Joane Cardinal-Schubert: The Writing on the Wall

If you go to one Calgary art exhibition this fall, I recommend the Joane Cardinal-Schubert exhibition at the Nickle Galleries in the Taylor Family Digital Library, at the University of Calgary. It is on until December 17th. This exhibition brings together 60 artworks from private and public collections across Canada.  

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Joane and I had many long and lively conversations about the contemporary art scene when I was the Executive Director/Curator at the Muttart Art Gallery (1984 to 1994) located in the Memorial Park Library building, now Contemporary Calgary.  Adamant she didn’t want to be known as a “Native Artist” but as a contemporary Canadian artist whose work comments on current Canadian issues, which just happened to be about racism, ethnicity, colonialism and residential school experiences. These were the things, she knew best.

And, in a 2002, article in Galleries West magazine, Joane said “I started on this road to paint about my personal experiences: but because I'm Aboriginal, my work has been considered political. I don't think of it as political:  I think of it as personal.” 

It is ironic that her personal artistic statements are probably more relevant and more political today than at the time of our discussions 30 years ago.

For me, the love of Joane’s work was immediate…I loved the intensity of the colour, the use of colour, images and words to communicate to the viewer.  I loved the narratives in her paintings and installations. 

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I share these images of the exhibition with you as a teaser, as a catalyst to encourage you if at all possible to see the exhibition for yourself.  Joane, who passed away in 2009, is one of Alberta’s most important artists. While she is a member of the prestigious Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, she deserves to be a household name among the likes of Lawren Harris, Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt.

I will let the art in “The Writing on the Wall” speak for itself.

Note:

  • You may (or may not) be aware of Joane’s work as she has a major sculpture at the Calgary International Airport in the domestic terminal immediately after you check-in. 
  • For those of you who don’t live in Calgary, unfortunately you will have to make due with these images.
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Berlin: East Side Gallery Gong Show

Whenever I tell people we went to Berlin, they always ask what I thought of the Berlin Wall fragments and the East Side Gallery (ESG).  Berlin’s East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved as an international memorial celebrating freedom. It is the longest open-air gallery in the world. 

 This is the most famous artwork at the ESG...it is not the original. Link:    The Stolen Kiss

This is the most famous artwork at the ESG...it is not the original. Link: The Stolen Kiss

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Must See?

Immediately after the wall came down, in November 1989, hundreds of artists began painting sections of the wall in celebration of their newfound freedom.  The East Side Gallery opened as an open-air gallery on September 28, 1990 featuring the work of 118 artists from 21 different countries.  Today, the wall continues to feature the work of street artists and muralists from around the world. 

Given my interest in graffiti and street art since the mid ‘80s, this was a “must see” for me.  Perhaps my expectations were too high as it was probably the biggest disappointment of my 6-week stay in Berlin.

In a city filled with street art, I was expecting artwork that was provocative, poignant, politically charged. Though some pieces were well executed, most were mediocre, messy and moronic. 

In addition, the area has become a tacky tourist trap with tour groups, buskers, cheesy souvenirs and stupid selfie sticks.  It was a gong show.

Link: East Side Gallery History

  The East Side Gallery gong show of people, clutter, construction and fences is not a great experience - IMHO!.

The East Side Gallery gong show of people, clutter, construction and fences is not a great experience - IMHO!.

In a city filled with street art, I was expecting artwork that was provocative, poignant, politically charged. Though some pieces were well executed, most were mediocre, messy and moronic. 

In addition, the area has become a tacky tourist trap with tour groups, buskers, cheesy souvenirs and stupid selfie sticks.  It was a gong show.

Link: East Side Gallery History

  Tourists are more interested in selfies than looking at the art.  Perhaps you can't blame them when you have to look through a fence to see the art. 

Tourists are more interested in selfies than looking at the art.  Perhaps you can't blame them when you have to look through a fence to see the art. 

Last Word

Is it only me or does everyone see the irony that the East Side Gallery a remnant of the Berlin Wall which is suppose to be a memorial to freedom actually has a fence around it to protect it from vandals.   

Checkout this photo essay from ESG and let me know what you think or the art and the sense of place.

  The ESG is a popular spot for professional photographers and models. 

The ESG is a popular spot for professional photographers and models. 

  Across the street is a very loud construction site.  

Across the street is a very loud construction site. 

Calgary: What's our colour...drink...animal..car...movie character?

Recently, I was invited to a focus group by Tourism Calgary, so they could pick my brain (along with another 15+ Calgarians) about Calgary’s identity and brand.  Always game to be a guinea pig (that’s how I met my wife…another story), so I quickly said, “YES!”

  Do Calgarians live in a bubble? 

Do Calgarians live in a bubble? 

Same Stories?

I was intrigued by one of the introductory remarks – “this not going to be about picking a new logo or new moniker, but more an open discussion about Calgary’s identity and unique sense of place.” Interesting.

One of the take-away ideas from the facilitator’s introduction was that almost every city around the world is telling the same stories to tourists - how great their festivals are, bragging about their new museums, parks and plazas and boasting about their culinary culture and craft beers. 

A related key message was - what cities are not doing is understanding and/or communicating what makes them different, unique or special.  Note: Something I hope I am trying to do with my blogs from Calgary or other places I visit, I am always looking for something unique.

We then were divided into three groups of about 6 people each for some group exercises.  Here are two that I found both interesting and strange at the same time.

  Calgarians young and old love to play "dress up."

Calgarians young and old love to play "dress up."

  Calgarians are colourful.

Calgarians are colourful.

First Exercise:

Answer this question: What would the world miss if Calgary didn’t exist? 

Yikes…my immediate thought was “nothing.”  In fact I would hazard a guess 80% of the world probably doesn’t even know Calgary exists and if they do, they know very little about us.  An obvious answer is “energy” but in reality that doesn’t come from Calgary.  Then there is the Stampede, but not sure the world would really miss it if it didn’t happen, anymore than the world would miss Carnival, Marda Gras or Oktoberfest.  I don’t think the world would miss our museums, public art, restaurants, shopping or fishing on the Bow River either.

Our group didn’t come up with anything and neither did the other groups. I am not sure how productive this question was. Love to hear from readers if there is something they can think of.

  We love our public art? 

We love our public art? 

  Calgary: Where deals are done on a handshake!

Calgary: Where deals are done on a handshake!

 Calgary is made up of 200+ communities each with its own community centre, park, playground and most have an outdoor community hockey rink. 

Calgary is made up of 200+ communities each with its own community centre, park, playground and most have an outdoor community hockey rink. 

 Calgary has some amazing festivals, but would the world miss any of them if they didn't happen?

Calgary has some amazing festivals, but would the world miss any of them if they didn't happen?

Next Exercise

What _________ (fill in the blank with the following words - colour, drink, animal, car, movie character) would best describe your city? Again, interesting but wondered what possible insights this might reveal.

What’s OUR colour?

Two of the groups chose blue. One group picked Sky Blue to reflect the warm blue skies Calgarians enjoy every month of the year.  One person pointed out that even when is -30 degrees C in the winter, our bright blue sky, makes it seems warmer.  Try telling that to someone from Vancouver or Southern Ontario.  I pointed out that because of our clean blue skies, our downtown skyline and the mountain vistas are much more vivid than in other cities I have visited.  I remember once reading a letter-to-the-editor from an overseas visitor gobsmacked by the quality of light in Calgary, describing it as “celestial.”

The second “blue” group picked Twilight Blue, pointing out that as the sun sets in Calgary, the light becomes quite magical.  Ah yes, I miss those golden sunsets on Bankers Hall that we used to have before the rise of Eighth Avenue Place.

The third group picked red, the colour associated with all our sports teams, the Calgary Tower (20th century icon) and Peace Bridge (21st century icon).  Nobody said it, but I am sure a few thought it - many Canadians also think of Calgary as a haven for “rednecks.”

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  Calgary is a city of hope, where dreams take flight!

Calgary is a city of hope, where dreams take flight!

  Calgary's best public art are the surrealistic architectural reflections off of our shiny skyscrapers. 

Calgary's best public art are the surrealistic architectural reflections off of our shiny skyscrapers. 

  Yes we love red.

Yes we love red.

 In fact we love lots of colours!

In fact we love lots of colours!

What’s OUR drink?

Two of the groups picked “beer” which seems a bit cliché as every city in North America has been infected by the craft beer craze.  See above comment on take-away ideas i.e. “all cities tell the same stories.”

Our group picked beer originally, then talked about the Caesar, (invented in Calgary) and finally settled on Vodka. The rationale - you can drink it straight or mix it with anything.  We all immediately grabbed onto the notion that while Calgary is very clean and white, we are Canada’s third most ethnically diverse City, and an interesting mix of Canadians from East Coast, West Coast, Central Canada and the Prairies.

As I like to say, “Calgary is the most Canadian city in Canada as we are a mix of Canadians who hail from all regions of our country.”

  Calgarians love their beer...

Calgarians love their beer...

  Calgary has long history of craft brewing.

Calgary has long history of craft brewing.

  We also love a glass or two of vino, even if we can't grow it here.

We also love a glass or two of vino, even if we can't grow it here.

What’s is OUR animal?

I quickly picked Magpie. Beautiful and exotic upon your first glance, they become very loud and brash the more you see it. As well, magpies are considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in the world; as well they are intensely social with a strong sense of community.  I thought this described Calgary to a T.

Overruled, our group ultimately chose “dog,” for it’s friendliness and loyalty, which we all felt were Calgary qualities.  One person was even specific, suggesting a herding dog (border collie), as we love to work hard.  I have often said that Calgary is the place where Canadians come to “work hard and get ahead.”   Someone also pointed out we have some of the best dog parks in the world.  Point well taken.

The group sitting right behind me actually did pick the Magpie – I think they overheard my pitch and bought it. 

The third group picked Bison. Though, originally picking the horse, one person in the group pointed out that in a storm, horses run away while bisons charge into the storm, which is what Calgarians do when faced with a challenge.  That received applause from the entire room. 

  River Park on a winter day is busy with walkers of all shapes and sizes. 

River Park on a winter day is busy with walkers of all shapes and sizes. 

  Calgarians love to horse-around on Stephen Avenue. 

Calgarians love to horse-around on Stephen Avenue. 

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What is OUR car?

This is a great question for Calgary as our city has one of the highest levels of car ownership in the world.  One group chose the SUV, an obvious choice given Calgary’s demographics are dominated by families.  A hybrid between a sports car and a sedan, it is a good metaphor for our city that combines fast living with family life.

Our group unanimously chose the Ford 150. It is a well known Calgary is the pickup capital of Canada. One members pointed out he knows a billionaire in Calgary who drives a Ford 150.  It nicely references our rural roots, our connection with the land and our strong work ethic. 

Being the contrarian (surprise, surprise) I suggested the Car2Go smart cars as Calgary has one of the highest Car2Go memberships, pointing our it references Calgary’s growing “sharing culture” as well as our aspiration to be a “smart city.”

As luck would have it, the group behind me did choose Car2Go – I do think I was in the wrong group!

  I went to a Ford dealership in Calgary to get a photo and found an entire row of Ford 150 trucks, must have been 50+ including several blue ones. 

I went to a Ford dealership in Calgary to get a photo and found an entire row of Ford 150 trucks, must have been 50+ including several blue ones. 

  How many Car2Go can you count?  I believe all of them were taking their dog to River Park, one of Calgary's best dog parks. 

How many Car2Go can you count?  I believe all of them were taking their dog to River Park, one of Calgary's best dog parks. 

What’s OUR movie character?

Two groups chose Woody from “Toy Story.”  This was too obvious as Woody dresses up like a cowboy but isn’t really a cowboy; how perfect is that.  But the references go much deeper - Woody is Andy’s favourite toy and the leader of all of his toys, but his status as the favourite is challenged.  Indeed, for much of the late 20th and early 21st century, Calgary had to fight to be recognized as one of Canada’s leading economic engines, a budding urban playground and the favourite city for Canadians to move to. 

The other group chose R2D2, however I can’t recall what their rationale was. Perhaps it reflects our position as a high tech, future-oriented city or our love of cosplay.

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  Stampede Park sculpture welcomes everyone to the grounds. 

Stampede Park sculpture welcomes everyone to the grounds. 

  Kinda like R2D2....

Kinda like R2D2....

Viral Video?

Upon reflection, I wonder if Tourism Calgary was soliciting ideas for a fun viral tourist video about Calgary. 

  Tacky cowboy icon on the Red Mile is too much fun.

Tacky cowboy icon on the Red Mile is too much fun.

I can see it now. It will have a couple of redneck cowboys in a blue Ford 150 with their border collie in the back, while two cowgirls hop into a Car2Go and suburban family all in Star Wars attire (one as R2D2) jump into their red SUV while a murder of magpies play in the trees.

The redneck cowboys head to the Red Mile’s Trolley Five (via Memorial Drive so they can pass by the red Peace Bridge (with hundreds of walkers and cyclists and then up Centre Street for a shot of the red-topped Calgary Tower) for a vodka martini with a Beltline lager chaser and a bison burger on a lively patio while their loyal dog (a blue heeler) waits on the sidewalk being admired by a parade of pedestrians (beside him, a blue bowl labelled “fresh Bow River water.”)

  Dancing at Calgary's International Folk Festival is mandatory. 

Dancing at Calgary's International Folk Festival is mandatory. 

Meanwhile, the blue jeaned-attired cowgirls head to Inglewood (passing by the bison at Fort Calgary), to do some shopping and checking out the new exhibition at the Esker Foundation before meeting up with friends for dancing at the Saturday blues jam at the Blues Can hosted by Tim Williams (winner of the International Blues Competition in 2014).  

The Star Wars family heads to the nearest LRT Park & Ride in their red SUV (with a shot of some public art along the way), then hop on Little Ralph’s Train (on which, to their surprise, a couple of young aspiring singer songwriters are jamming some tunes) to the Stampede Red LRT Station where they become part of tens of thousands of people enjoying the annual Calgary Expo (aka cosplay) with huge posters for Big Rock, Village and Wild Rose breweries in the background.

It ends with a shot of the magic blue twilight sky and setting sun on the Bow River full of rafters and paddlers with Downtown skyline glowing in the background and the byline: 

Imagine Being In Calgary!

  The Bow and Elbow Rivers become urban playgrounds in the summer. 

The Bow and Elbow Rivers become urban playgrounds in the summer. 

  Calgary's magical blue at twilight.

Calgary's magical blue at twilight.

 Welcome everyone to Calgary!

Welcome everyone to Calgary!

Last Word

I can't help but wonder if this exercise will be any more successful than those that generated the "Heart of the New West" or "Be Part of the Energy." I didn’t get to pitch my idea that Calgary’s moniker should be the:

“City of Parks & Pathways.”

Rationale: We have 5,200+ parks, including two of the largest urban parks in the world (Nose Hill and Fish Creek), two great festival parks (Prince’s Island and Stampede Park), a park-like zoo, great family parks, great dog parks (e.g. St. Patrick’s and Bowness), the world’s longest elevated indoor walkway (+15), 700+km of pathways city wide and new the 133km Greenway that encircles the city.  Need I say more?  OK - Banff National Park (many tourists already think of Calgary as the gateway to Banff), Kananaskis and Dinosaur Provincial Parks are a few just hours away. 

Who wouldn’t want to visit the City of Park & Pathways? Who wouldn’t want to move to the City of Parks & Pathways for a job?  Works for both tourism and economic development, don’t you think?

Do I have a seconder?

  Calgarians love their parks....

Calgarians love their parks....

Reader's Feedback

Vanessa Gagon, Tourism Calgary's Brand Manager writes:

I love how you weave photos of all the awesomeness in our city into your post! 

The response to this project has been really great, people are excited! Over the last few weeks we've conducted a residents survey (800 Calgarians - with approximately 200 from NW, NE, Central and South Calgary), 4 workshops (81 participants) and focus groups with community leaders (29 participants), that's 910 people who have been involved! Oh and we did a staff workshop so 930 people! Folks have been so gracious with their time and are eager to help in any way they can, confirms we live in the best city in Canada! :) 

If you like this blog, you will like:

Calgary: Everyday Tourist's Off-The-Beaten-Path Picks

Understanding Calgary's DNA

Calgary's Downtown Is Unique

 

 

Colourful Calgary Stampede Postcards

Yahoooooo! Its Stampede time in Calgareeeeee!

These postcards have been curated to document the Calgary Stampede's sense of place and pageantry.  They are meant to show the Stampede is more than the rodeo, chuckwagons and pancake breakfasts. Rather it is a unique Calgary cultural statement that includes a multitude of music, dance, arts and crafts programming.  While the Stampede doesn't appeal to everyone, nor should it, it does appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.

They are also curated to document Stampede Park is indeed a park with a river running around it and various pathways, green spaces and plazas.   Enjoy....

 The sky is the limit....

The sky is the limit....

  Not everybody at Stampede is doing the two-step. 

Not everybody at Stampede is doing the two-step. 

  Stampede Park is home to one of the best and most unique children's playgrounds in Canada. Link:    Stampede Park: Calgary's Best Children's Playground

Stampede Park is home to one of the best and most unique children's playgrounds in Canada. Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's Best Children's Playground

  You can never have enough stuffies. 

You can never have enough stuffies. 

  Wish you were here.....

Wish you were here.....

  Not everybody at Stampede wears a cowboy hat!

Not everybody at Stampede wears a cowboy hat!

  Fashion fun is everywhere at Stampede. 

Fashion fun is everywhere at Stampede. 

  You can get up close and personal with the animals.

You can get up close and personal with the animals.

  There is a rare history lesson in the parade of posters (100+) along the elevated concourse (+15) from the LRT Station to Saddledome. It is fun to look at how the Stampede has evolved over the years and the famous people who have performed.  Link:      Flaneuring Calgary's Stampede Poster Parade

There is a rare history lesson in the parade of posters (100+) along the elevated concourse (+15) from the LRT Station to Saddledome. It is fun to look at how the Stampede has evolved over the years and the famous people who have performed. Link: Flaneuring Calgary's Stampede Poster Parade

  Stampede Corral built in 1950 may not last until 2020 as the Stampede has plans to tear it down to make way for an expanded BMO Trade Show & Convention Centre.  Inside is a modest sport museum that is not to be missed.    Link:  Stampede Park: Art Gallery or Museum?

Stampede Corral built in 1950 may not last until 2020 as the Stampede has plans to tear it down to make way for an expanded BMO Trade Show & Convention Centre.  Inside is a modest sport museum that is not to be missed. Link: Stampede Park: Art Gallery or Museum?

  Calgary Canadians?????

Calgary Canadians?????

  The Calgary Stampede has a distinct sense of place, history and pageantry. 

The Calgary Stampede has a distinct sense of place, history and pageantry. 

  These symbols represent the Five Nations who signed Treaty 7 on 22 September 1877: Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee).  Link:  Stampede's Iconic Entrance

These symbols represent the Five Nations who signed Treaty 7 on 22 September 1877: Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee). Link: Stampede's Iconic Entrance

  Just one of the many murals that grace the walls of several Stampede Park buildings. (link: Calgary Stampede Public Art)

Just one of the many murals that grace the walls of several Stampede Park buildings. (link: Calgary Stampede Public Art)

  This is suppose to be fun right??????

This is suppose to be fun right??????

  Stampede foot fun...

Stampede foot fun...

  Does it get more colourful than this?

Does it get more colourful than this?

  Stampede still life...

Stampede still life...

  The judges gave this budding cowboy a 7.6

The judges gave this budding cowboy a 7.6

 Clean up! Clean up! Everybody clean up!

Clean up! Clean up! Everybody clean up!

  Stampede is more than just mini donuts...

Stampede is more than just mini donuts...

  I never miss getting my $2 milk & cookies.   

I never miss getting my $2 milk & cookies.  

  Pageantry preparation...

Pageantry preparation...

  Form meets function...

Form meets function...

  Contemporary western art showcase...

Contemporary western art showcase...

 While it may be crowded around the midway, there are quiet spots like this at the edge of the Stampede Park. 

While it may be crowded around the midway, there are quiet spots like this at the edge of the Stampede Park. 

  Yes Stampede Park is indeed a park at Stampede time.

Yes Stampede Park is indeed a park at Stampede time.

Last Word

I have taken thousands of photos while flaneuring Stampede Park over the past six years.  I pride myself in finding the strange, the absurd and the everyday as I wander streets, parks and festival sites around the world.  The Stampede is truly a one-of-a-kind community festival.  It combines an agricultural fair, with a music festival, contemporary art show, midway, musical grandstand show, rodeo and horse racing. 

For those of you who have attended the Stampede many times I hope this will give you different perspective on the "Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth" and for those who have never been, I hope it will motivate you to add it to your bucket list.

If you like this blog, you might enjoy:

Stampede Park: Art Gallery or Museum?

Flaneuring Calgary's Stampede Poster Parade

Stampede Park: Calgary's Best Children's Playground

Jeff de Boer: Art with beauty and meaning

 

City Travel: Canada vs. USA

Editor’s Note: This the second of a two-part blog looking at how Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg compare to places like New Orleans and Chicago as alternative urban travel destinations given the turmoil in the USA. The first blog compared Calgary to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver and Seattle, as hipster cities.

Link: Calgary vs. Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver & Seattle

Recently, MetroNews published an article looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities, given the current turmoil in the USA.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones I thought it would be fun to share suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: "Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead"

Edmonton

For those thinking New Orleans would be a fun place to visit, you might want to consider Edmonton - Canada’s Festival City.  New Orleans is known for its laid-back culture and year-round festival atmosphere, much like Edmonton where in the summer, they host back-to-back-to-back festivals… Jazz Festival, Folk Festival, Blues Festival, Street Performers Festival, The Works Art & Design Festival and the grand daddy of all  - the Fringe Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Edmonton also boasts some spectacular contemporary architecture – Rogers Place arena, Art Gallery of Alberta and their City Hall.  Their river valley is spectacular too.

And then there is something called the West Edmonton Mall.

Link: Edmonton Tourism

  Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

  124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants.  

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

  Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

 Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

  Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

  City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

  Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's   east-side Quarters District.  It is an architectural jewel. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

 Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

  Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Winnipeg

While MetroNews chose Toronto as an alternative to Chicago, what about Winnipeg? In fact, in the early 20th century, Chicago was worried Winnipeg would usurp it as the major transportation hub of the midwest.  Winnipeg’s Exchange District has one of the best collection of early 20th century architecture in North America. 

Visitors will love the Forks with its Human Rights Museum, Children’s Museum, Children’s Theatre, creative playground and one of the best minor league ballparks in North America. There is also the must-see Art Gallery of Winnipeg (largest collection of Inuit Art in Canada) and Assiniboine Park’s Polar Bear exhibit. 

And while Winnipeg doesn’t have a lake with a beautiful beach downtown, Grand Beach is just an hour away and it is a “sight for sore eyes“ (in a good way) in the summer.

Link: Visit Winnipeg

 Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

 Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

  Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

 The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

 Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

 In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

  Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

  It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

Montreal

After a recent trip to Montreal, I think it would make a great alternative not only to Chicago, but also to Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  Montreal has its mojo back and this year is celebrating its 350 anniversary, making it one of the oldest cities in North America.  Old Montreal is like walking back a hundred years in time, as are its two major public markets - Atwater and Jean Talon.

Like Edmonton, it too is a huge festival city. The Montreal Jazz Festival should be on everyone’s bucket list. The Black & Blue Festival is one of the world’s largest gay festivals (Montreal’s Gay Village along St. Catherine St. East has a great evening vibe).  They even have Mural Festival to celebrate their extensive collection of street art.

Don’t rule out Montreal for a winter visit either. That’s when they light up the night with Montreal En Lumiere and Nuit Blanche festivals. Indeed the lights are much brighter in downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a joy to wander any time of the year and see what you discover; fun surprises lurk around every corner.  Real urban explorers will want to test their skills at navigating the 30+ km underground tunnel system that connects hundreds of downtown buildings.

I can’t say enough good things about Montreal as a tourist destination.

Link: Tourism Montreal 

  Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

  Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre).  

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

  Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

  Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

  Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

  Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

  Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Victoria

Victoria could be a very good alternative to anyone thinking about heading to San Diego.  Its charming harbor, beaches, vibrant food and café culture, quaint antique district and world-class museum have won many people over. 

Shoppers too will love wandering the shops in downtown, Chinatown and Oak Bay. Two downtown hidden gems are the downtown Value Village (we always find great art there) and Capital Iron next door.  The Super Chance consignment shop in James Bay Village is a must visit, for treasure hunters preferring more of a curated collection of “finds.” We have almost always found something wonderful there.

The Ross Bay Cemetery is a fascinating experience where you can visit the gravesite of artist Emily Carr (Canada’s Georgia O’Keefe).  Across the street is the Dallas Road beach, a great place for beachcombers and to watch kite surfers. 

If a more traditional sand beach is more to your liking, head to Willow Beach with its view of Mount Baker.  Just a few blocks away on Estevan Avenue is quaint Willows Village where you will find the funky Crumsby’s Café (family fun) and the tiny Willow Galley (fish & chips shack).

Link: Tourism Victoria

  Victoria collage.

Victoria collage.

  Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's beach life.

 Victoria's waterfront.

Victoria's waterfront.

  Ross Bay Cemetery.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Toronto / Vancouver

Both Toronto and Vancouver could be excellent alternatives to New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.  Home to world-class shopping, museums, restaurants, cafes, festivals and architecture, both have a lively urban joie de vivre.   

Link: Tourism Toronto

Link: Vancouver Tourism

 Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

 Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

 Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

 Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver's beach life.

  Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

  An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

  Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Last Word

So as you begin to finalize your travel plans for 2017 - Canada’s 150th birthday year – there is not better time to “Think Canada.”

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Calgary's Billion Dollar Gamble????

Could Calgary be on the cusp of becoming a major arts centre? And could the arts become a major element of Calgary’s economic diversification program?  With a billion dollars of private and public investment, one would sure hope so.

Yes, you read right.  A billion dollars!

Probably the biggest criticism of Calgary by left wing, bohemian artsy folks is the city lacks a vibrant arts scene. However, this is quickly changing with the opening of the new Bell Studio (National Music Centre) which has generated international attention including a piece by the prestigious Architectural Digest titled “Canada Just Opened a Massive Museum Dedicated Solely to Music.” 

Unfortunately, it didn’t say, “Calgary Just Opened a Massive….”

National Music Centre a massive construction project is now the southern gateway to Calgary's East Village community from the south. 

Is Calgary on the international art map yet?

While Calgary is not yet on the international art map, things like the Calatrava’s Peace Bridge and Jaume’s Wonderland (sculpture of young girl’s head on the plaza at the Bow Tower) are attracting international attention in some circles. 

And, flying under the radar was the opening of the opening of the $90 million, 787-seat Bella Concert Hall in at Mount Royal University (MRU) in September 2015.  It is part of the world-renowned Mount Royal Conservatory, whose roots go back to 1911 and today boasts over 4,000 students.  How many Canadians or even Calgarians know MRU was a huge musician incubator?

Fact:  Calgary has 190 venues for live performances?

And coming up next is cSpace, the $29 million transformation of the historic King Edward School in Marda Loop into a multi-use arts centre. The majestic sandstone school looking over the City Centre, being reborn as a creative hub, will have 29 tenants representing over 1,000 artists – an eclectic mix of fashion designers, film makers, musicians, theatre groups, writers, jewellery makers and the Alberta Craft Council’s Calgary office/gallery.  It will also include an intimate multi-purpose theatre and a Montessori School. 

The east side of the site has been sold for a 56-home active living seniors complex while the west side was sold for upscale townhomes – deals helping finance the project.

The fact cSpace had three times as many arts group and artists interested in renting space than they could accommodate is a strong indication of Calgary’s growing arts community.  In the past, Calgary’s prosperity resulted in emerging artists often moving to other cities with a lower cost of living.  However today, more and more artists want to stay and make Calgary home.

Fact: Calgary has 19,000 establishments involved in creative industries employing over 67,000 workers?

The Taylor Centre For The Performing Arts at Mount Royal University includes the Bella Centre as well as teaching and practice spaces. 

Decidedly Jazz Dance Centre is just one of several exciting new cultural facilities being added to the east side of Calgary's City Centre. (photo credit: CANA Construction)

 A BILLION DOLLARS INVESTED IN ART FACILITIES

  • August  2015             Bella Centre ($90 million)
  • April      2016             DJD Dance Centre ($26 million)
  • May       2016             Film Centre ($28 million)
  • July       2016             Bell Studio ($191 million)
  • Spring   2017             cSpace ($29 million)
  • Winter   2017            Youth Campus TransAlta Performing Arts Studios ($20 million est)
  • Fall        2017             Youth Campus BMO Amphitheatre ($7 million est.)
  • Winter   2018             Youth Campus Calgary Arts Academy ($20 million est.)
  • Fall        2018              New Central Library ($245 million)   
  • TBD                            Youth Campus Calgary Opera Centre ($23 million est)

If we include the cultural spaces in Calgary’s new recreational centers (i.e. theatres, studios and gallery space) and new theatres like Webber Academy’s Performing Arts Centre we are closing in on a billion dollars in public and private investment in new cultural facilities over the past five years.

Fact: Calgary is third in Canada in attracting cultural migrants?

cSpace is nearing completion with occupancy later in 2017. 

Grassroots Cultural Centres  

It is also important to note there are many smaller DIY art group projects that are just as important as the mega million dollar projects in transforming Calgary from a corporate city to a creative city.

For example, the Beddington Community Hall has been recently. Renamed the the Bedding Heights Community Arts Centre, it is home to two of Calgary’s longest running community theatre companies - StoryBook Theatre and Front Row Centre Players. 

In Sunalta, underneath the gritty Bow/Crowchild Trail spaghetti interchange, sits a non-descript, bluish-grey building that is now home to TRUCK Contemporary Art, Ghost River Theatre and West Village Theatre

Flying under the radar is how the community of Forest Lawn has become a magnet for many Calgary artists to live. artBOX on 17E (converted retail paint store), an initiative of the International Avenue BRZ, which serves as their performance and exhibition space has been so successful a shipping container was dropped on the front lawn this past summer to serve as a retail incubator space for artisans.  

Market Collective, founded in 2008, is a group of local artisans who have organized weekend pop-up sales of their work all over the city- old car dealership on International Avenue, Simmons Building in East Village, Chinese Cultural Centre, downtown and King Edward School (soon to be cSpace) in Marda Loop.  

Artpoint Gallery & Studio Society is Calgary’s off-the-beaten path, hidden gem cultural facility. It is hidden from the street and sidewalk in an old warehouse next to the railway tracks above the 12th street railway bridge underpass in Inglewood.  Tucked inside are 23 artists’ studios, three gallery spaces and an ambitious year-round exhibition program.

Computer rendering of Calgary Stampede's Youth Campus which is currently under construction.

Last Word

Need we go on? It is too bad that Calgary’s corporate culture gets all the attention - in good times and bad – while the ongoing growth of our cultural sector flies under the radar. 

Perhaps with a billion dollars of new investment in cultural facilities, Calgarians and Canadians will realize our city is more than just oil & gas head offices. 

Note: All of the facts are from Calgary Economic Development’s website.

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MBAM: The Human Hand

When I visit an art gallery/museum, I can’t help but look at the exhibition(s) from a curator’s perspective and wonder what would I do differently.  It’s a bit of a case of “once a curator, always a curator,” having organized 100+ exhibitions over 10 years at Calgary’s Muttart Public Art Gallery from 1985 to 1995 (a precursor to what is now Contemporary Calgary). 

Questions?

Upon entering a gallery, my mind immediately starts questioning.  Is there an exhibition theme? What is the curator trying to say to the public? Why did the curator choose these particular works? Why are they hung like they are? Is there a more logical way to group the art?  Why is this work beside that one?

I never read the curator’s statement first (though it is usually on the wall at the entrance to the gallery), as I don’t want to be influenced by his/her thinking.  But often I will read it after I have reviewed the exhibition and then sometimes revisit the artworks to determine how well the art and statement connect.  Does it help me gain new insights about the art and the exhibition? Is the statement public friendly or art gibberish? As I said, “Once a curator, always a curator!”

Especially when visiting large galleries with many exhibitions, I like to make it fun by looking at all the art with one theme in mind. Maybe a colour, brushwork, shadows, faces or architecture – whatever catches my eye first.

Why Hands?

Recently, when at the Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal (MBAM), Canada’s second largest art gallery, (the largest being the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto), I decided to study how hands were portrayed in various artworks from contemporary to traditional, from photography to sculptures.

Backstory: The idea came from a photo I took of the lovely second floor columns of the historic Bourgie Concert Hall, across the street from the MBAM. When I checked the photo, I surprisingly, noticed, a cluster of fingers in the foreground where the head should be of life-size “winged figure” sculpture. 

It was only when working on this blog, that I learned the sculpture by David Altmejd’s titled is titled “The Eye.”  

 

My curatorial statement can be found at the end of the blog for those interested. I should also add that if you are in Montreal, be sure to designate a few hours to visit MBAM. 

Without further adieu, here is my curated exhibition of close-up photos of hands from various artworks on exhibit at MBAM in December 2016. 

Curatorial Statement

The images were chosen to reflect the tremendous range of emotions that can be – and are - portrayed by the human hand - from a sense of innocence to strength and power; from tenderness to love and passion.  The images hopefully also evoke a sense of individuality, human interaction and/or intimacy that strike a cord with everyone's personal experiences. 

The images were also selected to illustrate how different media - from photography to painting and artists have employed different genres from realism to primitivism - for centuries to convey a sense of the human experience. 

And thirdly, images with a strong narrative were chosen in the hope they would spark some thoughtful personal reflection and memories about the viewer's life.    

No artists’ names or artwork titles are included, thereby allowing the viewer to focus on the image and not be distracted or swayed by peripheral information. Ponder the hands based on your own experiences and ideas to create your own meaning and significance for each image and for the exhibition as a whole.

Ideally, in doing so you will have gained a new appreciation for the “human hand” both in art and in everyday life. 

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