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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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Senior art now being showcased by Allied Arts Council of Spruce Grove – Spruce Grove Examiner

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Their online show began Monday and is set to conclude June 12.

Elementum l by Suzan Berwald.

The Allied Arts Council of Spruce Grove knows seniors can create and intends to showcase that in their current exhibition.

To coincide with the province’s Seniors Week, which runs from June 1-7, the organization which oversees the art gallery within the public library in the city is running a 2020 Open Online Seniors Competition and Show. It began Monday, is set to conclude June 12, and, similar to other shows they have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, will see the variety of work ranging from paintings to drawings to 3D pieces and photographs posted on their websites and individually on social media feeds across Facebook and even through Instagram as well.

“We do have quite a few local people,” gallery manager Rebecca New said. “The show has always been Alberta-wide and we will have a judge who will score the pieces before we announce results Saturday in a Zoom call. People will see with this how talented local artists are and how accessible local art is. We hope that people will choose local art for their homes and it is an excellent level of work that we are seeing.”

New and the Allied Arts Council’s peers at the Multicultural Heritage Centre in Stony Plain have been running a version of digital shows during this time as well. They are debating whether to continue on with online offerings as seriously as they have now once they reopen and, for New, in the wake of this show and others they are doing, that is something the Spruce Grove Art Gallery will end up debating, too.

“I think having a digital presence is something that this will eventually shift to,” she said. “Whether or not we still have digital entries to contests, we are not sure how we will proceed with that. We are talking through a lot of options for the future that lies ahead of us.”

More information about the current show and future events can be found on the council’s website.

epretzer@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EvanJPretzer

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Grimes is selling a piece of her ‘soul’ at an art exhibit. SÆriously. – Globalnews.ca

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FOR SALE: One soul piece, slightly used. About 32 years old. Speaks and sings in English and made-up languages. May or may not have belonged to Elon Musk. Name your price. SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY.

Grimes is offering up a little part of herself at her very first art gallery show, an online exhibition called Selling Out which features several of her artistic works — and one piece of her supposed “soul.”


READ MORE:
Elon Musk, Grimes keep it weird with name change for baby X Æ A-12

The Canadian-born singer, whose real name is Claire Elise Boucher, opened her online art show on Thursday, less than a month after giving birth to her first child, X Æ A-12 X Æ A-Xii Musk. The exhibition is presented by the Gallery Platform Los Angeles and Maccarone Los Angeles, and it features various “rarities” from her career, including album art, a poem about artificial intelligence and some of Grimes paintings.

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Oh, and a piece of her soul.

Selling Out is executed as a contract in which Grimes sells a fraction of her soul, formalizing the idea that every time an artist sells a piece of their art, part of the soul is sold with it,” the online exhibit says. “The purchaser will enter into a contractual agreement that outlines the terms of ownership and ultimately the connection to the joy of artistic expression.”

It’s unclear what that contractual agreement includes, or whether it restricts the buyer from doing certain things with the soul, such as playing soldiers with it.


A supposed image of Grimes‘ soul is shown.


Maccarone Los Angeles

Grimes initially planned to put a US$10-million price tag on her soul, Rolling Stone reports. However, she ultimately decided to go with whoever makes the best offer.

That means Grimes’ soul could be yours — if you want it. You just have to shoot the art gallery an email to make your pitch.


READ MORE:
YouTube mom Myka Stauffer says she gave up adopted son with autism

Grimes told Bloomberg that she’s excited to put on her first visual art show, after honing her skills by making all of her album covers herself.

“I see myself as a visual artist first and foremost,” she said. “I’ve always felt strange that people know me for music.”

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‘WarNymph Prototype #1: Battle of the WarNymphs,’ by Grimes, is show in this image from Maccarone Los Angeles.

‘WarNymph Prototype #1: Battle of the WarNymphs,’ by Grimes, is show in this image from Maccarone Los Angeles.


Grimes via Maccarone Los Angeles

She describes her artistic style as “edgy-looking, anime horror,” although she wanted to go for something more “philosophical” with selling a piece of her soul.

“The idea of fantastical art in the form of legal documents just seems very intriguing to me.”

Grimes supposedly tapped into her artistic talents to come up with X Æ A-12, the name she and Musk gave their first child after he was born earlier this month. Musk told podcaster Joe Rogan that the name was largely Grimes’ idea.

“Yeah, she’s great with names,” Musk said.

The couple later changed the “12” to Roman numerals to conform with California naming laws.


READ MORE:
Grimes explains why she and Elon Musk named their baby ‘X Æ A-12’

Grimes’ artwork is being sold for between $500 and $15,000, depending on the piece.

The online exhibit is open now, and it runs until Aug. 31 at Maccarone Los Angeles.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Senior art now being showcased by Allied Arts Council of Spruce Grove – Goderich Signal Star

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Their online show began Monday and is set to conclude June 12.

Elementum l by Suzan Berwald.

The Allied Arts Council of Spruce Grove knows seniors can create and intends to showcase that in their current exhibition.

To coincide with the province’s Seniors Week, which runs from June 1-7, the organization which oversees the art gallery within the public library in the city is running a 2020 Open Online Seniors Competition and Show. It began Monday, is set to conclude June 12, and, similar to other shows they have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, will see the variety of work ranging from paintings to drawings to 3D pieces and photographs posted on their websites and individually on social media feeds across Facebook and even through Instagram as well.

“We do have quite a few local people,” gallery manager Rebecca New said. “The show has always been Alberta-wide and we will have a judge who will score the pieces before we announce results Saturday in a Zoom call. People will see with this how talented local artists are and how accessible local art is. We hope that people will choose local art for their homes and it is an excellent level of work that we are seeing.”

New and the Allied Arts Council’s peers at the Multicultural Heritage Centre in Stony Plain have been running a version of digital shows during this time as well. They are debating whether to continue on with online offerings as seriously as they have now once they reopen and, for New, in the wake of this show and others they are doing, that is something the Spruce Grove Art Gallery will end up debating, too.

“I think having a digital presence is something that this will eventually shift to,” she said. “Whether or not we still have digital entries to contests, we are not sure how we will proceed with that. We are talking through a lot of options for the future that lies ahead of us.”

More information about the current show and future events can be found on the council’s website.

epretzer@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EvanJPretzer

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