A majority of Vancouver councillors voted to stop funding a local drug user group’s art table project on Tuesday, overturning a city staff recommendation.
The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) had received $7,500 in grants to run an art table for vulnerable drug users during the pandemic.
It saw a few events each week where Downtown Eastside residents would be led by a facilitator to learn and practice art, creating works like banners and murals commemorating people lost to toxic drugs.
However, Coun. Brian Montague of the ruling ABC Party successfully passed an amendment to the annual city grant report, denying VANDU the funding for 2023. It was the only grant, out of 84 recommended by city staff, that was not approved by the council.
The VANDU Art Table is running today. <a href=”https://t.co/0k1tqBxDGG”>pic.twitter.com/0k1tqBxDGG</a>
“I’ve got serious concerns about the granting system and its process, and in general, I do think it’s flawed,” he said at council Tuesday. “I personally don’t have confidence that they would deliver the program and service.”
Sarah Kirby-Yung, an ABC councillor who seconded Montague’s motion, cited a previous $320,000 VANDU contract devoted to a street stewardship program as the reason she voted to cut the grant funding in 2023.
That contract was ended by the city prematurely, with officials saying the group was not focusing enough on street cleaning and devoted money to empowering residents instead.
“I think it is incumbent upon us, as stewards of public funds, that the principle of responsible use of public money is upheld,” Kirby-Yung said.
Montague’s amendments also mean that city staff will look to redirect the $7,500 in grant money to an “alternate and appropriate organization for Indigenous-led and/or Indigenous-based programming”.
VANDU exec promises to soldier on
However, VANDU had previously told CBC News it had fulfilled its commitments under the street stewardship program.
Brittany Graham, executive director of the group, said the city was playing politics and “making an example” of VANDU due to political disagreements.
“It felt very pointed when councillors were saying uninformed opinions about us using funds that were misappropriated,” she told CBC News. “We’ve never used funds from the city, or anywhere, that were not supposed to be used for the granting process.”
The three non-ABC councillors — Pete Fry, Adriane Carr and Christine Boyle — voted against Montague’s motion.
Fry noted that VANDU had done “some political things” — alluding to incidents like the group releasing video of violent police incidents and others — that made the council see them through a different lens.
Still, he said the art table was a valuable project for those affected by the poisoned drug crisis, and that art was a form of personal 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 told council.
Graham said that in addition to drawn art like murals, craftsmen were also invited to the art tables to help participants — including, in a previous iteration, an Indigenous elder and knowledge keeper who taught cedar weaving.
“This money was going to Indigenous artists and would have supported Indigenous-led programming,” she said. “When people would like to work on things, we encourage them to find those spaces.
“When it’s deterred by the system because of politics? More than anything, it feels really disheartening.”
Graham said they would try and continue a version of the art table through community donations, with the group receiving support from other grant recipients like the DOXA documentary festival. A fundraiser by advocate Karen Ward has also raised over $4,600 for the project as of 4 p.m. PT Wednesday.
“Drug users have widespread public support, because everyone uses drugs,” Ward said in an email.
Builder's clothing drive, tiny art show in Cowichan – Victoria Times Colonist – Times Colonist
Builder’s clothing drive to boost families in need
Donations of gently used clothing, shoes and accessories for all ages and sizes are being sought for a clothing drive hosted by LIDA Homes, now until Jan. 31.
All donated items will be given to Our Place Society to be distributed to families in need in the community.
“As a community-focused business, we feel it is our responsibility to give back to the families and individuals who have supported us throughout the years,” said Dave Stephens, president of LIDA Homes. “We hope that this clothing drive will make a meaningful impact on those in need and encourage others to do their part as well.”
Stephens has also issued a challenge to other builders to see who can collect the most clothing and have bragging rights.
The hashtag #LIDAclothingdrive has been created to encourage everyone to use it in their social media posts.
Donations will be accepted at LIDA Homes, 6015 Patricia Bay Hwy.
Tiny art show in Cowichan
More than 100 original artworks will be up for auction at the Six by Six Art Show and Auction, a special one-week fundraiser for the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Feb. 3 to 11.
The name for the show stems from the fact that each of the locally produced original artworks is limited to six by six inches in size. In addition to paintings, the show includes some sculptures.
Janet Magdanz, president of the group, says working at that scale can be a real challenge for artists used to creating larger pieces.
”Yet our talented local artists have produced some outstanding work, creating landscapes, abstracts and pieces both whimsical and thoughtful,” she said. “For buyers, the auction is a chance to pick up a small piece of work by a professional artist at a great price.”
The art will be available to view and bid on both online and in person, with bids starting at $30.
Proceeds from the auction will support and expand the art council’s youth programs and bringing regional shows to the gallery.
The finale of the week-long event will be a gala reception featuring live jazz, gourmet food and a cash bar, at the gallery Saturday, Feb. 11. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling the office at 250-746-1633 or at cowichanvalleyartscouncil.ca.
In your neighbourhood
Victoria council has voted to increase the maximum amount available for its My Great Neighbourhood Grants to $7,500 for placemaking and resiliency projects and up to $1,500 for activities in 2023.
The money is expected to support up to 36 community projects.
“The My Great Neighbourhood Grant program is incredibly important during these times when community is coming together again,” said Mayor Marianne Alto. “It is exciting to see residents start to reconnect with the goal of adding vibrancy and resiliency to their neighbourhoods.”
The funds are contingent upon matching equivalent contributions from applicants, including volunteer time and in-kind donations.
Grants are available to residents and community groups in the city. Not-for-profit organizations, schools or groups of residents can apply, although a sponsor is required for those without not-for-profit status.
In 2022, the city funded 13 community activities, 12 placemaking projects and 11 community resiliency projects.
Intake for the 2023 program will open in April, with city staff available to help residents through the application process.
Opera’s the ticket
Pacific Opera Victoria is making a night at the opera more attainable by distributing more than 1,000 free tickets to more than 40 community organizations for a second year.
The organizations hand out the tickets to members of the community who may be experiencing barriers, giving them the opportunity to attend one of three Pacific Opera’s 2022/23 mainstage live performances at the Royal Theatre.
“The North Park Neighbourhood Association was thrilled to participate in Pacific Opera’s Ticket Access Program,” said Sarah Murray, executive director of the association. “This program eliminates financial barriers to access, making Victoria’s thriving arts and culture scene a more equitable and inclusive space.”
Community organizations interested in taking part in the program should contact Pacific Opera. More information about the program is available at pacificopera.ca/ticket-access-program.
Art for Prospect Lake
The Prospect Lake District Community Association is looking for donations of artwork for its upcoming Art at the Lake fundraising online auction.
Proceeds from the event will be used for the maintenance of the heritage Prospect Lake Hall on the Saanich Peninsula, one of the last community-owned and maintained halls in British Columbia.
“Downsizing or just tired of looking at certain pieces? Give your old art pieces new life by donating them to Art at the Lake,” said Barbara Newton, a volunteer organizing the sale.
The association is looking for donations of any type of art — prints, watercolours, pastels, oils, posters, collectibles, statuary, vases or objects d’art.
• To donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Mavis at 250-361-3236 by March 19.
$400M recovery fund
Community service organizations, non-profit organizations, Indigenous governing bodies and charities on Southern Vancouver Island and the Cowichan Valley can apply for funding through the federal government’s $400-million Community Services Recovery Fund, now until Feb. 21.
The money will help fund one-time projects focused on people, systems and program innovation. Organizations can apply for one of two tiers. Tier one includes funding ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, while tier two covers $100,001 to $200,000 for applicants that meet specific criteria.
United Way Southern Vancouver Island, the Canadian Red Cross and the Victoria Foundation will accept applications locally.
All unincorporated non-profits should apply to the Canadian Red Cross for funding for one-time projects that focus on how organizations recruit, retain, engage and support their personnel, including staff, volunteers and boards of directors.
Apply to the Victoria Foundation with projects that invest in systems and processes involved in creating the internal workings of an organization’s overall structure.
The United Way Southern Vancouver Island will accept applications for funding to support projects primarily focused on program and service innovation and redesign using information gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“United, we champion initiatives, programs, and projects that integrate and make a significant, positive change in people’s lives,” said Danella Parks, director of community impact with United Way Southern Vancouver Island. “As society recovers and rebuilds, United Way is honoured to support this investment by the Government of Canada with a focus on program and service innovation and redesign in the nonprofit sector.”
• For more information, go to communityservicesrecoveryfund.ca.
Inuvialuk sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun’s work shaped by cultural stories
When veteran Inuvialuk sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun hears stories from his culture, they sprout images in his mind.
Remembering these stories, and combining them with modern elements, has influenced his work for decades.
A solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is celebrating 50 years of Piqtoukun’s work. It features more than 60 sculptures, including recent pieces.
“Every work is special for me,” he says. “It comes from my heart.”
The exhibit is called Radical Remembrance. Piqtoukun says his work is an act of cultural resistance, reclaiming history that was stolen from him by the residential school system.
Piqtoukun, who now lives in Ontario, was born in 1950 in Paulatuk, N.W.T., an Inuvialuit community in the western Arctic, where his family led a traditional lifestyle. He was taken away when he was five years old to attend residential school.
Piqtoukun said his work is inspired by the Inuit stories he’s heard over his lifetime, as well as songs, environmental issues, elders and the materials he works with, which include stone, antler, metal and bone.
“I often embellish certain stories,” he says, adding a major one he incorporates into his work is that of a shaman who travels to the moon.
“A lot of people don’t understand how much memory and remembering is such an act of resistance and an act of building the future for all of us,” said Wanda Nanibush, curator of the exhibit and of Indigenous art for the Art Gallery of Ontario,
Nanibush said she “fell in love” with Piqtoukun’s work and hopes people will come away from the exhibit with a new way of thinking about the Arctic.
“I also think that a lot of people have never seen the diversity of what he creates, nor the absolute beauty of it,” she said. “I wanted to make peoples’ jaws drop.”
Piqtoukun said he learned how to carve stone in the early 1970s watching his brother Abraham Anghik Ruben, also a world-renowned artist who studied at the Native Arts Centre at the University of Alaska. He said he also learned through trial and error.
“There’s something magical about this material. It felt like silk,” he recalled of his first experience carving stone.
Early in his career, Piqtoukun credits art patron Allen Gonor with encouraging him to collect traditional Inuit stories and use them in his work.
“I’ve been following that advice ever since,” he said.
While Piqtoukun no longer lives in the N.W.T., he still has many family members and friends there. He said he’s planning a trip to the North for 2024.
Piqtoukun’s work has been displayed in institutions across Canada and internationally. His pieces have been in the Canadian Sculpture Centre and the National Gallery of Canada, and are collected around the world.
He was the first Inuk artist to be appointed to the Sculpture Society of Canada in 2000. He was recognized with a Governor General’s Award for visual and media arts in 2022.
The opening of Radical Remembrance was celebrated by a performance from the Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers and Dancers in Toronto. It runs through June 25.
Criss Bellini Art Fans Urge for Pop-Up Gallery
Since the brand’s launch in 2020, Bellini’s sales have skyrocketed, selling over $1 million in its first year and exceeding its sales in 2021, in 2022, with over 2 million sales in euros. Seeing this, it is clear that art sales are booming, and people want to see more of his unique pieces.
However, because Bellini’s website is the only place to view and purchase his art, the public has begun to request a gallery or a pop-up gallery where they can go visit Bellinis’ work and see it for themselves.
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