Visual Arts Summit (Ottawa, November 2007)

This article is long overdue for posting here on my blog. It originally appeared in the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter in January 2008. It’s the final version I submitted to my editor, so there might be a few rough spots. My raw notes for the article weigh in at about double the length of the article. Please let me know if you’d like to see them.

Visual Arts Summit

November 25–27, 2007 in Ottawa, Ontario

The Visual Arts Summit, a gathering of over 450 individuals representing a cross section of the visual arts in Canada, was held in Ottawa at the end of November. The conference featured two and half days of discussion and events designed “to bring Canada’s visual arts sector together.” This was the first time in over 40 years that such an event had been organized.

The main purpose of the summit appeared to simply be to get the various interest groups within the sector talking to each other in an attempt to find common ground. This is in contrast to the usual order of business, where each group tries to get as much as they can in a competition for scarce resources.

The immediate outcome of the summit was the creation of a Collective Agenda for the Visual Arts, a document which outlines the goals and aspirations for the sector. This agenda will be covered in greater detail elsewhere in the newsletter, but the opening statements bear repeating:

Art is the face of Canada.

We, as artists, curators, collectors, dealers, educators and supporters, are united to enhance the opportunities for Canadian art to be created, seen, understood and enjoyed. We came together in the largest gathering of the visual arts in our history, to proclaim the critical role of the visual arts in an innovative and compassionate society in the 21st century. We know what is needed: we call on the governments, nations and peoples of Canada to join us in realizing our potential.

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ArtTomorrow (Winnipeg, November 2007)

This article originally appeared in the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter in January 2008. It’s the final version I submitted to my editor, so there might be a few rough spots. My raw notes for the article weigh in at about double the length of the article. Please let me know if you’d like to see them.

ArtTomorrow forum on the future of contemporary art institutions

November 1–3, 2007 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Art Tomorrow took place in Winnipeg on the first weekend of November 2007. It was hosted by Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. The speakers included a high-profile cross section of artists, arts workers, and academics, some with deep roots in Winnipeg, and others from abroad.

The intention of Art Tomorrow was to bring together national and international experts to talk about the research, presentation, and documentation of contemporary art. At its heart, the conference was a very public kickoff to the process of defining the future of Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. There was a great deal of discussion of Plug In’s role—in the Winnipeg art community, nationally, and internationally—and talk about various options for a radical change in direction for Plug In. These included the possibilities of a partnership with the university, Plug In perhaps buying, renovating, or building a permanent space, and various ideas about financially self-sustaining business models.

Each of the two days of the conferences was packed with panels, special presentations, and group discussions. The first day’s topics were mostly about history and context, and the second day examined civic planning, infrastructure, and education. While the overall focus of the conference was on the institution and its various roles and strategies, the idea of the artist and artwork as a key part of the institutional mandate was never far from anyone’s mind.

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Creative Connections Panel in Saskatoon

This article was originally published in the July-August 2007 issue of the CARFAC Saskatchewan Visual Artists newsletter under the title “Creative Connections: Mapping Culture and Identity in Saskatoon.” Please note that I’ve added new information that I received after the article was published.

Creative Connections: Mapping Culture and Identity in Saskatoon was a panel presentation given in Saskatoon on June 1, 2007. It was part of the Canadian Cartographic Association’s annual conference which itself was part of the University of Saskatchewan’s Congress 2007. According to the promotional literature, “Creative Connections is one component of the Cultural Capitals Program. Its purpose is to promote Saskatoon’s potential as a creative city and to foster the conditions necessary for creativity to thrive. The project is a partnership among the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the City of Saskatoon, and the University of Saskatchewan.”

The panel consisted of four presenters: Greg Baeker is an urban development consultant, Bill Holden and Nancy Bellegarde work for the City of Saskatoon Planning Department, and Elise Pietroniro is affiliated with University of Saskatchewan GIServices, a provider of mapping and consulting services.
Given this context, the session was fairly data- and tech-heavy and made me wonder if I could write about the project in a way that was of interest to visual artists. In fact, when I first heard about the panel and looked at the list of speakers, I wondered how much of the presentation would be of interest to the cultural sector in general. However, even though the people involved seem to have very little to do with the arts, I found that the project does create optimism for the future of cultural activity in Saskatoon.

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Harsh Commentary on Arts Advocacy in Saskatchewan

This post is a series of outtakes and rants that I wrote in tandem with my article “SAA focuses on funding cuts to the arts: Meeting comes up short on strategy” in May 2007 for the June 2007 issue of the CARFAC Saskatchewan Visual Artists newsletter. I had gone to the meeting organized by the SAA (Saskatchewan Arts Alliance) on assignment from my editor, to report on the outcome of the plan “to develop a strategy for improving the dismal state of provincial funding for artists, arts organizations, cultural industries and heritage.” Thinking about the meeting and what was discussed caused me no end of irritation for two weeks, until I finally decided to write everything down. Then I edited. Below is the stuff that didn’t make it past my politeness filters, in all its pugilistic glory. The article that I submitted to my editor is posted here. You might want to read it first, for reference.

I didn’t see the discussion as having been terribly effective in achieving the stated goals of the meeting. It was more of a bitch-and-brainstorm session than a constructive strategic meeting. As such I have no concrete strategy to report on because none was decided upon.

In my opinion the SAA needs to develop a set of desired outcomes rather than spend energy on reactive strategies to the chronic underfunding of the sector. In this way the desired outcomes will drive the strategy. At the meeting I talked about finding champions within government who could carry our torch without dropping it, of developing a culture of conspicuous consumerism of arts and culture as has been done in Britain, of adopting strategies from other sectors where lobbying is successful, of the uphill battle in trying to gain credibility in a demographic which is suspicious of “high culture” to begin with: peasants and protestants.

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Arts Alliance Complains About Funding, Discusses Options

This article originally appeared in the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter in June 2007. It was titled “SAA focuses on funding cuts to the arts: Meeting comes up short on strategy”, and billed as “commentary by Ed Pas.” The headline was assigned by my editor and to my mind is a bit inaccurate. But it’s difficult to encapsulate everything I cover in my rant/report so I’m willing to cut him some slack.

On May 1 the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) hosted a general meeting of the arts community at The Refinery in Saskatoon. The SAA is a non-profit coalition of arts organizations whose mandate includes advocating on issues such as public funding of the arts, freedom of expression and artists’ working conditions.

The meeting was held in “response to the inadequate and demoralizing allocation for the arts in the [March 2007] provincial budget.” The goal of the meeting was “to develop a strategy for improving the dismal state of provincial funding for artists, arts organizations, cultural industries and heritage.” (Note that in the context of this article, I’ll use the terms “arts” and “artist” broadly to include visual, literary, performing, and media arts.)

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Art Conservation: Supplementary Material

This post contains supplementary material and/or clippings from my article about permanence of artists materials, published in the May 2007 issue of the CARFAC Saskatchewan Visual Artists Newsletter. That post can be found here: I was originally planning to include information about conservation issues with digital printmaking, but that will have to wait for a future post.

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Conservation of Artists Materials: Workshop Notes and Impressions

This article originally appeared in the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter in May 2007.

I attended the Permanence of Artists’ Materials: Paintings and Works of Art on Paper workshop presented by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Saskatoon in March. The workshop was given by two CCI conservators: Debra Daly Hartin, a specialist in paintings, and Sherry Guild, whose expertise is with works on paper. The CCI is an agency of the Department of Canadian Heritage, and was created to promote the proper care and preservation of Canada’s cultural heritage and to advance the practice, science, and technology of conservation.

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John Scalzi on Escaping Poverty

John Scalzi is a best-selling science fiction writer, who has an excellent blog that I’ve been following for a few years. Many months ago he wrote a piece called “Being Poor”. I just checked his site to discover that he wrote it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In any case, this week he’s doing his annual “Reader Request Week,” where rather than writing whatever he feels like writing, he writes on a topic that his readers request. Today’s post is a response to the question “What advice would you give to someone who wants to help folks who are poor (either specific individuals they know, or poor people in their community in general) become not-poor?”

While this topic isn’t specifically directed towards artists, I did find that there were many resonances with what I perceive to be success factors in a creative career.

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Garage Art

Late last fall I began my fixation with disseminating my work. I tried to think of some strategies for presenting my work given my knowledge of the venues in Saskatoon and my potential for access to them. Simply put, I didn’t feel that there was a venue that would host my work in the short term. I figured that I needed a garage gallery.

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Gallery Admission Fees Part 4: The Numbers Game

I started drafting this post a couple of weeks ago. It was to immediately follow my other three posts about gallery admission fees. I started writing it and petered out partly because I had already written almost 6000 words on the topic, and partly because I realized how many enemies I might make by posting it. For better or worse, I’ve since recovered my energy and resolve.

In this post I want to talk about numbers, audience, and accessibility but I’m mostly going to talk about numbers, and only briefly touch on the other two issues. I already know that this post is not likely to endear me to the staff at the Mendel, but I believe my questions should be thought about. Having said that, I must stress that in writing this I’m not attacking anyone. I believe that organizations like the Mendel Art Gallery should continue to exist, they should continuing exhibiting challenging work, and that they should continue to get the majority of their funding from public sources such as our tax dollars.

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