Sustainable Orillia accepting entries for student art contest
Biodiversity: It’s All Around Us — that’s the theme of the 2023 Sustainable Orillia student art contest.
Building on the success of last year’s art competition, Sustainable Orillia has launched what promises to become an annual event — our student art contest. This year students from local schools, elementary and secondary, have been invited to share their vision of biodiversity — the many, many forms of life that surround us in the Orillia area.
Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell’s iconic song, Big Yellow Taxi (1970), underscored the point that “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” In the same song, Mitchell also sings, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Ms. Mitchell was far, far ahead of her time with respect to drawing attention to human activities disrupting the natural world.
Expert estimates on our current extinction rate vary and they vary widely. As lay folks, all we can truly discern is that the loss of biodiversity is happening. Through our actions we are putting the balance and the beauty of nature at risk. Joni Mitchell’s words elegantly echo what could happen if we don’t focus on preserving “what we’ve got” before it’s too late. Sustainable Orillia feels this contest will help bring that challenge to the fore.
The contest invites students to explore — directly in nature or virtually — the many amazing species (plant, animal or aquatic) that share this south-central part of Ontario with us. After students have done some exploration and decide on one or more species to represent local “biodiversity,” it’s on to the fun part — celebrating their selected species in a drawing or painting. The contest ends as of May 31, 2023 and arrangements have been made for submissions to be collected as of that date. Submissions should include a short (50 to 100 words) note explaining why a particular species was chosen.
Winning submissions will be determined by a jury, and all submissions will be considered for publication in Sustainable Orillia’s 2024 Biodiversity Calendar, as well as a Biodiversity Art Show being planned for Sustainable Orillia Month this coming September. There are prizes for the first- ($300), second- ($200) and third-place ($100) selections for secondary school students and for the nine additional submissions chosen for the calendar ($50 each) from among all submissions.
Our warmest thanks to our sponsors, Scott’s Garden Centre and Manticore Books, for their generous support, as well as to the many local art teachers who are supporting and collaborating to make this event a success for their students.
Last year’s student entrants looked to the future and shared their vision of a Sustainable Orillia in 2050. Their submissions confirmed the depth of talent, imagination and importance young people bring to this important subject. Their work was lively and full of hope for a sustainable future. (To see samples of the 2022 submissions, click here.) At Sustainable Orillia, we are hoping once again, in 2023, to showcase the creative messages of our community’s young people.
For more information about the competition and how to participate, click here.
Rubbish fashion: street art costumes of Kinshasa – in pictures – The Guardian
Falonne Mambu posing in her electric wires costume in Limete district, Kinshasa. As a performing artist, she raises issues about social development in her own country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is potentially the biggest electricity provider in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, decay and corruption have crippled the national Inga dam, which only works to the minimum of its capacity. Nowadays, only 19% of Congolese people have access to electricity.
Montreal artist won’t change puppet that community groups say looks like blackface
MONTREAL — A theatre performance for children featuring a puppet that has been described as racist is continuing in the Montreal area.
Several Black community organizations have criticized the puppet as being reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows — racist performances during which white people portrayed exaggerated stereotypes of Black people for laughs.
But the show’s creator — Franck Sylvestre, who is Black — has no plans to change the puppet, which he said is a caricature of his own features. Sylvestre said in an interview he can’t accept the idea that he’s not allowed to create a caricature of someone who is Black because racists created caricatures of Black people in the past.
“That’s unheard of for an artist,” he said.
The play, called L’incroyable secret de barbe noire — French for The Incredible Secret of Blackbeard — first drew controversy in February.
A performance at a municipal theatre in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield, Que., was cancelled after complaints by Black community organizations. The neighbouring community of Pointe-Claire, meanwhile, removed the play from its official Black History Month programming but allowed the performance to go ahead.
Sylvestre, who wrote the one-man show in 2009 aimed at kids aged five to nine years old, said he had never received a complaint about his show before February.
A series of performances of the play, which combines theatre, storytelling, masks and puppetry, begins Sunday in Laval, Que., he said, before he takes it to France for 30 performances.
Sylvestre said the play tells the story of a young man who travels from Montreal to Martinique — the Caribbean island where Sylvestre’s parents are from — at the request of his dying grandfather, who is haunted by his discovery of a mysterious wooden chest with a connection to the pirate Blackbeard.
Max Stanley Bazin, president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, describes the puppet’s appearance as “very, very, very ugly” and said he worries that seeing a Black person presented in such a way could cause emotional damage to young audiences.
“It will have an impact on them, it will have an impact on the mind of the young people who see this puppet, and that’s what we should think about,” he said in an interview.
People are more likely to speak out about racism now than they were in 2009, Bazin said, adding that he thinks Sylvestre should listen to community members and replace the puppet with a less controversial creation.
“If there are people in society who have said this isn’t right, you have to react,” he said.
Philip Howard, a professor in the department of integrated studies in education at McGill University, said he’s not sure the puppet is an example of blackface — but he said that’s beside the point.
“There is still very much the matter of representation and the potential use of monstrous and grotesque representations of Black people as a source of entertainment and even humour,” said Howard, who has studied contemporary blackface.
Howard said the intentions of the artist are less important than the impact of the performance on an audience.
“Here we have, in this particular instance, a whole community of folks that are responding and saying, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t love this, we don’t think this is OK and we’re particularly disturbed about it during Black History Month,’” he said.
Dismissing the opinions of Black people who have a problem with the performance demonstrates anti-Black racism, he said.
Sylvestre said he thinks much of the criticism comes from people who haven’t seen the play.
“It’s the job of the community to see what purpose these caricatures serve; are they, like blackface, denigrating Black people, or, as in my case, are they being elevated?” he said. “This character, he’s a strong character for me personally, and when I made it, I was inspired by myself.”
He said the puppet, named Max, is “like a great sage,” whose interventions lead to the play’s happy ending.
“Max, he was the voice of reason, he was the one who advised us, who mocked me when I made a bad decision, who was above me,” he said.
Prof. Cheryl Thompson, who teaches performance at Toronto Metropolitan University, said she didn’t like the puppet when she viewed a trailer for the play.
“I was extremely shocked,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
While blackface minstrel shows are primarily associated with the United States, Thompson’s research has shown that blackface performances took place in Canada, with shows in Montreal as recently as the 1950s.
Even though blackface originated with white performers, Black actors in the 1800s would also don the exaggerated makeup and participate in the racist performances for white audiences.
“It actually didn’t matter if it was a white actor in blackface or a Black actor in blackface, it was the caricature that audiences thought was funny,” she said.
Thompson said there’s room for theatre performances to be provocative. But performers, she said, need to engage with audiences and be willing to discuss artistic choices — especially when artists are performing for audiences whose histories might be different than their own.
“Why wouldn’t this person at least try to hear the voices of people who maybe have a different experience to him?” she said.
She said she wouldn’t take a child to see the show, especially during Black History Month.
“I just don’t see the uplifting messaging,” Thompson said. “I don’t see the messaging of ‘you matter,’ I just don’t see that celebration of life. I just see something that is steeped in a history of racial caricature and mimicry.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Vancouver to remove unsanctioned spider art creeping-out transit riders
City staff are looking into how to remove a large metallic spider from under a high-traffic bridge on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
The artwork, which startled some arachnophobic SkyTrain riders when it was installed earlier this month, was created by pop artist Junko Playtime.
In an email to Postmedia News on Friday, city staff say they were made aware of the unsanctioned spider artwork located in a corridor for SkyTrain and CN/BNSF Rail.
The installation wasn’t done in consultation with the city or the rail corridor partners, city staff said. They’re trying to figure out the best way to remove the artwork so there is no damage to the bridge structure or rail lines.
Staff said the artist will have the ability to claim the work through the city’s impoundment process.
According to Playtime’s Instagram page, the eight-foot-diameter spider was installed at night recently on the north bank below the bridge between North Grandview Highway and Broadway.
Playtime, from Montreal, has gained a reputation over the past two years for installing very large and far-out insect like futuristic sculptures from scrap metal and household items.
The artist called this latest spider creation “Phobia 2023. Time to face our fears.”
— With files from David Carrigg
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