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What's the future of the arts? The pandemic is giving us some clues –



Writer Bridget Canning was curious to know what other artists are thinking about the future. (Ritche Perez)

Last year I was fortunate enough to win the Emerging Artist Award with ArtsNL, the provincial agency that formed four decades ago as the Arts Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Emerging” is an interesting term; it makes me think of rising from water, waterlogged, but ready.

I didn’t expect to win, but the award felt like a recognition of both my successes and failures, and of working through both. I was out of the water and walking on two feet. Maybe that should be encouraged when something good happens: consider all the depths that happened before it.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the experiences and perspectives of some of the people who won ArtsNL awards over the years, and the importance of that peer recognition. 

I also wanted to know how they are looking at the future, and what needs to be done to sustain the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Here’s what they had to say. 

Ruth Lawrence 

Ruth Lawrence is an actor, writer, director, producer and filmmaker. She talked about how her experiences of growing up in rural N.L. influenced her work today — and what we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ruth Lawrence is hopeful that good things can come out of a difficult year. (Ritche Perez)

“I remember reading an article and the writer said, ‘I could never deign to call myself an artist,’ and it struck me because that’s how I’ve always referred to myself. The artists I knew were from here – the first place that I saw Gerald Squires’s work was in my schoolbooks, the first time that I read poetry, it was by N.L. writers, a lot of the first shows I saw on CBC were local productions. When I look back to my younger days, [I recall] this really precious, glory time of N.L. art.

“I felt so privileged to be growing up at a time when it was so accessible to me in books, on TV, on radio. WGB — the Wonderful Grand Band — visited the club near St. Jacques and I got to meet them. I looked at all those things as part of the same thing, I looked at the visual art of Gerald Squires as connected to the writing of Ray Guy and Tom Dawe and the music of Ron Hynes and the WGB – all that as part of the whole, part and parcel. Now that I’m a filmmaker, I see how all those things work together, the story, the visuals, the music.

“What I would like to see [in the future] is adequate funding for the arts, obviously. We’ve made some great strides in the past couple of years – we’ve had various governments that have acknowledged the value of the arts for sure.

“The pandemic is a perfect example of why the arts are so important. Just think of the number of people in lockdown and what they did was read books, watch television series and films, listen to music – it was art that sustained people. That to me is the best lesson we have been given in 2020, these are things that keep us mentally and emotionally well.

“All the time when we checked in on each other, we talked about what we were watching, what we were listening to, what we were creating. The increase of funding to the Arts Council is partly an acknowledgement of that – yes, this is important and they’ve made a commitment and they can see just how vital it is to have artistic creation.

“If we think back to all the major shifts of the past 300 to 400 years – when it’s been a devastating thing like the depression or like a pandemic or a war, out of that a whole revelation in art has happened. I’m really interested to see what comes – now, we’re in a pandemic frame of mind, but what’s going to come in a year or two from now? It really takes distance. Because we’ve all changed as a result of it.”

Andy Jones 

Andy Jones has been a mainstay in Newfoundland and Labrador’s arts scene since the 1970s. He starred in Codco’s stage and TV productions, has written books, and continues to make new work in St. John’s. (Ritche Perez)

Andy Jones is an actor and writer, a founding Member of Codco, and an Order of Canada recipient. Along with his many accolades, he has won the Neil Griffin Award for theatre and the BMO Winterset Award. He told me about how arts, trades and craft intersect and influence each other, and how funding and preservation are important for the province. 

“We all seem to work together a lot – which is kind of a tradition in a way. When we started out in the early 70s, you knew everybody who was in the arts, really. That tradition has kept up pretty well — trades, craftspeople, we seem to work together really well. Like that boat down at 351 Water St. that’s designed by Will Gill and the boat was built by Jerome Canning, when I saw that, I remember thinking it said Artist Will Gill, Boat Builder Jerome Canning and I thought, well, they’re both artists.

“I feel bad for saying we need more funding, but so often I find myself saying, I would love to do this but I can’t find someone to help me because I can’t afford to pay them. That’s a constant thought I have, which I do think in some ways holds me back although I have been supported so much.

“I also wish there was more work done for preservation and dissemination of the past. I’m working at my brother [Mike’s] film archive now and all that early film from the N.L. filmmakers should be available and seen – it’s our art and my fear is that it will all die.

“We cannot discuss supporting the arts without a conversation about finances.”

Laura Winter

Musician and arts educator Laura Winter: ‘Art is not a privilege; art is essential.’ (Ritche Perez)

Laura Winter is both a musician and an educator. She is a member of the Juno-winning Swinging Belles, and teaches at Bishop Feild Elementary. She offers first-hand knowledge on the importance of promoting the arts in schools. 

“I’d like to see [the arts] valued more – people think it’s a frivolous pursuit. It’s not, it’s necessary, it’s needed – I see it every day.”

“When children feel they can express themselves through art, their facial expressions change, their body language changes. Whenever kids make art for me, I tell them how wonderful it is and how wonderful they are and it changes everything about them. Their whole demeanor – their posture changes, they glow from the inside – it’s really an experience I wish other people could have, to have a child draw you a picture and for you to tell them how beautiful it is and ask them what it means.

“That’s what keeps me going as a teacher, when children tell me these kinds of things. And it shows that art is not a privilege; art is essential.”

Jordan Bennett

Jordan Bennett would like to see more community-based places for fellow visual artists to showcase their work. (Ritche Perez)

Creative opportunities are essential where we live. Visual artist Jordan Bennett told me about the importance of home: how it informs creativity and vice-versa.

“I think that can be said for any place, Newfoundland and Labrador is no exception. Place can really inform an artist’s practice, how they create and what they are talking about in their practice, be it through painting, writing, theatre or song. Ktaqmkuk has an unparalleled effect on its creatives to do this, you can be born and raised here, a visitor for a short time or have moved here and now call this place home, inspiration is rooted deep in this land we now call Newfoundland and Labrador.  

I would like to see more spaces, venues and opportunities for artists to exhibit their creativity in conventional and unconventional ways.– Jordan Bennett

“I would like to see more spaces, venues and opportunities for artists to exhibit their creativity in conventional and unconventional ways. Ultimately, I would love for our future artists to have opportunities that I didn’t have growing up, like community art programming, art education and resources all influenced and led by creatives in all communities across this amazing island.”

Pam Hall

Pam Hall: ‘The cod moratorium of 1992 was our own plague upon the land and the water.’ (Ritche Perez)

With the pandemic forefront in our minds, interdisciplinary artist Pam Hall reflects on how our own profound losses influence art.  

“I think there is a huge amount of great shit to be created here about us. We could turn us upside down and shake to see what comes out.

“The arts and arts histories can’t be lumped into the same bag – it’s too complex to plot a single path. And I don’t think we can talk about the future of arts without talking about the pandemic, nor should we. 

“Really, the cod moratorium of 1992 was our own plague upon the land and the water. You can’t speak about the arts outside of those huge upheavals, wars, revolutions, because the arts operate as either distract and deny everyday life, like let’s make more Netflix shows that people can watch, or they react to heighten, provoke, and trigger change.

“You can see this with writing, will writing ever be the same with the resurgence of Black Lives Matter? I don’t know anybody without an ant-racist reading list – that’s a big change along with Idle No More, and the wonderful birthing of First Light.”

Calla Lachance

Calla Lachance is the executive director of Neighbourhood Dance Works, which has been producing work in St. John’s since the 1980s. (Ritche Perez)

As we consider our past and future, engaging with art helps us know ourselves, individually and collectively. For Calla Lachance, executive director of Neighbourhood Dance Works, a community that values art is a rich community. 

“I wish that more people understood and connected with the broader value of why the arts are important because it really is what makes our community rich and interesting.

“When you have a lot of people who value the arts and support it, that collective appreciation fosters growth in other ways- whether it is how a city develops its urban planning or community programming in a centre or in a library. 

“When you heighten the level of artistic appreciation across the board, you have a more discerning public who expect more from their community and make it more vibrant, more colourful, more lively, more engaging, more thought-provoking, more curious, more surprising. When we elevate the very mindset and awareness and appreciation of work – and I don’ t mean if you even like the work, even when you don’t like something, your brain is still engaged with making sense of it – that in itself is a creative act. It’s how we make associations and create an awareness of these very complex systems that we live in.”

Lisa Moore 

Novelist Lisa Moore says an Arts Council grant helped propel her career. She hopes strengthened ArtsNL funding will help future artists achieve their dreams. (Ritche Perez)

Writer Lisa Moore told me of how ArtsNL funding helped her and how support is vital for artists across the province. 

“When I began writing, I applied for Arts Council funding. I couldn’t have become a writer without that funding. Once, I received a travel grant that let me go to Toronto and see a production of a play I’d written, an adaptation of my novel February. I was so grateful for that opportunity.

“I would like to see more funding for the Arts Council so that more artists get the support they need. I’d like to see more funding that would help create stronger connections with artists across the province and in Labrador. The Arts Council has this as a priority and I know, from being on the board, they work hard to foster those connections. But that kind of connectivity requires financial support. There needs to be robust support for the arts.”

A final thought 

After the ArtsNL Award ceremony last year, I drank prosecco in an Eastport efficiency unit and looked at the evening stars. The next day we strolled around Sandy Cove, and stopped for a feed at Goobies on the way back to town.

As we drove through the isthmus, I thought about how Newfoundland and Labrador is a place where we can see the landscape begin and end and how it can create an awareness of both our isolation and our connection to each other. Something that currently feels like a precarious safety: something to treasure, foster, and uphold.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

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During these pandemic 'daze,' art an essential service – The Sudbury Star



Article content continued

Online, the producers promise I can learn about thousands of new products, boats, accessories, and services, and receive exclusives Boat Show deals and learn plans for the summer boating season ahead.

From NYC, I signed up to connect directly. I phoned my dear colleague, former Commodore Roy Eaton, residing in Little Current. He has been the collegial, renowned Host of Hosts of the Little Current Cruiser’s Net for the past 17 years. Over the years, Roy Eaton has been written in Sail Magazine, Cruising World and in 2010, he was awarded The Canadian Safe Boating Council Volunteer of the Year, devoted to safe boating.

A seasoned sailor, Roy’s so personable, during summer boating season he’s known as the Voice of the North Channel. The Net broadcasts every morning from July 1 to Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. on VHF Channel 71.

“Roy, will you present at the Boat Show about sailing the North Shore this summer?”

“Bonnie dear,” he laughed, “I’m on as guest speaker in thirty minutes.”

I tuned in, listening to Roy speak about, Summer in Paradise — Northern Georgian Bay and the Fabled North Channel. He showed charts to boaters, sharing knowledge and tips about anchorages. I knew many of them. As a former Caribbean sailor, I learned how to navigate, became proficient, and then took on The North Channel. with help, of course.

Staying afloat is definitely artful.

The day after, the seminar coordinator told Roy; “You broke the bank yesterday. There were 532 boaters in attendance at your seminar. Since our seminars are all recorded and saved, they’ll be on the website starting Jan. 25.”

Happily listening to Roy provide knowledgeable information for boaters who hope to ply the North Shore this summer, about the anchorages, towns, places to dine, and places to hike, was absolute Northern Ontario artistry.

Our Bonnie’s been in the Window Seat for 29 years, always learning about us in Northern Ontario. Please find her at She loves hearing from you.

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Filipina front-line workers are turning their pandemic struggles into art – CTV News



Throughout her career, registered psychotherapist Elda Almario has spent a great deal putting the mental health of children she works with ahead of her own. But during the pandemic, she says, it’s become even less likely for her to “take a break and reflect.”

Over the past few months, Filipina front-line workers like Almario have found an outlet to relieve bottled-up anxiety, loneliness and fear: Writing their stories down and sharing them.

“Allowing space for my experience to come to the surface became a form of self-care for me,” Almario told in an email. “It was great to have a voice and be heard especially during a time when I have been so focused on my work due to increased demands and complex needs.”

The “Stories of Care” writing initiative, run through North York Community House in Toronto, virtually brings together front-line workers such as nurses, retail workers, at-home caretakers, dental hygienists, and cleaners, to share burdens they’ve mostly carried alone.

“It gives me strength, I feel encouraged because I know that no matter what we are facing, we face it with courage, resilience, and positivity and we continue to love what we do,” Olivia Dela Cruz, a paid caretaker of a household of six children, told in an email. “My respect [is for] all frontline workers because they all put others before themselves.”

Jennifer Chan, the lead organizer of the initiative, told in a video interview that the writers “feel seen and heard in a completely different way.” She said one participant told her, “it was so meaningful to get to write my story and just spend time thinking about me.”

Filipinx people play a crucial role on Canada’s front lines, making up one in 20 health-care workers, according to one study. A third of internationally trained nurses in the country are from the Philippines, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information; with Filipinos making up 90 per cent of migrant caregivers providing in-home care under Canada’s Caregiver Program.


Chan was inspired to start the program through her work with North York Community House, where she regularly consults with caregivers from the Philippines, who need help filling out government documents.

She and her colleagues were noticing “a lot of stuff coming to the surface” and they wanted to give them an outlet.

“Stories of Care” began last summer as a six-week writing course for a few Filipina front-line workers, and has since grown in attendance and centred on less-time-intensive sessions.

As of last Friday, some of the stories are now featured in a digital exhibition in the DesignTO Festival, based on three Filipinx artists who “read the stories [and] took inspiration from them,” Chan said.

One video called “Balikbayan” – a term for Filipinx people living outside of the Philippines — shows a fruit falling to the ground, turning into a box, crossing the sea, hitting the shore and growing into a tree. This signifies people starting a new life in Canada. The title also refers to the care packages or “Balikbayan boxes” that are sent back to the Philippines.

Another video features an animated circle of faces encircling alternating excerpts about workers’ fears, including getting COVID-19 on the job.

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Another piece features a silhouette of a person holding a sign reading, “we love to deliver,” contrasted with alternating English and Tagalog phrases such as: “I need to sacrifice my comfort for my family,” “I didn’t want to move to Canada” and “Migration is no guarantee for a better future.”

Stories of Care

“Having artists make renditions of our stories gives us the validation that our stories are valuable,” Gretchen Mangahas, a communications specialist and newcomer to Canada, told in an email.

“I felt the power of stories in the shared lived experiences of my Filipina sisters,” she said. “I knew that I was not alone, and that the connection opens opportunities to learn how to navigate in a new country I would call home. It has also created friendships and new avenues for sharing with others.”


Last fall, the Migrant Workers Alliance For Change released a damning report alleging that throughout the pandemic, migrant care workers were subjected to entrapment, long hours, and thousands of dollars in stolen wages by exploitative employers.

Chan said some writers “were feeling stuck in their employer situation” and thought about quitting, but knew it would mean they couldn’t provide for family back home and might potentially lose permanent residency status.

Medical news publication Stat News also reported that COVID-19 has taken an “outsized toll” on mental and physical well-being for Filipino front-line workers in the U.S. Chan said the same could be seen in Canada.

“They need an outlet to reflect through their own stories… we’re not hearing enough from them,” she said. Chan said attendees had a lot of cultural habits to overcome initially, including so-called “toxic positivity” and the “ongoing feeling that these women feel that they have to feel grateful to be here.”

Many worried about their families back home in the Philippines, which was hit by multiple typhoons last year. Chan said others wrote about the strict lockdown measures in the country and about “not being able to go home. Not feeling safe here or there.”

Although most people today are only being able to connect with family over video or the phone, that’s what immigrants have done for decades, said magazine editor Justine Abigail Yu, who facilitates the writing workshop in both English and Tagalog.

“Loving from afar” was a big theme in their writing, she told in a phone interview. “Obviously the conditions are quite different on an extreme level, but we’ve always had to show our family who are living in entirely different countries how we care for them and how we love them.”

The organizers said front-line workers’ feelings of isolation and homesickness while living in Canada have only been amplified by the pandemic.

Yu, the founder of magazine Living Hyphen, created an environment where Filipina workers could open up to themselves and to others.

“So many of these caregivers and our immigrant families, we just want to survive. We move to Canada, work our asses off to get by and to make sure that we’re providing for our children and there’s no room to tell stories,” she said. Yu’s role involved “breaking down that barrier first and foremost.”

And the investment appears to have paid off.

“In more ways than one, we deeply resonated with each other’s experience,” Almario said. “I gained a sense of belongingness and community, the feeling of not being alone.”

Caregiver and single mother Dela Cruz agreed, saying being a part of this project “brings back so many memories that I thought completely forgotten. Stories about me that I never thought I will have the courage to share.”

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‘Glorified littering’: Junk street art installations popping up around Montreal – Global News



From the Van Horne skate park in the Mile End to NDG’s Saint-Jacques Escarpment, bizarre art installations are popping up around the city.

Prowling panthers, massive abstract beasts — it’s all put together from the imagination of the artist under the pseudonym Junko.

It’s a fitting name, for all the art he creates is entirely made from miscellaneous “trash” that he finds on the street.

“Basically, they’re carefully arranged piles of garbage,” Junko said. “You can call it glorified littering.”

Read more:
Black Lives Matter street mural removed from Ste-Catherine Street

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Using things found on the street like car tires, bike frames, even shoes, everything is a workable piece in Junko’s creations.

Car bumpers are a common staple in his creatures.

“They’re definitely a popular item for me,” he said with a laugh.

Over the past few months, he has put together some six different statues around the city and abroad, all varying in size from small to towering.

A timber frame made from recycled wood holds the installations together.

“I’ve been making art my whole life,” Junko said. “My art has always been around creating creatures and characters. This is a new chapter in that.”

He says finding the junk isn’t that hard in the city but finding the right piece can be.

“Sometimes it’s extremely easy. I’ll be walking and find something and carry it home,” he said.

Read more:
Montreal’s Mile End construction project ends up on residents’ doorsteps

While shying away from the spotlight, Junko says he isn’t trying to make a point with his art, which he says speaks for itself.

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“There no deep hidden meaning, it’s just a way to expressing myself,” Junko said.

That so-called trash is getting a lot of likes and recognition on social media and on the street.

“There is a lot of art in the neighbourhood, so it’s good, I’m not against it,” resident Nick Barry-Shaw said.

Juno sees his form of expression as a legal grey zone.

“The people are into it but I’m not sure about the city, though,” Junko laughed.

Read more:
Pointe-Saint-Charles mural defaced by graffiti a chance to reconnect with community, creators say

He said that unlike graffiti, his street art is not vandalism but simply “an organized pile of trash.”

So far, all four art installations in the city have not been taken down, according to Junko.

The young artist says there is a lot more art to come and people should keep their eyes peeled.

“I’m just getting started so, yeah, you can expect more work,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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