Three months ago, when New York government officials ordered nonessential businesses closed to slow the spread of coronavirus, high-end retailers sheathed their stores in plywood barriers, as though readying for civil unrest.
Did Louis Vuitton and Coach anticipate this human rights movement catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd? Probably not. The reflexive impulse to protect property is a deeply American one, ingrained in this country’s foundation and upheld more consistently than probably anything else. Luxury stores seized in flimsy plywood are a neat visual synecdoche for a country governed more by fear than sense.
The effect of seeing entire commercial districts embalmed in plywood is jarring, a hostile landscape of bland, beige blankness. In the graffiti tradition, the presence of blankness is known as “fresh walls,” its precious existence an invitation answered gleefully with tags and pieces activated not just by the defiance of their making, but also by being seen — an affirmation of humanity. In the absence of in-person commerce, looking becomes heightened. It feels like a miracle of restraint that New York’s street artists largely heeded the public health emergency and stayed home, leaving most of the city’s rolling plywood fields undisturbed.
In the last few weeks, however, as the country convulsed into protests against police brutality that were met with more police brutality, that inertia began to give way. In New York, some retail stores, previously content to leave their plywood barriers blank when no one was around to see them, and others newly boarded, began deploying artwork ostensibly directed at the protests.
The Museum of Ice Cream in SoHo painted a brand-consistent bubble-gum pink tribute to black victims of police violence under the unfortunate preamble “I SCREAM FOR …” After receiving criticism for insensitivity, the museum’s founder apologized, had the preamble removed and repainted the plywood black. After its windows were smashed, Kith, a brand that pulped hip-hop and streetwear culture into a smooth simulacrum that traffics in notions of community, encased its entire frontage in a massive black box painted with a three-story quote from Nelson Mandela that seemed more interested in aesthetics than coalition.
The worst of these offer the same ambiguous sentimentality and vague uplift that upscale stores like Club Monaco were already employing before the protests began. The Hanro store next door to the Whitney (its own glass walls blotted out with boards) declares “Love. Unity. Respect.,” a tepid platitude that signifies nothing in the face of righteous unrest.
It’s not hard to identify a brand’s motivation here: wanting to soften the brutal optics of its own self-interest. As thousands of New Yorkers emptied into the streets in recent weeks, some image consultants correctly identified that their brands would be caught naked. Earlier this month, the artist Shantell Martin shared a screenshot on Instagram of an email she said she received from the advertising firm McCann, soliciting her to create a Black Lives Matter mural on Microsoft’s boarded Fifth Avenue store “while the protests are still relevant.” Such language gave the lie to what Ms. Martin called “performative allyship.”
Art can soothe, but it can also manipulate, cajoling pacification when rage is more appropriate.
The most immediate problem with these kinds of murals is that they exist under the pretext of looting — or rather the perceived, racialized threat of looting, the material impact of which hardly skims the existential one that protests seek to redress. It is simply impossible to call for racial equality with a gesture that prioritizes property value. The cognitive dissonance of a store commissioning a graphic representation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that a riot is the “language of the unheard” on its riot-proof barricade would be parodic if it weren’t so damning.
Because rioting is a legitimate expression of pain, the active, exuberant presence of materials designed to dampen that expression can be viewed as unsympathetic, even antagonistic. This moment has, again, exposed the limits of corporate solidarity, designed more to defend shareholder integrity than agitate for social justice.
All of these examples are distinct from the protest art, murals, posters and graffiti writing on trains and elsewhere commemorating the lives of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Kimani Gray, Tamir Rice and other black Americans killed by the police, or in other acts of racial violence, that have sprouted in nearly every major American city. In SoHo one recent weekend, I watched artists quietly add their own murals to blank squares of plywood, forming an open-air gallery of genuine grief and solidarity, untethered by commercial interests. Their message is unequivocal. The images are genuine because they serve all of us.
Max Lakin (@maxlakin) is an arts and culture writer in New York.
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ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre re-opens to the public – Alberni Valley News
The Rollin Art Centre is now open to the public!
Our hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed, which means hand sanitizing, limited number of patrons, directional signage and no admittance without a face mask.
Stop by the gallery to view our current art exhibit, check out our gift shop or just come to say hello.
Please enter through the upstairs landing.
MYSTERY BAG OF BOOKS
Due to COVID-19, we did not have our annual giant book sale fundraiser in May. Now you can purchase a mystery bag of books and help out the Rollin Art Centre. You won’t know what is in the bag until you get it home—surprise!
For just $20 you will get 10 books, all in the same genre, and you will be helping Rollin Arts Centre during this difficult time.
The genres are fiction, romance, mystery, children’s chapter books (e.g. Nancy Drew), regular children’s books, biographies and variety bags (random genres).
This is an important fundraiser for us! You can purchase online through e-transfer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your name and contact info. Or pay by cheque/exact cash when you pick up at the Rollin Art Centre. Please call 250 724-3412 to arrange for pick up. Only 20 bags are available currently – get yours now!
Your support for the Rollin Art Centre is greatly needed and much appreciated.
MINI BOOK SALE
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rollin Art Centre has had to postpone its biggest fundraiser. So we have decided to hold a mini book sale and combine it with an artisan market.
This event will be held on the grounds of Rollin Centre on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A large selection of great quality bargain books, children’s books and puzzles will be available, plus several local artisans with their displays of jewelry, pottery, wood and more.
The public’s support for Rollin Arts Centre is greatly needed and much appreciated! Please note that we will collect names and telephone numbers of those attending, in the event that contact tracing becomes necessary. We require social distancing, face masks and the use of hand sanitizer upon entry and exit to this event.
The Rollin Art Centre is located at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street.
The next children’s art workshop will be Drawing I from July 21-24 at the Rollin Art Centre.
Register today by emailing email@example.com or call 250-724-3412.
Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art Concepts Custom Framing lives up to its name, but has a lot more – Estevan Mercury
Art Concepts Custom Framing has been a part of the Estevan business community for decades, ensuring that people would have a place to get their photos, artwork, memorabilia and other items framed, and enhancing the appearance of those items.
But in recent years, the business has expanded to be a place that celebrates local artists, gives them a place to showcase their talents, and even hosts an occasional concert.
Art Concepts moved into its current home in the 1200-block of Fourth Street about three years ago. Theresa Fuhr continues to own the business, while Byron Fichter owns the building.
In addition to framing, there is a wealth of paintings, photography, pottery and jewelry.
“Artwork, we tend to sell, on a regular basis, every month … quite a bit of art,” Fuhr told the Mercury. “And we like to have a wide price range for a retirement gift, a good-bye gift or a birthday gift. You have to start from a lower price range up to your higher-priced originals and your higher-priced artists.”
Among the selections on the business’ walls is a new Michael Lonechild original for $6,000. Fuhr finds people will come in to view the artwork, which in turn leads to the sale of other art.
The business has become a popular place for artist talks and even live music. Several southeast Saskatchewan artists have had receptions there.
As for concerts, Hook and Nail, Chris Henderson and Poor Nameless Boy (the stage name for former Estevan resident Joel Henderson) have performed at the business. Saskatchewan country music singer JJ Voss was to play there March 21, but COVID-19 scuttled those plans.
Fichter has been speaking with him about when he could perform.
Fuhr believes the ability to have concerts gives them an advantage over other traditional framing shops.
“It makes people more excited about what we do, because people like events. They like to see new art. So we look at ourselves not as a gallery but a commercial gallery. We encourage more of the sales for the artist than just seeing the artists’ work.”
The concerts bring people in who maybe wouldn’t visit a frame shop or an art gallery. Fuhr looks forward to the shows, thanks to the acoustics within the building and the intimacy of the space.
“I love music and I love to encourage up and coming artists, established artists,” said Fuhr.
And it allows people to be exposed to art. The business has had exhibits from such talented southeast creators as Lonechild, Lauren Daae and Deanna Brown, as well as Fuhr and Fichter.
“I don’t care what kind of art you’re doing. If you have an idea, we welcome you to come to us, show us what you’re doing. Maybe it’s a form of art that we can encourage,” said Fuhr.
And when the artists come in, Arts Concepts will have art classes, giving local people a chance to learn from a professional.
“We are looking for something to do that would coincide with the opening of an art show. We’re not looking for the paint night sort of thing, we’re looking for more of a learning experience,” said Fuhr.
Fichter, who also owns Byron Fichter Fotography, has instructed a photography workshop, and plans on doing more.
Once the world returns to normal, Art Concepts is looking forward to having artist talks and art classes, and the live music as well. They’re booking into the fall, but they’re being cautious, because they don’t want to book an artist or performer, and then have to cancel.
Wine and yoga nights have also proven popular at Art Concepts in the front area, with sold out classes, and they had a book signing, since, as Fuhr says, literature is a form of art.
“People really like something a little different to do in town, and I think that’s what gives us a little niche,” said Fuhr.
Fredericton’s city hall made more colourful by Weathergrams for Good art installation – Globalnews.ca
Katrina Slade answered the call for a public art piece at City Hall in Fredericton, N.B. The art installation is called Weathergrams for Good.
The 800 piece exhibit took three weeks to create and features messages of love and kindness.
“They are inspired by an Asian tradition called Tanzaku where people write their wishes for the New Year on colourful paper and hang them in trees,” Slade told Global News.
Visitors to the exhibit were using one word to describe the experience: beautiful.
“I love it, it’s really vibrant,” said Fredericton resident Sasha French.
“I think that the colour that Katrina’s art has added is pretty special and the messages are nice to read,” said Jessica Cleghorn.
During this summer’s pandemic, the outdoor space in front of Fredericton City Hall has seen a surge in usage due to the addition of bistro tables and chairs.
“It’s really great that the city galvanized quite quickly to get this set up and then to empower an artist to come in and facilitate a space that we can come to enjoy ourselves, feel inspired, and also enjoy the beautiful sunshine after being cooped up for months,” said Jaqueline Car.
It’s a sentiment that French agreed with.
“You never know who’s walking by and just really needed to see something or feeling something that day, even if you don’t need it in that moment that’s a great place of privilege that you’re in,” she said.
Everyone in the community is encouraged to get involved in the project.
“If you come here and you go into the visitors’ centre at city hall you can write your own message on a weathergram and I will be putting them up every week,” said Slade
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“The interaction portion is great because anyone can be an artist. I feel like this exhibit encourages people to do it at their home to come here to participate,” said French.
“It’s tactile, you can feel it, you can engage, kids can touch it, it’s just an accessible art project that’s really beautifying the city.”
The art installation will be featured at Fredericton City Hall until the fall.
Slade says she would like to see Weathergrams for Good projects exhibited in cities across Canada.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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