskell Center said services are not planned at this time due to concerns about coronavirus, which has disrupted funeral services around the country.

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