On my way to Banff to attend the Canadian Arts Summit, I visited artist-run centres in Edmonton and Calgary to meet with colleagues, some for the first time. A conversation with ARCA president Todd Janes, director of Latitude 53, provided great input on our current directory project. His slight disappointment in our proposed first ever ARCA on line directory forced me re-evaluate its scope and potential. Can the directory evolve in phases starting with basic info, and then adding layers to achieve a more structural representation of our network? I was then accompanied by Todd on extensive tours of the SNAP printmaking studio and gallery by director April Dean, and of Harcourt House galleries and studios by director Derek Brooks.
The full day came to a close at Latitude 53, hosts of the closing reception of a research-creation symposium organised by Natalie Loveless, Assistant Professor, History of Art, Design & Visual Culture at the University of Alberta with keynote speaker Professor Emerita Donna Haraway in attendance.
In Calgary, I was greeted by AAARC president Su Ying Strang of The New Gallery and taken on a quick tour of Untitled, Stride, and the New Gallery, all located in new spaces, before joining the gathered artist-run leaders for a meeting at Truck in their new industrial location a little on the edge of things. I presented ARCA’s different projects (PCH arts policy, the online directory, advocacy, etc.) and, in turn, the group informed me of their concern with the Calgary Arts Development Authority and with the cultural policy of the city.
There is a feeling that the direction of the Authority poorly reflects the interests of artist-run centres nor provides appropriate mechanisms to properly acknowledge their role and contribution in the overall contemporary art ecology. Being referred to as incubator organisations is an ongoing irritant as the metaphor implies palliative care. It’s a good starting point for the development of shared discussion points and arguments to challenge platitudes around contemporary visual art and culture in artist-run centres.
The afternoon meeting was followed by an insightful conversation on performance art with Tomas Jonsson, director of Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival (M:ST) on the artist/organizer relationship: what are expectations? Are they shared? How can structures better support artists, especially those who challenge legal, safety and ethical conventions. Questions such as these will hopefully inform the next meeting of performance art organisers from across Canada (ref. LIVE retreat, Vancouver, Oct. 2012) hosted by L’Écart to coincide with their Biennale d’art performatif de Rouyn-Noranda, October 15-18, 2014.
Anne Bertrand, April 2014