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CURRENT COLUMN

Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
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November 2012
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Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

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November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

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September 2011
Hope springs eternal


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The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


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Education for the eye,
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Fine art inkjet prints
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Gallery Views

When arts funds are threatened, screaming won’t help

By ANN ROSENBERG

Crystal Schenk, Have and Have Not

Crystal Schenk, Have and Have Not (2006), shown at Disjecta for the Portland 2010 Biennial (Mar 13-May 30, 2010)

Pam Chambers, The Arts Are Not a Frill!

Pam Chambers, The Arts Are Not a Frill! (2010), ink on card, in Legacies 2010 at Penticton Art Gallery, Jan 22-Mar 14, 2010

Earlier this year, the Penticton Art Gallery installed their Legacies 2010 art exhibition which overlapped with the Cultural Olympiad of the 2010 Winter Olympics. According to Director Paul Crawford, the mandate of the non-juried exhibit was three-fold: the environment, the cost of the Olympics, and B.C.’s cuts to arts funding. He admitted that even though it was not always clear which issues were being tackled, the messages were well received even in the riding held by by Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day.

My favourite submission was a set of postcards by octogenarian Pam Chambers called The Arts Are Not a Frill! in which she cuts, quite literally, to the chase. Two of the postcards contain images that liken slashes in funding to butchering. A ballerina screams as she dances despite a severed leg and a pianist attempts arpeggios with finger tips spurting blood. The artist stands in front of a dark landscape which cannot be brightened as he is unable to buy a tube of cadmium yellow.

A similar tactic for jolting the minds of bureaucrats and the public was perhaps in response to the thoughtless remark by Prime Minister Harper, that “ordinary folks don’t care about the arts” and Premier Campbell’s 40% cut to the B.C. Arts Council. This tactic, in the form of a circular issued by CARFAC BC, suggested that artists send the Arts Council a replica of a work with 40% of it missing as the ongoing letter-writing campaign seemed to have no effect on the determination to make ‘arts and culture’ the imminent source of belt-tightening for the next three years.

The enormous amount spent on the Olympics, the Sea to Sky Highway and the Canada Line transit system has led also to devastating shortfalls in areas of health and education and of social and community services for a population about to be hit with the Harmonized Sales Tax. Dozens of protests have taken place at the Vancouver Art Gallery and such well-orchestrated public events along with e-mail initiatives, social-networking and petitions are worthwhile in that they draw attention to the cause even if tangible results are few.

Portland’s 10-year-old arts enterprise, Disjecta, may offer some ideas as to how a non-profit arts organization can become more stable and achieve autonomy in these trying times. According to founding director Bryan Suereth, the aim was always to become self-supporting and the first major move in that direction was to relocate away from downtown to a less expensive property in the historic and energetic Newton neighbourhood.

The refurbished former hydraulic shop now contains artists’ studios, a large exhibition and rehearsal space, and in the near future a café bar will be added. In co-operation with other galleries, Disjecta staged the highly successful 2010 Portland Biennial which showcased fresh works by the up-coming artists they are committed to support. One such piece was Crystal Schenk’s shopping cart walled with ornate stained glass in-fill and ironically titled, Have and Have Not. The accomplishments of Disjecta are reminiscent of the savvy way Vancouver’s Western Front Lodge has continued for more than three decades, to present avant-garde programs and exhibitions.

It seems to me that our mothers had the right idea when they advised us “to stand on our own two feet.”

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic and author.

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