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Powell: Art exhibit honors lives well lived – Toledo Blade









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Macdonald statue should reconcile art and history : Prince Edward County News –



Macdonald statue should reconcile art and history

Opinion to the Editor
by Henri Garand
The controversy over Holding Court, Picton’s statue of John A. Macdonald, must be examined in historical, aesthetic, and economic as well as political contexts:
1. The statue is linked to a specific time in Picton’s history and Macdonald’s life unrelated to his later political career.
2. The statue is unique sidewalk sculpture that arouses interest and encourages public interaction. It was intended to please, not anger or divide viewers.
3. The location outside the library and near the Regent Theatre maximizes its visibility and value in the tourist economy. If relocated, it would still have to be protected from potential vandalism.
4. Though Macdonald’s later political actions are extrinsic to the focus and meaning of the statue, an accompanying explanatory plaque and/or display inside the library could address matters of Truth and Reconciliation.
5. The statue does not have to be removed or relocated; if necessary, it can be repurposed on site. Text for a new plaque is proposed.
The Macdonald Statue Controversy: Reconciling Art and History

The controversy over Picton’s statue of John A. Macdonald involves a multi-faceted debate over public art and Canada’s historical record. It’s a shame that a sculptural gift to the County has entangled council and residents in dispute and divisiveness. But perhaps there is a way for art to triumph over politics. Before considering possible solutions, however, I think we have to understand the Macdonald statue in three contexts: local history, public art, and historical revisionism.

Local History
The Holding Court statue was originally proposed as depicting a specific incident on October 8, 1834, when the 19-year-old Macdonald successfully defended himself in Picton’s courthouse. According to the Macdonald Project website, the trial “marks the moment when John A. came of age and started his career in law.” Recently, the reality of this event has been questioned. But even if the inspiration for Holding Court is unfounded, the image of Macdonald standing beside a prisoner’s dock is an appropriate depiction for his local legal career. It’s indisputable that between 1833 and 1837 Macdonald studied and practiced law, as well as married, in Picton before relocating to begin his political career in Kingston. This early association confers a special significance on the town of Picton. No other small Canadian town can claim a similar connection with Macdonald.

Public Art
Sculptor Ruth Abernethy’s statue of Macdonald is a fine piece of public art. As sidewalk art it engages viewers at eye level and encourages interaction. Tourists sometimes pose for photographs next to the statue or in the prisoner’s dock. At the very least it arouses curiosity and invites inquiry into the meaning of the scene depicted. The representational image is not of a dignified senior politician but of a seemingly ordinary fellow, though in old-fashioned dress.
Undoubtedly, the statue would not exist without Macdonald’s becoming Prime Minister and it was commissioned to mark his 200th birthday, but neither would it exist without his early life in Picton. The statue is not a conventional tribute to a Great Man; it is a vivid pictorial rendering of a scene in court, regardless of whether the scene is specific or generic. One cannot see this unique piece of sidewalk art without wondering what it depicts. The presence of the prisoner’s dock makes all the difference.
Macdonald is depicted not on a pedestal high above the heads of viewers. He is not astride a horse and carrying a sword. Nor does he stand strong despite age and the winds of change. The iconography is not heroic. The image, like a snapshot of the past, encourages us to see Macdonald not as symbol but as his young self. At its most obvious, the statue functions exclusively in terms of Picton’s pioneer history, the equivalent of an American sign reading “Washington slept here”. Of course, a viewer can recoil in dismay upon recognizing the personage as Macdonald, but that is a reaction outside the literal representation of an earlier time.

Despite its limited sphere of artistic and historical reality, the Macdonald statue has been caught up in social change and revisionist assessment. The dispute polarizes those who defend Macdonald as a man of his time and those who denounce his acts as reprehensible whether or not he knew it. The historical background of the statue cannot therefore be isolated from current Canadian values.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report has shone a spotlight on many truths about Macdonald’s political career. Bud does it reflect the only truth about his life? If he is responsible for the discrimination and violence suffered by indigenous people, Chinese immigrants, and other minorities, then he must also be seen as responsible for helping to found the nation of Canada and building a railroad that preserved it from American expansionism. Current Canadian citizens still benefit from those achievements, though we are also the heirs of Macdonald’s misdeeds and must continue to address their remediation.
Given its early historical focus, should the Macdonald statue bear the weight of all his political baggage? Since it does not honor Macdonald’s whole career, should it be condemned because of the stain of retrospective guilt?

Removal or Relocation
The present location of the statue outside the Picton library has made it an object for protest and vandalism. But the potential for further vandalism should not figure in council’s deciding where to locate the statue. Vandalism can take place anywhere, and mitigation can only reduce its incidence and severity. Outside the library the simple, least intrusive protection is video surveillance to discourage vandals and to help apprehend them.
More importantly, concerns over vandalism should not override the decision making. Vandals do not express a community consensus and must not be given a de facto veto on display of the statue. The broad public consultation process must be respected, and any decision must be based upon sound reasoning, not fears of backlash by some members of the community.
Moving the statue off Main Street to a site with less pedestrian traffic, such as the grounds of Shire Hall or the courthouse, is at odds with the design of a sidewalk sculpture and would not maintain the artistic experience. Though the courthouse may provide a close association with Macdonald’s legal practice, both it and Shire Hall would reduce the number of viewers and diminish the role of the statue in the tourist economy. (For what it’s worth, the statue appears on a Tripadvisor list of county attractions.) Relocation, like complete removal, is just a convenient means of disposing of a political problem.
Moreover, how does removing the Macdonald statue facilitate understanding of the past? All art reflects the age and culture in which it was produced and is often contaminated, to some extent, by past social practices and values. To preserve it we have to think beyond the present. The meaning of public bronze and stone statuary changes, and the importance can even disappear with time. But as long as the statues remain intact they recall the heritage and history of those who inherited them. Their removal does not leave behind a lasting lesson; it leaves merely a void to be filled by misinformation and ignorance.
If the Macdonald statue is to be preserved and rehabilitated, then it is already ideally located near the library, which houses so many County memories and accommodates other tarnished reputations. A permanent display inside the library could recount Macdonald’s life after he left Picton, and explain his contentious legacy.

Accompanying Plaque
The content, placement, and size of an accompanying plaque are more problematic. A plaque should not overwhelm the statue with historical detail and interpretation which turn this charming and curious piece of public art into a dark history lesson, an object of shame instead of pride. An interpretive plaque that dwells chiefly on Macdonald’s later career is likely to spoil any viewer’s initial aesthetic pleasure, rather like castor oil after a taste of sugar.
The text on the plaque must also balance the perspectives of both those who admire Macdonald and those who revile him. It’s an extraordinarily difficult task to find the right phrasing and emphasis because the aim cannot be to transform Macdonald from Canadian hero into villain. That simply shows disrespect for one group in order to please another. The text should help to resolve differences as well as amend history. It’s a matter, as in all art, of proportion.

With great hesitancy, I suggest a factually-based inscription along these lines:
Holding Court depicts the young John A. Macdonald (1815-91) in Picton, where he studied and practiced law between 1833 and 1837. Sculptor Ruth Abernethy shows him standing beside a prisoner’s dock in Picton’s courthouse. Thirty years after leaving Picton to pursue a political career, Macdonald became Canada’s first prime minister, and many years later he was responsible for government policies harmful to Indigenous people and immigrant minorities. Commissioned, funded, and erected by the local Macdonald Project, the statue marks an early time in Picton’s pioneer heritage.

The controversy over the Macdonald statue requires a careful decision by council and its mature acceptance by county residents and all interested parties. Then at least three principles in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report will be partially met:
1. Public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.
2. Responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.
3. Sustained public education and dialogue.
When serving these new purposes, surely the Macdonald statue should remain where it enhances both residents’ and visitors’ experience of Picton. Then it will show how art can aid in reconciling everyone with history.

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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Abbotsford Arts Council presents online Anonymous Art Show – Abbotsford News



The Abbotsford Arts Council presents the sixth annual Anonymous Art Show Fundraiser starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1.

The show runs online at until Nov. 30.

The fundraiser showcases art that is submitted anonymously by emerging artists and seasoned professionals, providing an opportunity to give emerging artists a boost and buyers an opportunity to purchase an original work at an affordable price.

Each piece displayed in the show is on a 12-by-12-by-1.5-inch canvas or board and will be sold for $100.

Half the proceeds go to the artist and the remaining fifty per cent stays with the Abbotsford Arts Council to help create opportunities for artists in these difficult times and fund programs such as free community events, exhibition space, arts initiatives and more.

When a piece is purchased, the work will be marked as sold and the artist’s name revealed on the website.

The Abbotsford Arts Council will also announce each participating artist on Instagram @abbotsfordartscouncil as their work is sold. Purchased works can be picked up from the Kariton Art Gallery (2387 Ware St.) at designated pickup times or by appointment.

Visit the website or email for more information.

RELATED: Submissions accepted for Anonymous Art Show

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Letters Oct. 31: Art installation; restaurant servers; big spending – Times Colonist



Who owns an art installation?

Re: “Anti-police acronym removed from Bastion Square mural, replaced with ­censorship message,” Oct. 29.

As an artist I want to start off by saying, I support public art to the fullest. Public art can be controversial. It can enhance our community and open us up to dialogue. I need to say I was greatly upset over the completed art installation at Bastion Square pertaining to injustices towards Black and Indigenous people.

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The idea of surreptitiously encrypting the acronym ACAB into a piece of commissioned public art is both insulting and offensive to the public and the police. I have sold a number of pieces both my own and commissioned work. I could not imagine incorporating a political message of my belief into a piece of commissioned work, without the knowledge of the purchaser. It would be unprofessional, as well as morally unethical.

I was angered to read that the artists responsible for the work were involved in “weeks of negotiations with the city” as to how to deal with the offensive acronym. The solution to cover the letter “S” and include a lengthy notation that criticizes the city for silencing their voices seems to be almost as offensive.

I have been fortunate enough to purchase a few pieces of original art in my lifetime. Since I bought and paid for them, they belong to me. I can do whatever I wish with them.

It is my understanding that since the city owns this installation, the city should not really have to consult with anyone as to what happens with the piece. I feel that for all the good intentions on the part of the city to support public art, the cost and time taken has ended up as a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. In the end, the greater message of “More Justice, More Peace” seems to have been lost to everyone.

Rod MacPherson

Restaurant servers, wear your masks

When eating out we find that in some places not all of the staff members wear masks. The person directing us to a table might keep at a suitable distance.

However, often the person serving the meal does not wear a mask and is usually standing a foot or two away, is above us, and talking. Not good.

I have asked why no mask and been told that it is up to the individual server to decide.

It should be mandatory that at least the server wears a mask. Better yet, keep it simple and make it mandatory that masks be worn by everyone in all indoor facilities dealing with the public.

Roger Nield

Pandemic will have lingering impact

Let’s take a moment to cheer on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Before COVID-19 he had already set a milestone in increasing Canada’s debt per capita (inflation adjusted) more than any prime minister outside the Great Depression of the 1930s and the two world wars, sadly stealing that honour from his father. With COVID he now has an open field to surpass those PMs who merely had to deal with world wars or global depressions.

So while COVID will pass, we are assured the suffering will continue for generations to come.

Scott Clark

Limit cannabis to limit the virus

The authorities have strictly reduced access to bars and nightclubs to an essential minimum. Extended stays assisted by alcohol reduce inhibitions and allow the untested positives to spread the virus.

How does freely available cannabis enhance our drive to get the better of this pandemic? The answer is: It doesn’t.

Leonhard Braunizer
Brentwood Bay

A bridge would help at Kelly Road crossing

Congratulations to Colwood in pressing for a bridge on the Galloping Goose Trail and Wale Road.

I find that crossing the Island Highway by bike to be not so much a challenge at the proposed site as it is at Kelly Road and the Veterans Memorial Parkway, which requires two major street crossings versus the one.

Please consider one more key crossing site.

Larry Maydonik
James Bay


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• Mail: Letters to the editor, Times Colonist, 201-655 Tyee Rd.

Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5

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