Category Archives: arts

LG Life’s Good FilmFest Launches in Toronto

On August 11 LG Electronics announced the first LG Life’s Good FilmFest, a Canadian film festival offering up $130,000 in prize money for short films. With no entry fee, this film festival will allow all talent to show their stuff.

“There’s really no other film festival like the LG Life’s Good FilmFest. The concept is simple: an engaging HD short film festival with no entry fee and the chance to win incredible cash prizes. We’re absolutely thrilled that Jaime Foxx could join us to help launch the festival, as his amazing work in film, comedy and music really exemplifies the spirit and talent the FilmFest will no doubt attract,” Tim Barnes said to a media gathering to announce the film festival. Tim Barnes, marketing director for LG Electronics Canada told a media gathering about the short film festival. Using old school snail mail, participants can send in their films in hopes of winning the $100,000 grand prize within one of four categories: Animation, Fashion and Music, Sports and Narrative. The other top three films will each win $10,000 in prize money.

Viewers can watch the short films that have been submitted on the LG’s Life’s Good YouTube channel or at the LG Film Fest site. During the holiday season shoppers will be able to take a five-minute break in stores while viewing some of the best short films from the Film Festival. “We will be giving customers a chance to smile.” stated Barnes. The films will all be presented in HD format, giving the best views for the film makers. Deadline for entering this year’s FilmFest is October 16. The winner will be announced in January 2010. Some people that attended questioned Foxx as the celebrity launching the festival because he is not Canadian. Still Foxx does bring a vast array of talent to the table.


Jeff Wyonch’s Art Hits The City Running

There’s a new writing photographer in Toronto showing the world the beauty of the city’s art in the form of graffiti. “Artist Welcome” by Jeff Wyonch shows Toronto in a can of paint.
Wyonch has been writing since he can remember breathing and taking photos of Toronto for a number of years.

His photos can be seen on his photostream at flickr under the mysterious name Jape Wisteria. I asked Jeff what his screen name meant:

“Jape is a old time word for prank and Wisteria just fit in perfectly. The wisteria is a very strong flower and artful. It has a manly quality about it. Plus I tend to be a prankster so take that as you will.”

“Artist Welcome” is now back into editing production. Wyonch promises that the next edition will be even better than the first.

For a man who doesn’t consider himself an artist Wyonch has a very artful approach to the world. He sees every space as another extension that can be put under the microscope.

After Jeff puts the finishing touches on “Welcome Artist” he is planning on publishing a book of haiku.

“I have a million ideas and in time hope to have at least one more photography book out. Even though I have written for all of my life I still consider myself new to the craft.”

During the day Jeff works as a User Interface Developer for CBC. He and the others in his department make sure that the Internet side of the CBC run smoothly.

At night and on the weekend the artist emerges. It is a safe bet this prankster’s art will be delighting Toronto and the world for a very long time.


Friendship Can Change a Life, the Nathaniel Ayers Story

Sometimes the course of a life is changed by a simple act of kindness. Sometimes that kindness comes because a journalist wants a story. for whatever reason Nathaniel Ayers life changed when his friendship with Steve Lopez formed.
Ayers story was presented in the recent movie The Soloist starring Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. But Nathaniel Ayers is a real man and his story is inspiring.

Ayers’ story has inspired newspaper columns, a book and the movie. In 2008 a foundation bearing his name was started to support the artistically gifted that struggle with mental illness.

Above all Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. is a musican. His mental illness has hindered his role in society but not his talent.

He studied at Julliard School in New York City until his schizophrenia blocked his way. For years he lived at his mother’s home in Cleveland, Ohio and dealt with electroshock treatments. They didn’t help.

In 2000 after his mother passed away Ayers left for Los Angeles believing that his father lived there. In LA he joined the thousands that live on the street. Playing broken instruments on street corners for a living Ayers survived.

In 2005 Steve Lopez happened upon Ayers. The LA Times journalist wrote about the talented man and formed a friendship. Lopez went on to write a book,”The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music” , about Ayers transition from living on the street to living inside.

Jennifer Ayers-Moore, sister of Nathaniel, is the founder of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation. The Foundation was begun in 2008. It is Jennifer’s desire to use the foundation to help thousands of people by keeping public awareness about mental health on the front burner.

One of the partners of the foundation is the LAMP Community. LAMP is an organization that works to end homelessness and build self-sufficiency with those on the Los Angeles streets that deal with mental illness. Using a Housing First approach they use housing as a means to begin the first steps in treating their clients mental illness.


Norman Rockwell Museum Celebrates 40th Anniversary

The Norman Rockwell Museum has been open for the past 40 years. This summer they have lined up exhibitions, programs and events through July to celebrate the works of Norman Rockwell.
Founded in 1969 with the help of Norman and Molly Rockwell the museum has been a large part of the culture scene in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Rockwell resided in the Massachusetts town for the last quarter of his life.

The museum has two new shows, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” and “The Fantastical Faces of Peter Rockwell: A Sculptor’s Retrospective.” The latter is showcasing the works of Rockwell’s son Peter.

On July 4, the museum is free for everyone under the age of 18 for a celebration of the nation’s birthday. There will be a barbecue, hands on red,white and blue art projects and more.

On July 5, the 40th Anniversary Party will take place honouring the founding leaders Norma Ogden, Lila Berle, and Jane Fitzpatrick. The night will feature music, a silent auction, activities for all ages and a cocktail party.

On July 11 Peter Rockwell will be at the museum for the day explaining his approach to his work in clay, stone, ceramic and bronze. The day will feature Rockwell guiding an exhibition walk and talk and a book signing.

The museum is open throughout the year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Photography is not permitted inside the galleries. Visitors are not allowed to carry backpacks or large packages into the museum.


Art Gallery of Ontario Announces Opening of Two New Exhibitions

This weekend the AGO in Toronto will open the Angelika Hoerle: The Comet of Cologne Dada and Painting as a Weapon: Progressive Cologne 1920–33.
These exhibits are to complement the current Surreal Things exhibition that explores art as a catalyst of social and political change.

The Angelika Hoerie exhibit is being presented by guest curator Angie Littlefield, grandniece of the artist. The exhibit shows the personal side of Hoerle.

Hoerle’s work from 1919 until her death in 1923 shows her political conscience. Even though her family, social conventions, personal tragedies and tuberculosis could not stop the passionate artist from her work of World War I Germany.

Most of Hoerle’s known works are on display on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery and Museum Ludwig Cologne. Following the showing at AGO the collection will travel to Museum Ludwig.

“Angelika Hoerle had a desire to change the world through political engagement,” says Michael Parke-Taylor, the AGO’s acting curator of European art. “She was deeply committed to left-wing politics and, in fact, her first prints were of Socialist political martyrs. She also explored the place of female artists in the male-dominated art scene in Cologne.”

The exhibit will be shown from May 23 until August 30.

Also opening on May 23 is Painting as a Weapon:Progressive Cologne 1920–33 / Seiwert – Hoerle – Arntz. The collection organized by Museum Ludwig examines the works of Franz W. Seiwert, Heinrich Hoerle and Gerd Arntz. Curator Lynette Roth will document the artists activities until their work was condemned as ‘degenerate’ in 1933 by the Nazi regime.

The exhibition shows how the Progressives used painting as a weapon during the hard years in Germany prior to the rise of Hitler.

“The rallying cry for Surrealism was ‘we must change life,’” says Parke-Taylor. “A desire to change themselves and the world drove the Surrealists to explore mysteries of the self and to value the irrational over the orderly. Angelika Hoerle’s works are harbingers of surrealism, while the Cologne Progressives seized painting as a tool for change in the midst of post-war economic and social crisis.”

The exhibit will continue until August 30.


Slamming To The Word White House Style

For the first time ever slam poetry was in the House. The White House, that is. On Tuesday night the First Family hosted the poetry event for 100 people.

Last year Obama promised while on the campaign trail that he would bring poets and musicians into the White House to “open up the White House and remind people this it is the people’s house.”

He has already made good that promise with concerts by Fergie, Stevie Wonder, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Earth Wind & Fire since taking office. Tuesday night though was the first Poetry Slam, a form of poetry that takes the word and brings it out with energy as the verses are performed.

Tonight’s event features James Earl Jones; poet Mayda Del Valle, novelist Michael Chabon, jazz musicians ELEW and Esperanza Spalding and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, not the average mix for the urban poetry form.

NBC New York reports:

“It’s an incredible honor any time to receive an invitation from the White House and President Obama,” said Arizona Rep. Krysten Sinema, who is among the 100 people invited to attend the event. “But to see our nation’s talent and be a part of history at the first-ever White House Poetry Slam is amazing. I’m very excited to be a part of this moment.”


Songwriters Workshop SongStudio Coming To Toronto In July

In July a week-long workshop for songwriters will take place in Toronto. SongStudio is the creation of Rik Emmett and Blair Packham two of Toronto’s best songwriters.
During the week students will be spending one-on-one time with faculty and having the chance to meet with some of the industry’s top names. The event will be held on the campus of Ryerson University. The workshop is for anyone who wishes to improve their songs and is for songwriters of all levels.

Blair Packham is the program director. He is in charge of designing and implementing content of the workshop. Packham has been writing songs since he was 17. He was part of Toronto’s The Jitters and recorded two albums for Capitol-EMI Music of Canada with the band. Since that time Packham has spent his time in the industry working behind the scenes with themes and scores for broadcasters such as TSN, Global Television, Discovery Channel, CBC Newsworld, TVO, CTV and others.

Since the 1990’s Packham has been involved with the Songwriters Association of Canada. An advocate for the rights and privileges of songwriters Packham has worked to foster more education for songwriters. He currently teaches songwriting at Humber College and Seneca College. He is also a co-host for the weekly Toronto music radio show ‘Rock Talk.’

Emmett and Packham have been running the event since 2005. Some of the alumni have gone on to release their own recordings, perform and tour. One special stand out is Justin Nozuka who was a nominee for Best New Artist at the 2007 Juno Awards.

The cost for the week is $750.

I had the opportunity to interview Blair about the workshop.

KJ: Why did you want to do SongStudio in the beginning?

Blair: Rik Emmett was teaching courses in the music business industry at Humber in 2005 and the facility approached him about doing a summer program. He asked me to work on it. It has run for the past four summers but the school wasn’t making money at it. This summer with the school’s blessing we’re running it ourselves as an independent program.

KJ:How many students are you planning on having this year?

Blair: We’re hoping to have roughly 50 students. That has been in the number range the past years. With 50 to 55 students we have the staff. If we get more students we will increase the staff and have to get more classroom space from Ryerson. Spots are open until the day before but after June 1 the cost does increase to $850. We’re expecting many returns. One of those who has been in the workshop for years saw me last night and said “I just go to hang out with so many friends and talented people.” And that is how we feel also, many of those who have been in the workshop in the past are now friends.

Even in spite of the economy the workshop is the deal of the century. The amount of talent that students have a chance to be with is just incredible.

KJ: Have you had a ‘wow’ moment during past workshops?

Blair: Oh my goodness! Over and over! One is when Justin Nozuka first attended the first year. We just were wowed by his voice and musical ability. His songwriting was okay but needed some work. The wow effect was even stronger though when he came back to visit and performed. He was and is just amazing.

Another wow moment was with a student named Christian Caldeira. He has an incredible voice. I haven’t seen him since but he was definitely a wow moment.

KJ: With everything that you are involved with how do you find the time to plan out the workshops?

Blair: We have a rough template of how the workshop will be. The first year was the most difficult because there was no template in place. But it is very time consuming. It’s hard for me to even find time to talk on the phone or watch TV. What’s the hardest for me is the lack of time to compose songs. That really hits me when I play a gig. I have though managed to steal some time and have written three new songs. I find that I have to steal time to do everything.

KJ: What is your advice to budding songwriters?

Blair: There is only one right reason to be a songwriter and that is because you love it. An artist is asked to do music they don’t like or write something they don’t want.

You need to remember why you write. It’s an act of communication not just for yourself but also for your audience. They are who come to hear you play, hopefully. You want to be able to connect your feelings to them. Simple things to remember are not to make your songs too long and have a memorable melody. But the most important is to remember that communication factor. You want people to listen so you have to give your audience a song that they can feel and connect with. Your song has to be responsive and be interesting.


Layoffs at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario Prompts Protest

There are threats that more than 100 jobs could be in the balance at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) due to restructuring and organizational changes. Those changes may be the result of a 18-month review that studied a number of U.S. museums.
It may be better news though for AGO as new funding increased by the government has come in. Because of the funding the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is saying that AGO must reverse its decision to lay of staff. But will they?

On April 8 the Ontario government added $8.6 million to this year’s funding for the gallery and added an annual operating funding of $10 million.

That didn’t make any difference. On April 2 and April 6 the gallery laid off 26 full-time employees. Many of those who lost their jobs had been with the gallery for decades. They were all in specialty fields. According to literature that OPSEU was handing out on the street the total years of experience of those who were laid off totaled 275. One of the reasons the second lay off came according to Union Stewart Paula Whitmore was on April 2 the AGO had it’s annual fund raiser. Some of those that were let go the following Monday were part of the crew that worked long hours to put the fund raiser on. Ms. Whitmore said she knew of one employee who was laid off who had toiled 16 hour days in prepping for the event and then was without a job the next Monday.

The Union also contends that the layoffs came when the management of AGO knew the additional funding would be coming. The Ontario public Service Employees Union believes that that funding the the AGO received is a good enough reason to reverse the lay offs. All of the Union staff that were let go were in highly skilled positions. Ms. Whitmore told me that the Union is concerned that the gallery’s quality of work will suffer as a result of the lay offs.

“Who’s going to be looking out for the public interest. The collection belongs to the public. The quality of the art will be suffering because those who were full-time employees and skilled have been laid off and part-time employees will have to try to have to do the work of full time employees.”

On Wednesday, April 15 the OPSEU and members of the public picketed the gallery starting at 5:30 PM. The Union chose Wednesday night because it is Toronto’s free night each week at the AGO.

Marketwire reports:

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas asked for an immediate halt to the layoffs. “We will not stand by while the AGO pretends to care about the public and at the same time uses union-busting tactics against decent working people who have thrown their lives into this work on behalf of the public,” he said.

OPSEU and members of the public will picket the gallery at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 15.

“I don’t know how Teitelbaum can look himself in the mirror after saying to our staff only last week that the new AGO is a wondrous thing, brimming with life and deep potential to change the way people experience the world,” Thomas said.
Executive Director of Public Affairs Susan Bloch-Nevitte says that the gallery only knew that there was the possibility of funding. That knowledge though wasn’t all that was in consideration when it came down to the lay offer. The changes were already in place regardless of if funding came in. It’s part of a restructuring period with the gallery, one that many other galleries and museums are also having to undergo to keep afloat during these times.

“It’s never easy to have to let employees go,” Bloch-Nevitte said, “No one likes laying folks off. It’s not like yippee bring it on. But the fact is the world is changing and so is AGO. It’s a different world and economic factors are different. We can’t stop change.”

Bloch-Nevitte is correct. The times are changing not only for AGO but for museums world wide. Membership and patronage have declined. At this time it’s not a wise idea in bringing in a lot of new works when the gallery has 23,000 pieces of art, many of which have not been seen by the public yet. It’s time to bring more attention to AGO’s permanent works. That doesn’t mean that there will no new pieces being bought, just fewer. Because of this some positions at AGO have had to be streamlined. In the end 23 people of the 600 employees had to be laid off in an effort to cut costs. No one entire department was let go and the lay offs affected many different areas.

When I asked Ms. Bloch-Nevitte why it was the older employees that were let go she said that while some of those who were laid off had been with AGO for years others had not. It was more of deciding where the existing employees fit into the new structuring of the AGO and who sadly didn’t fit in. What the gallery hopes to be doing in the future is adding new positions that those who have been laid off will be able to come back to work. That will take some time though.

The truth is AGO is changing with the times, like other fields in the arts where the recession and public interest effects the tides. There will be a newer on-line focus with the gallery as well as social media and networking aspects which will result in new career opportunities.

The management of the AGO has a hard road ahead. They have to be able to make provisions for quality and still be able to run a sustainable gallery.


Naheet Wins Top Prize On Reality TV Poet Contest

In Saudi Arabia there’s a new type of reality TV, poetry competitions ala American Idol. This year’s winner is 34-year-old Ziyad Hijab bin Naheet.
Naheet performed in front of an audience of 2,000 in studio and 17 million in front of their televisions to bring home the top prize of $1,361,207.64. Naheet is a Nabati poet. Nabati poetry is an ancient form of storytelling in verse. It is recited in tribal dialects unlike other forms of classic Arab poetry.

The Global Post reports:

“It’s the most famous genre of poetry in the Gulf,” explained Muhammad Ayish, a professor of communications at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, the seven-state nation nestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Arab’s are one of the first cultures to perform the Spoken Word in the form of poetry. It has always been an important part of the culture.

The show “Million’s Poet” has been a huge success. The elders are pleased that the younger generation is seeing that poetry is being preserved with the young. The show is Abu Dhabi TV’s highest rated prime time show. The contestants recite their own poetry written in the Nabati style. The poetry form dates back to the fourth century.

The studio audience is segregated with men and women sitting in different areas. Women who are performing however at with the men they compete against.

The Guardian reports:

“When we designed this show we had in mind the grandness of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the suspense of Pop Idol, ” says Nashwa Al Ruwaini, Millions’ Poets producer and head of the show’s production company, Pyramedia. “The idea was to create a new format that would appeal to this part of the world without offending this part of the world.”

Regional governments are very active in reviving Nabati poetry. Poetry festivals are becoming popular.
At Dubai International Poetry Festival 2009 audiences listened to poems that were translated to various languages as well as dialects.

The Saudi Gazette quotes Jamal Huwaireb, chairman of the recent event:

“We want to help break that translation barrier,” he said. The organizing committee has called on poet-translators to contribute to the noble cause of making poetry available in many different languages. The festival has also launched the Translator Poet Award which goes to the one who provides an accurate translation of own poems in other languages, including Arabic. With that, Dubai has rightly “earned the title of the world city of poetry,” Huwaireb said.

Global Post quotes the star of the hour, Naheet.

“All of royalty loves it,” Naheet said.

“It’s unacceptable for someone to stand up and say ‘I love you,’” he explained. “Whereas to use the channel of poetry to convey praise, loyalty and love, it’s acceptable.”


The Boxmasters Cancel Canada Tour

Billy Bob Thornton has canceled the rest of his Canadian tour with his band, The Boxmasters, citing a bandmate’s sickness. The show goes on though with the headliner Willie Nelson.
The Boxmasters were set to open for Willie Nelson Friday night in Montreal. Instead of playing the gig the box office was called and told that only one of the opening acts would be performing.

The Boxmasters were also scheduled to play London, Ontario on Saturday but that is also going to be a no show. The band said some of the musicians came down the flu.

Thornton and his band faced booing fans booing in Toronto on Thursday night at Massey Hall. The boos came from an interview that Thornton and the Boxmasters had done earlier on the show show Q with host Jian Ghomeshi where he likened Canadians with mashed potatoes without gravy.

2 Canada reports:

“Boo all you want, but I want to say something,” Thornton told Toronto crowd. He then called Ghomeshi an “a-hole.”

Earlier the same day Thornton had told reporters that he loved Canada.

The band may have also taken offense to a bad review that they got in the Globe and Mail. Robert Everett-Green called the Thursday night performance one of the most amateurish performances he’s ever seen at Massey Hall.