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The art of survival – Winnipeg Free Press

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Helping arts groups survive the COVID-19 pandemic has become the top priority for the Winnipeg Arts Council.

“We’re just in a process of preparing our 2021 corporate plan and request to the city and we have one main goal, and that is sustaining the arts in Winnipeg for 2021,” says Carol Phillips, who has been the Winnipeg Arts Council’s executive director since 2006. “That’s the only thing that matters at this point. We are there to support the arts and sustain them at this time of crisis and help them get to the other side.

“They have to have a chance to get back on their feet, and that’s what we want to help them do. The arts need every penny.”

The arts council will disburse $4.2 million in grants this year to individual artists and small community arts groups, as well as larger organizations such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

PHIL HOSSACK / FREE PRESS FILES

The arts council will disburse $4.2 million in grants this year to individual artists and small community arts groups, as well as larger organizations such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

There’s a big problem, though. The city cut the arts council’s budget by 10 per cent in its 2020 budget, and Phillips expects the new lower funding level to remain that way for the next three years. That means the arts council will disburse $4.2 million in grants this year to individual artists and small community arts groups, as well as larger organizations in the city, such as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Opera, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

It also has no special fund for pandemic-related grants, unlike the Winnipeg Foundation, which on July 16 announced it will hand out $8.9 million in pandemic stabilization grants to 279 Winnipeg charities, including dozens of city arts groups.

“We were under-resourced as it is, and have been arguing that for many years, no matter who the governing authority might be. Nevertheless, we’re making the best of the situation,” Phillips says.

“We were under–resourced as it is, and have been arguing that for many years, no matter who the governing authority might be. Nevertheless, we’re making the best of the situation.” – Winnipeg Arts Council’s executive director Carol Phillips

Another problem larger arts groups face is the way they saw audiences — and for some, large portions of their 2019-2020 seasons — vanish, owing to the onset of COVID-19. Not only do these companies rely on box-office receipts, the essence of the performing arts is to entertain, says Randy Joynt, the executive director of the Manitoba Arts Council.

“We’d seen some uncertainty for the first part of the pandemic for the arts community generally, and I think it’s true the arts were the first to put the brakes on,” says Joynt, who took over the Manitoba Arts Council’s top job in the summer of 2019. “How are we going to continue to bring people together and share art?

“The performing arts are in tough I would say because we’re still working out how we’re going to safely gather artists on stage, actors or dancers or musicians and then, of course, bringing people into enclosed spaces. That’s still a work in progress.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“There have been so many wonderful artworks that have been created through the Public Art Program, but of course that has been slashed as well, so we’re in a maintenance mode,” Carol Phillips says.

The Manitoba Arts Council, which will distribute about $11 million in grants on behalf of the province in 2020, has repurposed an old program, Connecting at a Distance, to help some of the province’s artists adapt to pandemic restrictions, Joynt says.

“This provided some funds for artists to continue to create but to present work in a safe manner, physically distancing,” he says. “The creative spark never stops, so this was an opportunity for artists to continue that.

“Even larger groups are being innovative with the way they’re functioning. The folks that are organizing… they’re being incredibly responsive. They’re making Plan A, Plan B and Plan C and then you have back-up plans to all those.”

Arts groups have also been responding to the death of George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis who was killed in an confrontation with police officers, caused a surge of protests and rallies, including one on June 5 that took place at the steps of the Manitoba legislature as about 15,000 people showed their support for racial justice and equality. The involved officers have been charged in Floyd’s death.

"If we look at this moment of time, with COVID-19 and then the Black Lives Matter movement, I think this is going to be looked back on in history as a turning point," Randy Joynt says.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“If we look at this moment of time, with COVID-19 and then the Black Lives Matter movement, I think this is going to be looked back on in history as a turning point,” Randy Joynt says.

Artists around the world have heard and supported the demonstrations, and Manitoba’s arts groups must react, Joynt says.

“If we look at this moment of time, with COVID-19 and then the Black Lives Matter movement, I think this is going to be looked back on in history as a turning point,” Joynt says. “Certainly at the Manitoba Arts Council, we’re talking about it and it really is a question of equity.

Who they are

Randy Joynt: He took over the reins at the Manitoba Arts Council in the summer of 2019. He comes from a dance background. Joynt began as a youngster as part of a Ukrainian dancing troupe in Meacham, Sask., east of Saskatoon, before moving to Winnipeg to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and the School of Contemporary Dancers.

Randy Joynt: He took over the reins at the Manitoba Arts Council in the summer of 2019. He comes from a dance background. Joynt began as a youngster as part of a Ukrainian dancing troupe in Meacham, Sask., east of Saskatoon, before moving to Winnipeg to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and the School of Contemporary Dancers.

He went on to have a career in contemporary dance but learned about arts administration while forming a dance company, Trip Dance, with his partner, Karen Kuzak.

That eventually led to an eight-year tenure heading Artspace in Winnipeg and working at a theatre society in Victoria, B.C., before joining the Manitoba Arts Council.

“The arts is ever-changing and ever-evolving, so it’s not a boring job, I can tell you that,” he says. “This was a dream job for me. I’ve always been interested in arts policy and the behind-the-scenes, how arts contributes to society.”

Carol Phillips: She comes from a visual-art background and arrived in Winnipeg in 1985 to be the director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

From 1992 to 2000, she was the vice-president and director for the Banff Centre for the Arts and in 2001 she returned to Winnipeg to head the Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art. She also oversaw the management of Canada’s representation to the Venice Bienniale that year.

She became the Winnipeg Arts Council’s executive director in 2006.

The organization has concentrated on making sure its programs and funding are available to everybody, Joynt says. “We do some strong work on this already… but we know we have some more work here, so this is an area of focus for us right now.”

Phillips echoes those concerns, adding the Winnipeg Arts Council tries to address diversity with its juries, which ultimately decide whether a grant application receives council funding, Phillips says.

“We have always practised inclusivity, diversity and equity,” she says. “On those juries we always have representation of Indigenous, people of colour. We have to have discipline expertise and gender balance. We will fund an artist and work with an artist to be successful.”

Since 2004, the Winnipeg Arts Council has also overseen public art in the city, including notable installations such as Bloody Saturday, in front of the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, which depicts a violent scene from the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, and most recently, several works placed along the Southwest Transitway line.

“If this pandemic has exposed anything, if you think back to the quarantine period, how did we get through that? We got through it with the arts, we really did.” – Executive director of the Manitoba Arts Council Randy Joynt

The Public Art Program has also been hit by the city’s cutbacks. Its budget was $500,000 in 2004 but that will be down to $125,000 in 2021, Phillips says.

“There have been so many wonderful artworks that have been created through the Public Art Program, but of course that has been slashed as well, so we’re in a maintenance mode,” she says.

The future of arts, and funding in Manitoba and Winnipeg is unclear, but the pandemic showed how important art is to the world, Joynt says.

“If this pandemic has exposed anything, if you think back to the quarantine period, how did we get through that?” he asks. “We got through it with the arts, we really did. Online presentations or books or music. I think we all came out of that realizing the importance of the arts.”

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@AlanDSmall

Alan Small

Alan Small
Arts and Life Editor

Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.

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The art of compassionate care – Sherbrooke Record

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Thanks to a very generous donation from an art gallery in Montreal, Grace Village is giving out thousands of dollars-worth of art this week as a way of saying thank you to its staff members for their hard work over the last six months.
“They are dedicated, committed, and have really sacrificed a lot,” said Andrea Eastman, the home’s interim executive director, explaining that the donation was arranged through a board member following a discussion about how the community could recognize the work of the staff during the pandemic. “The board had been trying to come up with a way to thank the employees and do something that is a little bit different.”
The artworks have been put on display for the residents to enjoy, and workers are being invited to come and select a work of their choice over the course of the week, based on their seniority.
Looking back on the last few months, Eastman said that the word “challenging” only scratches the surface of the realities that people working in retirement communities and long-term care homes have been facing.
“Our focus has been on keeping our residents safe and healthy,” she said. “That has guided every decision about what we needed to do.”
Eastman underlined the importance of clear communication and trust as key pillars to the success of the Grace Village community since the start of the pandemic
“It’s a shared responsibility with employees, residents, their families and other people in the community; You have to have trust in each other,” she said. “The more you communicate about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, the clearer it is that we’re all in this together.”
Asked whether the home has faced the same sorts of difficulties with people failing to respect rules and guidelines that have been reported at other care homes in the region, the interim director said that there have certainly been cases where people needed to be reminded of the reasons why things are the way they are.
“We’ve remained quite strict, but we’re trying to be as sensitive as possible,” she said.
In matters ranging from employee scheduling during a time when multiple days off in a row might be needed for a test, to figuring out how to offer residents enrichment when gathering together is largely off limits, Eastman said that her key word has been optimism.
“I try to focus on what we are able to do, rather than what we are not able to do,” she said, adding that the support and commitment of the whole team plays an important role in making a challenging situation more feasible. “What they are doing goes above and beyond what their employer is asking of them.”

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This Magazine → Black art matters – This Magazine

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Photo by Brandon Brookbank

Shaya Ishaq’s work moves fluidly between mediums—words, ceramics, fibres, jewellery—while maintaining a central locus of honouring Black lineages and sparking light toward liberated Black futures. Tenacious and ever-evolving, Ishaq walked away from journalism school and signed up for a hand-building course at a pottery studio in her hometown of Ottawa. “I really fell in love that winter,” she says. “It was pretty magical to come into the studio first thing in the morning to see my work come out of the kiln or even just how the clay would change when the pieces would air dry before firing. I was totally enraptured by the many stages of the medium of clay.”

Now, Ishaq masterfully combines ceramics and fibres to create ornate and intricate wearable art pieces. On the origin stories of these designs, she says, “At their core, [these materials] come from the earth (before mass production and industrialization, before creating synthetic versions) and I am very dedicated to working with them to see what connections arise. Both invite a meditative process that has saved me time and again.” She started bridging relationships between ceramics and textiles when she began art school in Halifax, going on to continue her studies in Montreal. “It’s only been in recent years that some kind of visual vocabulary has emerged.”

Ishaq’s wearable art possesses a distinct aesthetic that plays with the juxtaposition of hardness and softness, gloss and matte, the whimsy of tassels and sharp curves of ceramic. That aesthetic is visible in her Holy Wata collection, showcased on her online portfolio, and her most recent solo show Mirror Mirror, exhibited at the Anne Dahl Concept Studio in Ottawa.

“Some of my stylistic choices are definitely informed by Black and Afro-diasporic futurist and Indigenous aesthetics,” she says. “More and more, I am trying to find inspiration from my own cultural background in East Africa … which requires a lot of digging, but is ultimately worth it because it brings me closer to myself in a way, by allowing me to reconnect with an em bodied sense of self.” Ishaq is also inspired by people who express a certain kind of “unfuckwithable energy,” including characters like Lauren Olamina from Octavia E. Butler’sParable series or Ketara from Avatar, and performers like
Moor Mother, Debby Friday, Backxwash, and Kelsey Lu.

Themes of Blackness in regards to identity, craft, culture, and liberation are integrally woven into Ishaq’s spatial design, as well. During a month-long residency at Halifax’s Khyber Centre for the Arts, she created Black Libraries Matter, for which she reimagined the gallery space by creating a Black library by inviting community members to donate books by Black authors.

Soon after, she had a collaborative exhibit, Reconcile/Overcome, at the Ottawa Art Gallery. It consisted of a handwoven sculptural textile piece and written work reflecting on the consequences of the transatlantic slave trade and labour of enslaved Black people on the foundation of Canada and the United States. Her written work from the exhibit includes this excerpt: “Made by my Black hands in celebration of Black spiritual resilience in all corners of the world. Not all our struggles are alike yet we are gold. We are nuanced and yet are gold. We are resilient and we are gold.”

In reflecting on the intersections of Blackness, fashion, beauty, and culture, Ishaq understands that Blackness and popular material culture are also deeply entwined. “I believe this includes Afro-diasporic cultural production as well. I really believe that materiality is political and omnipresent.” Black culture, she says, “is celebrated yet the people who create it are oftentimes disregarded, treated as disposable, only celebrated when they are dead or in moments like this where the world has to recognize the deep systemic patterns at play. There are so many case studies of appropriation that intersect Blackness, fashion, and beauty.”

In its variety of mediums, Ishaq’s practice seeks to centre Blackness and move closer toward creative sovereignty, despite continued appropriation of Black art and culture. “Ultimately, the more we are able to lean into our own creative sovereignty, the more authentic our creations can be. That sovereignty can look like not fighting for ‘a seat at the table,’ detaching ourselves from Eurocentric symbols of success but really doing things for us and by us.”

TOP: Photo by Cheryl Hann; Models: Francesca Ekwuyasi and Portia Karegeya LEFT: Photo by Mallory Lowe; Model: Jada BOTTOM: Photo by Brandon Brookbank; Model: Candy Contrera

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Newmarket resident finds therapy in chalk art drawings (7 photos) – NewmarketToday.ca

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Kim Egan had purchased the 12-pack of sidewalk chalk on a whim.

“I was at the Dollar Tree in Newmarket, where I always go for arts and crafts supplies,” said Egan. “They were being sold for only $1.25. It was very much a spur of the moment thing.” 

Chalk in hand, Egan had walked to Newmarket’s Haskett Park and had found a secluded stretch of pavement on which to draw. Her Victorian-inspired artwork, a brightly coloured vase of flowers, was finished 14  hours later. 

The experience, she said, took her completely by surprise.

“I suffer from anxiety and depression, something that’s been especially challenging for me — and a lot of people — during the pandemic,” said Egan. “But art, drawing, was therapy. It helped me relax and forget my problems.”

Egan again returned to chalk art when her grandmother, Rose, tragically suffered a stroke mid-August. Already stressed from the isolation of quarantine and unable to visit her due to strict post-COVID-19 hospital restrictions, Egan’s mental health was struggling. 

To help ease some of her anxiety, Egan took to the pavement outside her Davis Drive apartment and designed a special homage to her grandmother. Throughout the painful few days preceding Rose’s passing, working on the drawing gave Egan a small — but much needed — sense of control. 

“The artwork I drew for her was a big pink heart that said ‘Rose’ in it, with roses on either side and a crown, flames, and cross atop it,” said Egan. “I came to learn afterwards that what I drew is actually a religious symbol, representing Christ’s heart. It was odd, because I didn’t know it at the time.”

Egan’s latest chalk drawing, a floral scene inspired by her love for nature, can currently be seen on the outdoor stage at Riverwalk Commons. As rain and wind can wash her art away in minutes, the stage’s overhead awning afforded Egan rare protection from September’s wet weather.

Yet despite the unique challenges her chalk art can bring, from being at the whim of the elements to scraped and sore knees, Egan is confident she’ll stick with it. A lifelong art lover, she has dabbled in mediums as wide-ranging as embroidery, handmade jewelry, flower pressing, painting and more. With chalk art, the most committing of the bunch, she just may have found her calling.

“When I was a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say an artist,” said Egan. “Art is something I’ve always been so passionate about. And now, late in my life, I have a burning desire to explore my creativity more. It’s something I have to do, before I die.”

Apart from using chalk art as a personal source of happiness, Egan is also hopeful that its positivity will spread. 

“I hope people get some pleasure or happiness from seeing it. I hope it’s a bright spot in their day. It’s been great sharing my creativity with others.”

Egan is happy to report that the reaction to her artwork has, so far, been overwhelmingly positive. With each drawing, she’s gained the courage to venture out more and more into the public eye. 

“Because I’m out there drawing for a few days, I get people out for walks who will stop to talk and take pictures,” said Egan. “They’re very encouraging. It’s been nice.”

 

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