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'The Banana' busts rules and spending limits for public art in Waterloo –



WATERLOO — The president of HIP Developments will ask the City of Waterloo for permission to install a new sculpture that already rises eight metres above King Street South.

Scott Higgins said boundary-busting art was never created by a committee. Urban place-making will be key for economic development during the next 10 years, and the new sculpture shows how to do that right.

“We will go to them now to seek approval, and we hope they will give it to us, but that’s the point of public art too, to encourage that discussion,” said Higgins.

Having a 12-person committee make decisions on public art, or taking proposals to the community for reaction and then making a decision, do not always lead to good outcomes, he said.

“Art is subjective, it is meant to question, it is meant to polarize a little bit. These are OK things,” said Higgins. “So we wanted to do this one in a unique way where we expose ourselves and that’s OK.”

“The Banana” sits on the sidewalk at 181 King St. S. in Waterloo, in front of the HIP condo development that includes the former Waterloo Brewery. Higgins wouldn’t specify how much the sculpture cost, saying only the company spent many times more than the required minimum of $50,000.

In the city where the smartphone was invented, the piece celebrates the rise of mobile communications but warns against the cult-like worship of hand-held technology.

BlackBerry, Apple and now “The Banana.”

The sculpture is a dark, towering swirl of primates — tumbling and grasping, screaming in awe and wonder at the screen that’s captivated the gorilla sitting in a chair at the bottom. The smartphone in the gorilla’s hand has a banana for a corporate logo.

At night, the gorilla’s face is illuminated by the screen. At the top of the sculpture a barrel has tipped over, spilling the cascade of monkeys to the sidewalk below.

The gorilla’s chair is a nod to the old building’s furniture-making past. The tipping barrel acknowledges the building’s later phase as a brewery.

The sculpture was created by Timothy Schmalz, the region’s most famous sculptor.

In his Elmira studio, Schmalz has created sculptures of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench wrapped in a blanket and a begging Jesus extending a scarred hand. He did a large sculpture on migrants and refugees that was installed at the Vatican. He’s done memorials to dead firefighters, miners and soldiers.

Safe to say his work is heavy.

“HIP came to my studio and I showed them the pieces I was working on,” said Schmalz. “At the time I was doing that refugee piece for the Vatican. And they looked at me and said, ‘Tim, we love your art work, but we want something fun.’ ”

That was more than two years ago, and Schmalz was delighted to get the commission. Creating “The Banana” was so much fun it was more like a breather, he said.

“The fascinating thing about the piece is it’s lyrical. Not only the subject matter is fun, but the design swirls and undulates, there is a rhythm to it from a distance, just like a joyful flow, which really emphasizes the idea of something delightful,” said Schmalz.

The focal point is the smartphone in the gorilla’s hand, he said.

“I thought, ‘If there is going to be a 27-foot sculpture, which is probably the biggest bronze in Ontario, or one of them at least, it has to be big on tech because that’s what we are known for,’ ” said Schmalz.

“To have the hero being that latest device ‘The Banana’ is very fun,” said Schmalz.

The sculpture was unwrapped last week after part of the covering was pulled aside, and there were some comments on social media about it. It was made public at a time when the pandemic means people are using their tech more than ever.

“So what a time to bring this out,” said Schmalz.

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From the tiny monkeys at the top to the knuckle-walker on the bottom, all eyes are on the smartphone screen.

“That’s what they are all coveting, that’s why they are spilling out, that’s why they are rushing out — the howler monkeys are pointing at it and howling at it,” said Schmalz.

“It says: ‘This is our city, our endless pursuit of the latest tech, and the next innovative product and it is ‘The Banana,’ ” said Schmalz.

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How the arts might help us grapple with climate change –



When Omar El Akkad wrote his 2017 dystopian novel American War, about a second U.S. civil war after land loss due to climate change, he considered it a “deliberately grotesque” view of a possible future on a degraded planet.

But just three years later, the Egyptian-Canadian author says his climate fiction — or “cli-fi,” as the genre is sometimes called — doesn’t seem so fictional anymore.

“The world that I’m describing is not as far away from the real world as it was when I started writing this book,” he said in an interview with Laura Lynch, host of CBC Radio’s What on Earth.

While it’s hard to know what effect any one work has on the audience, creators — from authors to filmmakers to visual artists — are making a case for their role in tackling climate change: to engage people’s emotions and imagination in ways that straight data just won’t.

“Film … has the capacity to move people in a number of ways simultaneously … intellectually,  emotionally, viscerally, all at the same time,” said filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal in an interview with Lynch.

“Using that medium to open up that consciousness, to move people in that way is our goal. Whether it works or not is another matter.”

  • Listen to What on Earth on CBC Radio 1 every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. in Newfoundland

Art has ‘a fundamental role’

There’s a lot we don’t know about what kind of communication truly engages people to take action on climate change, and it’s unlikely to be one-size-fits-all.

But one approach that researchers have repeatedly shown doesn’t work is the so-called deficit model or the idea that people will change their behaviour related to some problem — say, the effects of smoking — if only they had more information about it.

A still from the multi-sensory installation Breathe, created by Diego Galafassi, who says art can engage imaginations and help people confront the complex challenges of climate change. (Phi Centre)

Values, beliefs and emotional context are all key, said Diego Galafassi, a Stockholm-based visual artist and sustainability scientist who has studied the use of art in moving people to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.  

“A lot of our actions and behaviours derive from this imaginary dimension of our existence,” he said. “This is where the arts play a really fundamental role.”

Last year, Galafassi did a residency in Montreal where he worked on a “mixed-reality experience” called Breathe. Combining performance and augmented reality, this immersive project set out to convey how human breath is connected to the broader living world, as a way of showing how dependent we are on the environment. 

The challenges associated with climate change “are of such a magnitude that we cannot approach them only as technical problems, as something we could fix only by changing some policies,” said Galafassi. 

He said art can be a powerful way to convey the complexity of the problem and “close the gap between what we know and what we actually do about climate change.”

‘It’s very hard’

There is not much data about the ability of art to change people’s behaviour, but those who have looked into it say that art — no matter how profound — has its limits when it comes to persuasion on this topic.

While art can be a catalyst for change, it’s not guaranteed, said Laura Sommer, a Norway-based researcher who has studied how art can change attitudes about climate change. 

“It’s very hard … generally for artists to create something that connects with people and is really changing something. It’s not that every artwork can do it.”

In 2015, Sommer was part of a research team that tried to pinpoint what kind of art would spur people to change their behaviour.

They studied reactions to 37 artworks in a climate art festival that ran alongside COP21, the international climate conference that eventually led to the Paris Accord, in which countries agreed on steps that would limit global warming this century to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

The team then had nearly 900 spectators respond to a questionnaire on their perception of the works, which was summarized in a study co-authored by Sommer and published in 2019. 

Reactions to what Sommer called “activist art” clustered into different themes: “the comforting utopia,” “the challenging dystopia,” “the mediocre mythology” and “awesome solutions.”  

Breaking the Surface by Michael Pinsky was one of the art installations on display at the COP21 conference in Paris in 2015. Objects that had been discarded into the water were raised to the surface, with an eerie soundtrack created by playing the metal refuse as instruments. (Michael Pinsky)

What the researchers found was that only three of the 37 works — the ones grouped under “awesome solutions” — were rated as effective in motivating behaviour change.

This included an installation that looked like a wall full of flowers, “but when you got closer, you could see it was plastic lids that were upcycled and turned into something beautiful,” said Sommer. 

Another was an installation on the Seine River depicting a blue whale, where people could walk into its belly and read about biodiversity loss. 

“It was, on the one hand, showing something exciting and amazing about nature but also showing the human effect on nature [and] showing what could be done,” said Sommer.

The solution problem 

But that leads to a fundamental question: Is art’s role to provide answers? 

One of the most prominent works about climate change in recent years is Anthropocene, a collaboration between photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. 

The film and photo exhibition vividly captures how we have exploited sites around the world — from the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to potash mines in Russia — to fuel our consumer-oriented lifestyles.

The work is epic and visually stunning, but Baichwal said “there was criticism that [Anthropocene] wasn’t strident enough about what people should do.”

WATCH | Anthropocene explores humans’ impact on the planet:

Three artists have made it their mission to put humanity’s impact on the environment on display. CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault spoke to the artists to discuss Anthropocene, the documentary and multimedia exhibit. 9:04

Baichwal acknowledged that with any environmental art, “there’s a danger … that people won’t take away what you want them to take away.” 

In the case of Anthropocene, “all we want is an opening up of consciousness about the fact that these places of extraction and waste that exist all over the world are directly related to our everyday lives.”

Galafassi said that art is not really meant to provide all the answers, which is why it cannot be a panacea for the problem of communicating the severity of climate change.

Art is “a space where we can ask these very difficult questions and explore things in a more open-ended way and not be committed to solutions,” he said. 

“The artistic process has its own way to get to questions and perhaps new questions, deeper questions. It’s really a way to grapple with the complexity of these issues that we have.”

El Akkad says climate change and related issues are so encompassing, art dealing with them will cease to be a genre.

“If you are in a creative endeavour, if you are in the business of trying to describe the messiness of human life, you are not going to be able to ignore that aspect of it,” he said. 

“This is going to impact everything.”

With files from Lisa Johnson

Listen to What on Earth on CBC Radio 1 every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. in Newfoundland.

You can also subscribe to What on Earth on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen anytime on CBC Listen.

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Arts Society King encourages artists to submit work to original art challenge –



The people behind Arts Society King wanted to get people engaged with art despite a worldwide pandemic.

That’s where the original art challenge came to fruition.

“When the coronavirus came along and everything started getting shut down, I sort of said to the board of directors, ‘We should do some sort of art challenge,’” said Michele McNally, vice president of Arts Society King.

McNally was inspired by the rainbows children had made and put in their windows as a way to lift spirits during the pandemic.

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“I thought, ‘The kids are doing all this artwork, why doesn’t Arts Society King put out there that we’re going to have an original art challenge?’ And it doesn’t just have to be paintings. It can be poetry, it can be TikTok videos, writing short stories, whatever you like,” she said.

The response from the artist community in King has been amazing, McNally said.

A special Facebook page was made for the challenge where the art is posted.

The challenge has garnered about 40 submissions through Facebook or Instagram by tagging Arts_Society_King.

McNally said she was hoping more youth and children would participate in the challenge, but that hasn’t been the case.

There isn’t a prize to be won because McNally didn’t want to make it a contest with an end date.

“I decided not to make it like a contest with a prize at the end with a deadline and hopefully it would just perpetuate itself,” McNally said. 

Established artist Bill Lunshof decided to participate in the challenge as a way to express his passion for painting.

“I just thought it would be fun to post and see what happens,” Lunshof said.

Lunshof is a longtime member of Arts Society King who has been painting on and off for about 10 years and has been doing it full time for the last four years.

Lunshof uses oil paints as his medium. He paints in a style he calls “looser.”

“I’m trying to paint in more of a plein air style where somebody paints outside and paints quickly. I’m trying to loosen up my style a little bit and get away from all the detail,” he said.

Lunshof paints every day and his style has progressed naturally.

“I think (painting) is just my passion. It’s how I express myself,” he said.

Arts Society King is a volunteer-run not-for-profit that promotes, celebrates and advocates for art in King Township.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Reporter Laura Broadley noticed social media posts from artists in King and wanted to find out what it was all about.

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U’mista Cultural Centre will host a native art contest to raise funds for artists



U’mista Cultural Centre has called on the artists of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw descent to participate in a native art contest to be held on August 28.

Indigenous artists have been economically affected due to COVID-19 slowing down business and tourism said Joseph Isaac, U’mista Cultural Centre’s business manager.

The contest is a fun way for people to engage with arts and raise funds, said Isaac.

The contest is open for children and adults and two winners will be selected from each of the three categories. Winners will also receive cash prizes ranging from $250- $1000. The artwork design produced will be used for the logo of U’mista’s merchandise.

The theme for the contest is ‘resilience.’

“Our people are extraordinary stories of resilience,” said Isaac and added that First Nation communities have historically been resilient through pandemics and residential schools.

The society is also planning to host an art exhibition, featuring works of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw artists from across the region.

“We’re going to be reaching out to our community to participate in the exhibition,” said Isaac. The exhibition will be held at the U’mista cultural centre in Alert Bay.

The exhibition will also mark the 40th anniversary of the U’mista Cultural Centre.

U’mista Cultural Centre is one of the longest-operating and most successful First Nations cultural facilities in BC, founded in 1980 as a ground breaking project to house potlatch artifacts which had been seized by government during an earlier period of cultural repression.

‘U’mista’ which also means ‘the return of something important’ operates a museum and cultural education facility in Alert Bay.

Source:- Campbell River Mirror

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