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Vancouver council denies art program funding for vulnerable drug users



The majority on Vancouver city council have voted not to approve $7,500 in funding for an art program on the Downtown Eastside, citing – in part – the need to “send a message” to the organization facilitating the drop-in.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council was presented with a staff report recommending a combined $4,351,340 in arts and culture grants, to be distributed to 209 organizations.

Coun. Brian Montague, who is with the majority ABC party, asked staff about a particular line item in the report that proposed funding the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users’ art table. His concern, he said, was that the organization failed to deliver what it promised when it was given a sizeable grant to clean up East Hasting Street last year.

“Was the fact that the city terminated that funding to this group last year factored into the decision to grant them more money?” Montague staff.

In response, cultural manager Cherryl Masters said the particular program was funded last year and met all of the criteria.

“The criteria is really about impact in the community,” she said.

“This project was well received by the community peer assessors in terms of offering some low income residents of the Downtown Eastside some opportunities to have a voice, be creative, to be off the streets and maybe access some other resources that VANDU provides,” she continued.

The termination of the $320,000 street cleaning grant, Masters said, was not relevant to assessing VANDU’s ongoing eligibility to receive funding for the art program.

“That was a very new activity for them. We knew we were trying something new and it didn’t work out. In this situation, this is a program that they have run before and and it was successful. We do have confidence in this particular program,” she said.


When it came time to vote on the staff report and its recommendations, Montague introduced an amendment to approve everything but the $7,500 for VANDU.

“I have concerns about the guidelines that were used to recommend the grant based on past performance,” Montague said.

“I personally don’t have confidence that they would deliver the program and service and I disagree with the funding for the organization.”

Green Party Coun. Pete Fry was the first of the three non-ABC members to speak out against the amendment, saying the grant itself is modest and that it promotes art as a mode of healing and self-expression.

“I think it would be a mistake to deny this $7,500 for folks to express themselves in the midst of this disastrous overdose crisis,” he said.

“We’re talking about a drug crisis, which since it was declared a public health emergency in 2016 has claimed more than 10,000 lives in British Columbia. So when we talk about art as a vehicle of expression, we’re talking about people in a population who have really suffered some pretty catastrophic losses in that community.”

ABC councillors were unanimous in their support of the amendment, all citing the street cleaning grant as evidence that the organization should not be entrusted with more public money.

“I know this is only $7,500 we’re talking about and I am a big supporter of the arts and culture sector. But we have to draw the line somewhere, and I believe – as a council – we need to send a message,” Coun. Peter Meiszner said.

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said that what was at stake was more than a single grant.

“I think it is incumbent upon us as stewards of public funds that the principle of responsible use of public money is upheld,” she said.


OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle, like Fry, spoke against the amendment, saying the funding was modest and concurring with Fry that the organization was being singled out. She also questioned the motivation for the move.

“This is a small grant for a project that they have delivered successfully in the past and that has had a meaningful impact in the past. I support this grant. I don’t support the amendment to remove it and I will also say I am concerned about the politicization of eliminating small grants for very vulnerable residents like this on the floor of council,” she said.

“We are nickel and diming a small, frontline organization that really is serving those most at risk and a community that has been witnessing their friends and neighbors die in unbelievable numbers in recent years,” she later added.

VANDU, as Fry noted during the meeting, does engage in political activity by organizing protests and rallies and pushing for changes to drug policy. More recently, at the municipal level, the group’s activism has included campaigning against the election of Mayor Ken Sim and members of his party – as well as speaking out against particular policies and promises such as increasing funding for the Vancouver Police Department.

Montague is a former officer and spokesperson for the department.

“VANDU have done some political things that have possibly created a scenario where we’re, we’re looking at VANDU through a different lens,” Fry said.

“this is a decision that is being put forward and supported by the majority of one political party at this council. You can interpret that as you will,” he later said.

Sim, voting in support of the amendment, said he was doing so to send a message about accountability and responsibility, not to single out one organization.

“The expectation at the City of Vancouver is when you do business with the City of Vancouver, we are going to hold you up to a higher level of accountability. And so that’s why I will support this motion. It has nothing to do with VANDU per se,” he said.

“It’s a privilege not a right to be able to do business with the City of Vancouver. And that’s the type of culture that we want to lead here while I’m in office.”


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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park



A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”



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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73



Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”


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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass



Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”



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