A Word 17.04.2015: Nonie Mulcaster & Emma Anderson

This episode of the A Word we turn our gaze back to the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert: specifically talking to curator Emma Anderson about her project Breaking Spaces: the works of Nonie Mulcaster. We talk about the artist and her legacy, both in a specific manner and in the larger “landscape” of Saskatchewan art. The reception and the talk by Emma is later in the month.

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You can listen to this week’s show here. This was a busy week, as I also spoke to Wanda Nanibush, the curator of The Fifth World at the Mendel, the first in a series of exhibitions / events marking the 20th anniversary of TRIBE. That will air in the next while, and is yet another reason why CFCR is the best station in the city, and deserves your support through purchasing a membership.

Something else I’d like to add, as some of you may know Emma as a musician as well, and she’s involved with Girl’s Rock Camp. There’s an event this weekend that deserves your support (I’ve been told there may be ukuleles, and that’s been a fave of mine since the Cedar Tavern Singers). Go and support Girl’s Rock Camp: change only happens if we make it.

While we’re on the topic of exceptional young women in the arts, this week’s Planet S has my review of Cautionary Tales, the current exhibition at the void gallery, highlighting the work of Cate Francis and Maia Stark. That show is up for a few weeks more, so go and see it. Buy more art, as Zocia Malevich would yell.

Now, let us come to some final housekeeping: a new exhibition is opening at the Affinity Gallery at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. I’ll talk more about this in later shows, but I hope to lure Carole Epp back to the A Word to chat about it. paved has several things on the go, as always: an alternative methods photography workshop and the call for the next Toon’s Kitchen is now out. Everything you need to know about that is here, and this is a very exciting step for the Toon’s Kitchen project. More praise to paved for supporting artists in a variety of ways, including valuing their work through production facilitation – and artist fees.

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A Word 10.04.2015

This week’s episode of the A Word, with one exception, never leaves Riversdale: I mention the Bam Collective‘s call for submissions / participation / ideas / initiatives, as well as RiversdaleLove‘s forum at the end of the month. Their poster is below: and Allison Moore’s Video Terrarium at paved has now turned into Suburban Terrarium: it looks to be as amusing and engaging as the earlier manifestation.

Finally, Nuit Blanche Saskatoon 2015 is now calling for submissions for the second incarnation of the festival: you can follow them on FB or on Twitter, but the image for their submission call is below too.

And, of course, no A Word is complete these days without me completely forgetting to mention something important: in this case, BlackFlash Magazine has a new issue launch on the 25th of April. Read about the new issue here.

Listen to the show here: and next week I’ll be talking to Emma Anderson, whose curatorial project about Wynona Mulcaster has just opened at the Mann Gallery.

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A Word 03.04.2015

And this week’s radio show, which was supposed to be a chat with Wanda Nanibush about her exhibition The Fifth World which is open right now at the Mendel, did not come together exactly that way. Our schedules got the better of us, and Wanda and I will talk via phone in the next few weeks. But Fifth World is up right now: its a beautiful and disturbing exhibition, and I’d quote Mendel Acting Chief Curator Sandra Fraser that this exhibition, marking Tribe’s 20th anniversary (one of many upcoming events that will do so) is a very prescient final exhibition for the Mendel Art Gallery.

This week’s A Word can be heard here: and if you’re listening to the show, you should support CFCR with a membership.

So, on this week’s show I talk about a screening and production opportunity at paved, an upcoming exhibition at Art Placement and an exhibition that opens next week at the Mann Gallery, as the curator will be my guest the week of the 15th. Their poster is below: but the Mann also received a large donation that I speak about on air, and you can read more about that here.

Of course, the Mann is still going strong with the Wolf Campaign as well: but I’d echo part of the conversation I had with Director / Curator Jesse Campbell and how the Mann is focused upon history as told through the eyes of the artists they present, as we’re seeing with Mulcaster, the works of Hone and upcoming exhibitions by artists like Ruth Cuthand.

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Oh, and some thoughts on the current exhibition at the College Art Gallery on the University of Saskatchewan campus are in the new Planet S Magazine: that can be read here.

Lastly, the Void Gallery will be showing works by Maia Stark and Cate Francis  in a two woman show called Cautionary Tales. That’s an excellent title: Joseph Anderson used it for a series he exhibited at the Mendel some time ago, and I was recently speaking to Rowan Pantel about a series of works by female Video Vérité members decades ago that explored and revisited the rich history of myth and fairy tales (Little Red was never the same, nor should she have been).

Cautionary Tales is on display right now, and the reception is the 9th of April. More information and images here at the void, but I couldn’t resist including some work from both of these excellent artists (Stark is above, Francis is below).

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A Word 26.03.2015

This week’s A Word is all about events that are happening this weekend: from a new exhibition at the BAM space to the 330 Design Group. You can listen to the show here.

Some housekeeping: the article I mentioned at the beginning of the show about city councillors is here. The shameful partisan squander of tax payer money that the aforementioned CPC candidate Donauer has no apparent issue with can be seen here…and I don’t really remember him ever being a big supporter of the gallery anyway.

This post is going up a bit earlier than usual, as it is a busy weekend: but this isn’t to nudge CFCR out of the way, and you can show your appreciation for the best radio station in the city by making sure you renew your membership (or buy one for the first time) during our upcoming Membership Drive. Whether you listen to the A Word, Tonight It’s Poetry, Civically Speaking or so many other great cultural focused shows that CFCR not only provides but actively promotes, it is time to show your love.

The A Word is entering its eighth year: and considering that the CBC is facing some unpleasant local cuts, just announced today, local voices speaking to relevant local issues are needed more than ever.

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Respective posters are below with all the information you need, but I’d like to also add a link that a friend sent to me, which is a wonderful piece by Jerry Saltz. You can read that here.

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A Word 19.03.2015 BAM Collective

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation between myself, Cynthia Blanchette and David Stonhouse. These two are part of the exciting and dynamic BAM Collective, and we talk about the current show that’s on display there as well as what they are and what they do, and what they hope to do.

You can listen to us here. The images directly below are posters from the current show (Cynthia mentions when the space will be open near the end of our conversation) and the next exhibition that will be in the BAM space. The reception for that is the 28th of March.

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Now, a few other things worth mentioning: you have until tomorrow to see the Winter Gala at the Mann Gallery. Its worth a day trip to Prince Albert, and while you’re there you can also check out an exhibition at the John V. Hicks Gallery, presented by IPAC, (the Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective). Solitaires/Solidaries is a group exhibition organized and toured by the Conseil Culturel Fransaskois (CCF) which “highlights the reality of the Fransaskois artist creating in a contemporary prairie setting. It juxtaposes the reality of the artist working in a solitary space with the experience of cultural and linguistic solidarity”. The exhibition features the work of 4 Fransaskois artist, Anne Brochu Lambert, Jean-Sébastien Gauthier, Liza Gareau Tosh and Michèle Mackasey.

I didn’t mention the Mann’s Wolf Back A Beer Campaign last week, so I mention it here: support this endeavour. Public art is important to defining and renewing a civic space. Emma Anderson’s curatorial / educational project on Wynona Mulcaster opens at the Mann on the 2nd of April: that will be an interesting piece of history that has relevant contemporary applications too.

To return to Saskatoon: the latest Toon’s Kitchen at paved is an excellent one. I have some thoughts about it here, at Ominocity. I’m hoping that I’ll continue to contribute pieces to that excellent site, as some events / exhibitions are here so briefly that it’s necessary to note them immediately (I’m still letting an idea regarding abstraction and the works of Lorenzo Dupuis, who’s currently at Art Placement, Tammi Campbell’s work at the Mendel and Robert Taite’s current exhibition at aka fester in my head….I find myself returning to the title of Dupuis’s exhibition – A New Grammar – when thinking of the language of abstraction….). It’s an important show in the Toon’s space as we don’t seem to be having a debate about immigration these days so much as we’re shouting slogans and unpleasant bile in the wake of the indentured servitude that was / is  the TFW program….

The next few episodes of the A Word will be returning to event listing format, but I do hope to talk to Allison Moore, whose exhibition Video Terrarium opened last week at paved, in the next while. It may be the first interview I’ll do with the A Word that is across the Atlantic….

Looking ahead: 330 Design Group will be hosting its annual open house later this month. I’ll mention more about that next week, but their poster is below.

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Stronger Than Stone : some thoughts and ideas

This is a piece you’ll find in the March / April 2015 CARFAC Newsletter about the Stronger Than Stone Conference in the Fall of 2015. There’s also a piece by David Garneau in that issue. CARFAC SK doesn’t put their newsletter online (though you can find copies in a variety of spaces, from Art Placement to SCYAP): so it seemed appropriate to make it available online at the A Word. At the above link for STS you can read participant biographies and other relevant information. This exhibition was also on display concurrent to STS, and at times factored into the conversations. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Stronger Than Stone took place over four days in Calgary and Saskatoon, with a multiplicity of speaker and performers: it is sheer impossibility to give anything more than a taste of what happened over the two days at Wanuskewin, but many of the speakers raised issues that will resonate to a person in Saskatoon or Saskatchewan, as well as our larger national imaginary. Monuments have power not just physically, but in what they represent, as markers of ideology. They are material manifestations of ideas: and “ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?[i]

Wanuskewin was an ideal site, with its historical implications, a monument in itself: Rebecca Belmore, on the second day, spoke of recognizing the difference between monuments that are, and those that are “manufactured.” Ashok Mathur recounted the preceding Calgary days. He gave just a tease: how we “walk backwards into the future” within multiple “locals” here and elsewhere. He mentioned Jimmy Durham’s keynote address, reiterating how monuments in the Americas are testaments to colonial violence. Even something as superficially politically “neutral” as a dam invokes “economic plunder”, brushing against the current debate of resource extraction and Keystone. Mathur cited the overly simplistic binary of white / indigenous, affirming greater complexity in our “locals”: and then the speakers began.

Gregory Scofield’s use of language was evocative, with a tenderness and brutality. His words did “make sharp your teeth where I am most tender” in entrancing the room. Speaking of memories both personal and political, his words provided an aural match to WWOS: whether “punching bag woman” or “holding up the walls woman” or “all 69 years lost in a policeman’s report” being succinct and sad, but also with “she wore her blanket like perfume / she got raped here on this blanket / the man who did it was federally licensed” offering anger and indictment as well.

Sunday’s first panel was What the Land Remembers: Can it teach social history? There was an entertaining argument over the Cypress Hills: contested histories of place are more complex than the naïve settler / indigenous stereotype, as these sacred sites are important to Lakota and Cree. Adrian Stimson described territorialism as a colonial sentiment of “ownership” declaring instead that “we are all responsible for the land”. The land was spoken of as a library of stories, with “different perceptions of the same environment” – as you could look outside the window at Wanuskewin, and consider how to “approach the world in different ways and…expand the ways we come to know the world.” An amusing joke was that in the oral tradition of history, when confronted with people asking about spelling and capitalization, to dismiss it as a “white” problem, as writing invariably led to codification and control.

This led very well into the next panel: Mother tongues: How does language shape public space? where James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson cited “language” as a space for a legal battle between a Eurocentric paradigm and a First Nations one, where language “creates a forest of words of deceit” (its refreshing to encounter lawyers like Henderson, who can “see the forest for the trees”…). Henderson elaborated how universities (and other institutions that more often manufacture alibis than foster change) have a methodological / entomological obsession that’s irrelevant in “Indigenous knowledge systems”. He lamented the “great amnesia” after the 1981 constitution regarding the recognition of Aboriginal rights, and how, again the importing and forced application of Eurocentric systems are not “integral” to the discussion, but more an enforcement of status quo (This was a recurring sentiment: that “monuments” that are “approved” already have a space “carved out for them”, and to attempt to “carve out” other spaces, or occupy pre existing ones, is “aberrant” or “criminal”).

Another point made by Marianne Nicholson and Paul Chaat Smith is that, unlike the Eurocentric tradition, there is, here, “a sacred language that has never been secularized.” Again, the site of Wanuskewin provided a subtle yet pervasive voice, as “you can learn more deeply from the spirits when the snow falls” echoed at the end of the first day, as we walked outside.

Rebecca Belmore began the second day with a performance blending some of her familiar tropes of endurance and action with ideas specific to Wanuskewin. The series of actions she performed outside intimately involved the land, and had a brutality and force that was reminiscent of The Indian Factory. Belmore’s work demonstrates how good performance art combines politics and presentation in an un-paralleled manner. The panel immediately following was appropriately titled Paper-Scissors-Stone. Propositions / Provocations for new forms of public.

Voices from the “floor” were also strong: Jeff Thomas (a respected figure whose interrogations of monuments is lively and ongoing) related an anecdote of being stopped by police while working in Brantford, a reminder of the danger of dissent. Luke Thompson posited that monuments should do something “real” – but perhaps, in Thomas’ experience, is they’re very “real” markers of power and exclusion. In the Paper panel Thompson was delightfully critical of “approved” monuments: specifically how their relation to history and memory is not just exaggerated but more about stifling disagreement or difference. Those whom are served by “approved” monuments are often blind to them, as they’re not the ones being spoken at, or spoken over.

The afternoon saw several animated conversations: from K.C. Adams talking about her Perception series that was in response to the comments made by a mayoral candidate in Winnipeg (succinctly demonstrating Winnipeg as Canada’s racism capital) to Ruth Cuthand’s jovial – but fierce – declaration that “I am not the Indian you’re looking for.” Perhaps the most relevant aspect of Ruth’s talk was her relating of her experiences being part of a jurying process for public art in Saskatoon that resulted in Tony Stallard’s excellent “Land of Berries.” Cuthand’s point was that the “settlers” on that jury (all very academic) wanted to exert inappropriate control over what words / language Stallard might choose to illuminate, from his consultations with local Aboriginal artists / activists.

Elwood Jimmy (on both of Monday’s panels) asserted how there is no “tool kit” and there shouldn’t ever be one for artistic initiatives within communities. The artists he worked with for the Dewdney Avenue Project (Terrance Houle, Edward Poitras, Rebecca Belmore) all approached the ongoing colonial presence in that neighborhood with its RCMP detachment in unique ways. This continued thoughts from earlier, where he spoke of Regina as the “most colonial of cities in Canada outside of Ottawa” and how during his time in Regina there were two serial killers focused on Aboriginal women (the current version of the racialized violence implicit to the “colonial project”).

This idea of contemporary responsiveness to colonial forms and frames was the basis of Adrian Stimson’s presentation regarding the collaborative work Spirit of Alliance. Installed last fall in Saskatoon’s Riverdale area, it’s alternately a subversive – or more accurate – response to the federal government’s interest in erecting monuments to the War of 1812. Spirit presents a moment that illustrates the variant groups that united to fight in 1812: its more about this Saskatoon, and how descendants of that “alliance” still live here, both Aboriginal and Settler. Stimson spoke of the extensive consultations with the White Cap Community, and the various stories encapsulated in Spirit (from references to the Treaty of Ghent to the use of petroglyphs, speaking to the multiple “locals” in Saskatoon).

Rebecca Belmore offered some fascinating thoughts regarding her work Trace, installed at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. She talked about working in “controversial spaces that you know are problematic” and the difficulty of making work that “lives well in that space that you also feel comfortable with, as an artist”. There is an understanding of the necessity for artists to put themselves in critical spaces to be relevant, but this also was a point that befitted the last few hours of Stronger than Stone: how shall we make monuments now?

Steve Loft, in his comments on the closing panel On The Road Ahead: Towards a Framework for Better, or Best, Practices, reframed the idea of monument to apply it to himself, with his histories and experiences bringing him to this moment built upon his lineage and past. The idea that “monument” must be a fluid term, to allow for old agendas and dogmas to be broken was well encapsulated by Steve’s personal example. But Candace Hopkins, in her powerful closing comments, chose to directly speak of what “the road ahead” might truly mean. I paraphrase liberally from her insightful and incisive declarations: In the road ahead, we will be free – a new problem, perhaps. In the road ahead, we will beware of official histories. We will beware of oily money. We will have the courage to speak public secrets to make them known. We will move from a place of resistance to a place of ownership. We will continue to take on the necessary and impossible tasks.

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[i] This is a sentiment from Joseph Stalin, which may be heavy handed but feels appropriate when confronted with some monuments and their ideological suffocation of dissent.

A Word 13.03.2015 Leah Taylor & Frank Pimental

This week’s episode of the A Word is primarily a conversation between curator Leah Taylor and myself about the exhibition of works at the Kenderdine Gallery on campus. Frank Pimental : Dunland’s Restaurant runs until the 17th of April. All the images below are from that series, with official credit being Frank Pimentel, Untitled (selection of work from the Dunlands Restaurant series), 1987, cibachrome on paper. Collection of the University of Saskatchewan.

You can listen to our conversation here.

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Several other things are happening tonight that I mentioned on air. A new exhibition opens at paved, both in the main gallery space as well as in the Toon’s Kitchen gallery. And BAM will have a reception tonight for their new show: their poster is below. Two of their members will be joining me for next week’s show.

One last thing to add: my article on Stronger Than Stone is now out in the current CARFAC SK Newsletter. You can pick that up at a variety of places (Art Placement, for example), but I’ve also put it online. It can be read here.

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A Word 07.03.2015

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation with artist Rowan Pantel, whose exhibition Cynefin has a opening reception at the SCC Affinity Gallery this Friday evening, and she does a talk Saturday. That exhibition is up right now, as it opened on the 27th, so you can check it out now. All the images below are her work.

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You can listen to our conversation, via telephone, here. The other event that Rowan mentioned, Our Four Walls,  that happens at the paved / aka event space has an event posting here with all you need to know.

Now, there’s a number of other things happening: Art Placement has a new show opening this Saturday with works by Lorenzo Dupuis, titled A NEW GRAMMAR. The reception for that is in the afternoon at 2 PM. Bonnie Conly has works both three dimensional and flat that just opened at the Frances Morrison Library Gallery space: that show is called Pick Up Sticks And Storybooks.

The Mendel will be having a talk this Sunday with their advertorial exhibition for Borders Crossings Magazine, called the Border Crossings Study Centre: that happens at 1 PM this Saturday. And, ahem, if you happen to find any issues of BlackFlash Magazine hidden in the stacks there, I have no idea how they came to be there.

Let us switch to speaking of a better magazine than BC, Kimiwan ‘zine: their event Hiatus Don’t Hate Us! happens at The Underground Café. The magazine is taking a break which saddens many of us who very much appreciated the quality of the artists and writers that the magazine featured. Their “poster” image is below.

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The next few episodes will also be interviews: and in light of that I want to add a few things here and now that are in the next few weeks, to make sure they’re not missed.

paved arts is continuing its excellent pattern of dynamism within the community: the conclusion to the three year CORE series will happen on March 20 and 21. This is CORE Series VI: Futures Past and you can read about it and purchase tickets (they always sell out) here. The latest in their documentary screening series (paved director Alex Rogalski came on the A Word a long time ago to talk about this series) will feature Monsoon on March 10 at paved. Read about it here. What I’m most excited about with upcoming programming at paved is the solo exhibition by Allison Moore: Video Terrarium opens on the 13th of March. She’s also doing a workshop on the Saturday following, the 14th. She was one of the artists in PsycheDADA in 2011.

paved’s artistic director David LaRiviere was also quoted in this article in the Star Phoenix in regards to the Understanding the Arts Ecology of Saskatchewan from the Artist’s Perspective survey that just came out this week. Amusingly, aka “artist run”, which doesn’t pay fees to emerging artists, linked this on their FB page: nice to see how they’re similar to the Harper Government™ in saying the opposite of what they do….You can read the report here.

And would it be an episode of the A Word without some mention of public art, in all its glory and grotesqueness? A Public Art Workshop for the Placemaker Program is happening March 13th. All the information you need is in the poster below.

And since we’re now talking about public art, the Mann Gallery has details on their Wolf Back A Beer Fundraiser: this happens Friday, April 10th, but advance tickets are on sale now. Support this worthy project, either through drinking (ahem) or through direct donations to the gallery. This is part of their Wolf Campaign. I was thinking the other day, while walking, just what a six foot tall version of that Fafard piece would be like, as I’ve stood next to a smaller one…and that thought ensures I’ll be mentioning this campaign at every opportunity.

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A Word 27.02.2015: The Mann Gallery

This week’s episode of the A Word is focused on the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert: there’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, they’ve just mounted their 39th annual Winter Gala exhibition, guest curated by Grant McConnell, and there’s some significant artists in that exhibition (Kathy Bradshaw, Anita Rocamora, Michel Boutin and Allan Clarke, to just name a few). With it being on the cusp of the 40th anniversary of that event that’s major to both the artistic and larger community of Prince Albert, it seemed a good time to sit down and talk to some of the staff there.

The A Word is, after all, the only visual arts themed radio show in the province: so it seemed appropriate to expand its horizons. Over the next while I’m looking to perhaps highlight significant work done by galleries in smaller urban centres like Swift Current, Estevan or perhaps Moose Jaw. Any feedback from my listeners on that is appreciated and you can hear this week’s show here.

I’d never been to one of the Winter Gala exhibitions, and was impressed by the diversity of the works. I praise this on air, as well as mentioning several artists who are new to me, and some that are more familiar. The registrar, April Sutherland, was also kind enough to walk me through their collection, and answer several of my questions. This variance and miscellany was refreshing: seeing works by Cate Francis and Michel Boutin as well as works that speak to the unique (and sometimes eccentric) nature of collecting was enjoyable.

Jesse Campbell is the relatively new Director / Curator there, continuing in the steps of Griff Baker and Brenda Barry, but also bringing her own experience and understanding to the space. She was generous enough to talk with me about some of the initiatives that are happening and some of the plans she – and her staff – have for the gallery. When we spoke, several ideas came up repeatedly: using the public engagement / investment model of the Mendel as an example of what the Mann Gallery can and should be, as well as focusing on relevant local art history as a means to define a current space. To use a familiar trope, this involves looking outside the gallery as well as within its collection: the Wolf Campaign encompasses this well.

It’s exciting to speak with someone who also has an art historical background, as notions of site and history – and how a public gallery functions within that, serving large groups that are disparate yet all relevant – are clear questions.

We spoke about an upcoming exhibition of the works of Andrée Felley-Martinson she’s curating, and how the Mann can be relevant on a variety of cultural levels, to a number of communities in Prince Albert. I was also able to talk to Emma Anderson, the curatorial intern who’s working on an upcoming exhibit of Wynona Mulcaster (April 2 to May 23). Mulcaster’s work should be familiar to you, if you live in Saskatoon: but what I’m truly looking forward to here, and this was a high point of my conversation with Emma, was that Mulcaster’s true legacy seems to be in art education. Considering the poverty and shambles we see in that space now, whether in the elementary / secondary school system or at the University of Saskatchewan, this is a timely focus. Frankly, I think I’ll be going back up to see that show: and I plan to be adding the Mann to my regular rounds of galleries and events I cover here, on the A Word. 

Now, a few things I mentioned on air that I wanted to elaborate on: Friday, April 10th is the fund raiser I mentioned for The Wolf Campaign. This is a significant undertaking not just as a means to expand the public profile of the gallery, but also as a groundbreaking achievement for public art in Prince Albert (it would be worth nothing how this initiative fits within the debates we’ve had over the last year in Saskatoon about public art).  The sculpture in question is familiar to me: I saw a smaller version at Darrell Bell recently.

The fundraiser is called Wolf Back A Beer – A Beer Tasting Event Fundraiser. More information will be upcoming at their web site, and there’s a variety of contact information there.

But I’d also mention that a few of the approaching shows  (Ruth Cuthand, Tim Moore and the previously mentioned Andrée Felley-Martinson retrospective) are more contemporary than you’ll see in other spaces in larger centres. 

The Winter Gala Exhibition runs until March 21. I’m also very curious to see how it manifests next year, for its 40th Anniversary, as its a major part of the cultural landscape in Prince Albert, and the energy and enthusiasm of the staff will undoubtably make it a noteworthy event.

 

Don’t shoot the messenger: aka and the exploitation of emerging artists

There was a recent complaint regarding my comments on air, on The A Word on CFCR, calling aka artist run a pimp for exploiting emerging artists with its “TBA” space, which I also prefer to call “The Unpaid Intern” space. I was accused of pursuing a “vendetta.” I’d like to take some time to clarify that, although I feel I made my point quite concisely on air. However, this is something that should be elaborated upson, so the larger community is aware of it, and this is an easy way to do so.

aka’s 2014 was not one of their best years: the early tone was set with a significant cut from one of their main funders, the Canada Council.

In response to this, aka decided to emulate paved art’s very popular – with artists but also funders – Toon’s Kitchen initiative. This is a worthy model: but aka missed the main thing that makes Toon’s focus on local artists – sometimes emerging, sometimes experienced – so worthy of praise and support. paved pays artist fees, and pays fees to any writers commissioned to respond to the work. This is not only appropriate for an artist run centre, but is an irrefutable part of its mandate and reason for being.

There was a time when artist fees were not paid, when major galleries would act as though the artists should thank them for the show. CARFAC fought for a pay scale that is still in usage: many ARCs literally shamed mainstream galleries into paying fees (and yes, there is an echo of that public shaming in what I’m doing here). Its sad to see that the fight isn’t just unfinished, but that natural allies, like aka, are choosing to exploit emerging and inexperienced artists, with (at best) delusional or (more likely) cynical arguments, claiming “exposure” and “experience”.

Those are common lines – or lies –  put out by organizations that are looking for a reason not to pay artists of any media (I’m sure you’ve seen that social media post about how to respond to a restaurant that wants you to play for exposure and experience, and how shamelessly exploitative the idea is shown to be when reversed).

It’s even more transparently false here, where the attendance aka gets in two months may match the Frances Morrison Library Gallery space for two weeks. You’ll get more exposure at Unreal City, or The Woods: and though none of these places pay fees, they are NOT artist run centres. They also allow work to be sold off the wall. Frankly, all three places have done a better job publicizing their exhibitions than aka has done with their TBA space.

Experience, considering that the ‘unpaid intern’ artists do their own vinyl and seem to have no installation support, is akin to how getting mugged and learning to be more wary is also “experience”. This is where my cynical re titling the space “Unpaid Intern” speaks to how this exploitation is something we see elsewhere, at magazines or businesses that want the benefits without any investment or respect for the intern. Remember the outrage that was the response to the governor of the Bank of Canada suggesting the unemployed millennial “volunteer” instead? Sadly, there’s more offenders of this variety in cultural spaces than corporate ones, these days.

Arguably, there has never been a harder time to be an emerging artist: whether its the debt load many carry out of their BFA or MFA, or that there are fewer and fewer jobs at less and less pay. There’s no real space in the city specifically dedicated to emerging artists, as in larger urban centres. The art school at the University of Saskatchewan rarely prepares its graduates for post degree action: most MFA students are unknown in the larger community, and the BFA program is poverty stricken in terms of larger community connections.

Traditionally, ARCs have been stepping stones: many have focused on the demographic of emerging artists, who are often seeking a community to continue making work and to exhibit it post university.

Exploiting a group that is inexperienced, and yet often very eager and excellent is despicable. To try and claim you’re assisting them, when your next door neighbour is paying them fees as well as supporting their exhibition both physically and media wise, when in fact you’re using them to make yourself look better to your funders, is reprehensible. Exploitation is defined as benefiting unfairly from the work of others, or to use a person in an unfair and selfish way. That is also, when combined with a focus to use the unaware, trusting and inexperienced, a very accurate definition of a pimp.

To call this a “vendetta” is willful misconstruing. I worked with students and emerging artists for nearly 15 years here, so seeing that they are respected and rewarded appropriately is important to me. During that time I worked with the Visual Arts Student Union to foster professional development, and make them aware of their options, as well as their rights. Perhaps a better question is why an artist run centre is not as concerned about this as I am.

I might also suggest attempting to shoot the messenger is neither an effective or positive approach. Nor is it merited.

After all, I’ve given significant coverage to several artists at aka this past year (Shanelle Papp, Joi Arcand, Shelley Niro, Felicia Gay, Mary Longman), and may continue to do so, if the work is deserving (its an active community, and some things are more worthy of coverage than others). I produced five radio shows this June / July alone to support Sounds Like IV: bluntly, without me, there would have been no media coverage of that worthy festival save a piece in VERB.

The Canada Council has cut aka twice in the last five years. The previous one was significant enough to mobilize the community to prevent a feared shutdown: despite the accusations of a “vendetta” on my part, I have no interest in seeing that. But I also have no interest in fostering the illusion that aka is a healthy, functional space which respects its mandate or fosters its role in this community.