Visual artists are often told ‘get thee to the Internet’ in order to be more visible and accessible to the public (i.e. sell more paintings). The task of starting up one’s own website is a daunting one at the best of times, however, because of the techno-learning curve. It also tends to go against many painters’ shyness about shameless self-promotion. Alas, the world is filled with such cruel ironies: buy my work but leave me alone.
COVID-19, being the public health curse that it is, also stubbed many artists’ toes by slamming the doors on all of their fave non-WWW places where paintings could physically be hung with little round pricetag stickers for art aficionados to peruse.
“The galleries were closed. We couldn’t have our art shows. We couldn’t even retrieve our artwork that was in galleries. We lost all our teaching gigs, our presentations, everything,” said St. Albert artist Doris Charest as she pondered the pandemic problem with her artist friends, with a not insubstantial degree of commiseration.
Hmm … what to do?
Enter Connor Finlayson, a New Zealand native in Canada. There, he started a website called Unicorn Factory as a one-stop webshop of savvy design, digital marketing and software freelancers.
Here, he heard the cries and saw Charest’s closed doors as a huge window of opportunity. That, plus it was basically the same concept as his previous effort. Think of a phone book but not the ones printed on paper.
“When I finished university, I wanted to start my first little business but I was struggling to make money off that business. The way that I was making money to pay rent and all that kind of stuff was by just helping small local businesses with their websites or their online marketing, but it was quite difficult at the start to find clients,” he related.
“What I realized was that there was no real place where local businesses could go and find locals to work with. I just decided to build this website and initially, it just had me on there and some of my friends: some of them were freelancing, others weren’t, but I figured it would be good to have more than two people on there. Over time, we just started having more and more businesses using it, and then it evolved into what it is now. We have about 500 people based in New Zealand on the website and we have thousands of businesses that use it on a regular basis.”
Using the ‘Unicorn’ model, the art marketplace called ArtByLocals.ca went live last week with a few dozen artists and a modest selection of works by each. There are art categories to search through and each artist gets their own profile, which can link to their own websites, if such a thing exists. It’s firmly based in Alberta and contains enough prominent Edmonton and St. Albert-area artists’ names to make its more precise home obvious, but ArtByLocals strives to encapsulate all of Alberta, nay Canada.
The concept isn’t necessarily new and others have certainly tried it before. A project called Alberta Artography (started up by a Jasper-based organization called IOTAD in 2008) had much the same philosophy, though it focused mostly on producing a comprehensive traveller’s guide to all artists’ studios across the province. With funding hiccups along the way to fight against, it still exists primarily as a Facebook page where new events and other notices get posted.
ArtByLocals doesn’t have to worry about funding: a membership doesn’t cost anything.
“At the moment, it’s free but we’re hoping that people subscribe. If you subscribe, what happens is you will be featured on the front page and then in the future, you’ll have access to different videos, special sponsorship when we do our advertising on Facebook or Instagram or elsewhere,” Charest noted.
“In the first week, the goal was just to get some artists to sign up,” Finlayson continued, “but soon what we’re going to be doing is we’ll be advertising it through different channels. I think that there will be a lot of people out there who are keen to support the local art thing.”
It also does solve that daunting prospect by paving the way for those shy artists to get digital. If they have websites already, ArtByLocals can link to them on each artist’s profile.
“If you’re a painter that doesn’t paint 200 works a year and creates only 10, it’s almost not worth it to have a website but something like this would be good for them because at least they’d have a place to send people to look at their artwork online,” Charest added.
“It caters to everybody, but I think that it’s like a little niche that it might help people too. We’re just hoping that local people help local artists and just shop local.”
New art piece in Lacombe acknowledges roots of the land and reconciliation – rdnewsnow.com
“It is a metal sculpture of two rough grouse, with two logs; the female is sitting on one log and the male is landing at the end of the other,” explains Maureen MacKenzie, community services executive assistant with The City of Lacombe. “It was created to represent the affinity between rough grouse, but also that people have for one another. It also represents the two communities and local First Nations.”
According to a release, grouse was an imported food source for settlers and Indigenous peoples when bison populations dwindled across the prairies. The piece also pays homage to settler and Indigenous communities living and working together across Canada’s west.
MacKenzie adds The City had a robust anti-racism program planned earlier this year, but once again COVID-19 caused its postponement. The program was meant for large groups and would’ve included the blanket exercise, a 60s Scoop exhibition, and other workshops.
“The last census in 2016 indicated we have over 800 residents of Lacombe who are Indigenous, which is almost 10 per cent of our population, so it’s really important we show we’re willing to walk the walk,” MacKenzie says. “We as a city want to embrace all of our cultures, and in this instance, with truth and reconciliation in mind, our plan is to host those workshops eventually, and that’s our way of saying we’re taking action on inclusion and racism.”
‘Miweyihtowin’ was created at a cost of $18,000.
North Dakota Museum of Art reopens Tuesday with launch of 'Art in Isolation' exhibition – Grand Forks Herald
The exhibition consists of assemblages of images submitted by artists and others in 35 countries around the world, including Portugal and Russia, as well as area communities, said Matthew Anderson, the museum’s director of education.
Last spring, museum staff members issued an online invitation to people asking them to submit images of how they were expressing their creativity during quarantine.
“Thousands of images started arriving from around the world …. The images describe an outpouring of creative expression,” said Anderson, adding that the pandemic has caused unanticipated change. “Change also fuels creativity, and that is what the North Dakota Museum of Art brought to light.”
As part of the launch of the “Art in Isolation” exhibition, the museum is asking visitors to donate a nonperishable food item to give to those in need and place it in drop boxes in the entry. Anyone who is in need may pick up a food item after viewing the exhibition; all remaining items will be donated to local food banks.
The exhibition runs through Oct. 7.
Other exhibitions include “Consequences,” with artwork by Lynne Allen, a descendant of the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota on Standing Rock. In the late 1990s, after reading the journals of her great-grandmother, Josephine Waggoner, Allen began making objects that reflect the culture in those writings. These objects were crafted from paper, cut and stitched to shape and lacquered with shellac or from recycled vellum printed with images copied from Waggoner’s journals.
The museum is presenting more than 20 major prints by Allen, an internationally known printmaker, Anderson said.
The “Celebration” exhibition features artwork from the museum’s permanent collection, including Julie Buffalohead’s “Stolen Sisters,” a 4-by-18-foot, mural-sized acquisition that anchors the show. It illustrates the use of acrylic paint, ink, graphite and collage, applied to Nepalese Lokta paper, which has been used in Nepal since the 12th century to write epic tales, print mantra for use in prayer wheels and religious texts chanted by Buddhist monks.
The museum, located on the UND campus, south of Twamley Hall, has been closed to the public since mid-March when the national public health emergency, due to the spread of COVID-19, was declared.
When the facility reopens, new hours will be from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.
The museum will be following CDC guidelines and working with UND officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Anderson said. Visitors will be required to wear face masks and encouraged to practice social distancing.
Cambodia is an inspiration for the healing power of art after a crisis – The Conversation CA
Even though history has seen different disasters and humanitarian crises, one fact remains: we try to understand what is happening by seeing how others coped, comparing our reaction to theirs. These comparisons allow us to shed light on the best practices for managing or emerging from a crisis.
We note with the COVID-19 pandemic that there is not one response to crises, but many responses that are adapted and implemented through trial and error.
At the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid our team was interested in a few examples where art and culture have been used to encourage development at the social, community, economic and civic level in various countries, including Haiti and Cambodia.
Cambodia is a special case. It was able to use art and culture to find a way to rebuild itself after the genocide that began in 1975 and ended with the fall of the Pol Pot regime in 1979. While the context is different, is there a way we can draw inspiration from the Cambodian example to recover from the current health crisis?
Art and culture in crisis
First of all, what do we mean by “crisis?” Are we simply referring to the health aspect?
Our government decision-makers have categorized the current period as a “war” against an invisible enemy. But a war leaves after-effects that are not only structural but social, societal and humanitarian as well. Also, as in armed conflicts, this “health war” has imposed a front line in hospitals and seniors’ residences.
In times of war, art and culture, which are important pillars of our societies, are hit hard and sometimes even strategically destroyed.
The rebirth of art in Cambodia
Cambodia has a long and rich history dating back to before the Middle Ages. It was during the golden age of the Khmer Empire (between the ninth and 13th centuries) that arts and culture became integrated into society through religion, rites and customs.
However, for recent generations, this rich Cambodian culture with its oral tradition was greatly affected by the genocide under the tyrannical Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. At this time, arts and culture almost completely disappeared, as did nearly 20 per cent of the population (between 1.7 million to 3 million people), exterminated by Pol Pot’s dictatorship. The dictatorship fell from power in 1979. Instability and conflict remained for some 20 years.
In 1998, after Pol Pot’s last uprising in 1997, Arn Chorn-Pond founded the Cambodian Master Performer Program, which became Cambodian Living Arts, in order to restore art to its former glory. Born in Cambodia into a family of genocide survivors, he studied in the United States and worked as a social worker there for a few years before returning to Cambodia.
Today, Cambodian Living Arts brings together several hundred artists and employees working at different levels including arts education and heritage protection as well as the development of tomorrow’s leaders, markets and strong networks.
This non-profit organization uses art and culture to fulfil its mission of healing trauma, safeguarding traditions, restoring meaning to the community and training young people to contribute to the development of the country. It now has an expanded ecosystem of partners in other parts of the world.
As Phloeun Prim, the non-profit’s current executive director, explains, the destruction of cultural symbols and artifacts, such as religious and cultural sites, monuments and works of art, is an integral part of the consequences of conflict. The oppressor, be it another country or a dictator, will seek to uproot the oppressed group from its identity, culture and societal vision.
A brutal stop with the pandemic
Although it hasn’t destroyed infrastructure, the global pandemic has hit the cultural sector hard with the closure of theatres and cinemas, bans on mass gatherings and the cancelling of festivals. The performing arts, visual arts and access to heritage often appear to have been last to be considered in reopenings while workers dependent on the gig economy have lost many opportunities.
However, as we can see with the debate around opening performance venues, economic measures are not enough for everyone and do not guarantee that the public will be there. The abrupt and prolonged halt in cultural activities, as well as the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 contamination, suggest that there will be repercussions for a long time to come. A strategy of cultural regeneration supported by our governments and strong institutions, such as the Cambodian Living Arts in Cambodia, should be considered.
This regeneration work was essential for Cambodia’s recovery. Added to this was the need to transmit culture in order to rebuild bridges between generations, between individuals and between institutions. To share one’s art orally does not only mean passing on know-how. It also means passing on people skills.
By teaching his art, the master transmits his identity to the other. And the student has the duty to appropriate this knowledge in order to take it further and create his own interpretation of the symbols. This is what creates more resilient societies.
Today, Cambodian Living Arts continues to invest in current and future cultural leaders. They are the ones who will have to rebuild in the new post-crisis environment, where interactions, communities and identities will no longer be the same.
Reaching out to the public
At home in Québec, for example, we see local initiatives. TD Bank and Vidéotron have partnered to present musical performances on outdoor stages, in a “drive-in movie” format, where spectators can enjoy the event in their vehicles.
Others choose to travel to people. This is the case of the Théâtre de la Ville, in Longueuil near Montréal, which offers a travelling program of three shows. In this way, art met the public, a bit like street theatre, at the beginning of the confinement. Similarly, Le Festif, in Charlevoix, offers immersive listening sessions outdoors.
Teaching and propagating culture is about coming together and finding each other. Moreover, as noted by the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, every human being is capable, through art, of re-establishing their link with society.
Finding a new normal
Our approach to art, culture and artist-citizen interactions will change in the new post-COVID reality. We will have to relearn, trust each other and then let ourselves forge new ways while respecting the rules.
A study by Habo studio shows that the return to “normalcy” in the consumption of the arts is not coming soon. It will take at least until 2021 (and perhaps 2022, according to some decision-makers in the field) before attendance levels return to pre-COVID levels, at least for the Montréal region.
As Québec’s rules for indoor and outdoor gatherings now vary regionally, the cultural sector continues to explore virtual or outdoor alternatives, and stay attuned to health regulations. Like us, it will be seeking to define its new normal.
Phloeun Prim, Executive Director of Cambodian Living Arts, co-authored this story.
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