It Was the Fest of Times, It Was the Worst of Times (#ArtScene13)

The curtains are closing in on February, this cold and distant month. This moody wraith on the Calendar. There is dark and cold, but toes are dipping into spring as we flirt with positive digits on our weather apps. Just the other day it was colder in Santa Fe, New Mexico than here. That felt pretty good. Spring is coming. Snow is melting. Just ask any of us with old basements.

The #yegarts scene fit February like a soggy glove. Seasons are in motion. There are death knells. There are new buds. And in the midst of it all, there is still a heck of a lot going on inside.

So let’s get it out there. Let’s move from deep dark to bright sunshine, shall we?  

First, the dark.

1. The ARTery is Closing

Just last month, we lost The Roxy. Now, the ARTery, that lovable Goofus to the high-brow’s Galant, is being forced to close by the city. I don’t know enough to cast my judgement on the decision. It was likely inevitable anyways. That building was old and let’s face it, the word decrepit comes to mind. But it was charming as all get out. A mustachioed Scott McKeen was just photographed there for an Avenue spread. It felt a lot cooler than me, and a lot younger than me, and a lot louder than me. And I will miss it. 

The ARTery has been was accessible to emerging artists. Easy and relatively cheap to rent (under $500 on the hottest nights, with a sound tech). A great vibe and a great cachè in the #yegarts scene. And a great size, too. 

Find out more about the closure from Metro here and from The Journal here.

2. McDougal United Church Could be Next

It’s closing in on the 00’s and my wife and I are sitting in a very warm pew, listening to an unknown artist named Jenn Grant play a solo electric guitar through a vintage amplifier soaked in reverb. I am wowed. And this before the main event – Hayden. The songwriter I’ve followed for over a decade. He doesn’t dissapoint. 

Just this fall I saw Bahamas in that same room. Just two shows there. Both absolutely magical. Both, if I recall, eliciting spontaneous praise from the artists themselves mid show. 

But if a story is being told here it is this. Small, accessible #yegarts venues are old. They have to be. That’s how we can afford them. And I’ll let you in on a secret. These buildings get ‘grandfathered in’ on requirements like parking stall count requirements. Requirements that make building new arts venues very difficult. 

I am wondering what happens when all of these grandfathered venues fall. When we have to replace them under the current standards. When real money has to be spent. 

In the meantime, there is a fight on to save McDougal. You can read more about the impending closure from The Edmonton Journal here, or sign the new petition to save the venue here.

3. Where Venues Go to Die

Of course these are not the first venues to close in Edmonton. Discover a historic list of now-deceased #yegmusic spots at the Dead Venues museum

4. The Clock is Ticking

No, literally. 

The Clock is an astounding technical acheivement now on display at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Referencing hundreds of films, if not thousands, from around the world, this 24 hour video installation acts as a time-synced collection of clips referencing the current time of day. I witnessed the clock ticking 4. There were visitors at doors. Kids were let out of school. Men checked their watches in the airport lounge. Clocks in the foreground and background of various shots showed the same time as my own watch. 

See The Clock now, and if you can, catch a 24 hour screening!

5. Let Death Bring Life

Steve Jobs has some good words on how the end affects today; 

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ― Steve Jobs

6. Things We Can Do to Save #yegarts

Ben Freeland has an excellent post with 6 positive, doable actions we can all take to make sure the #yegarts heart keeps beating. Hint: be a patron.

7. The Galleria Won’t Save Us

This post from John Richardson on The Galleria project lays out why we need more small venues, not one massive multi-million dollar saviour.

I wouldn’t build it. I’d build a black box theatre space in Beverly. I’d build a Terwilligar Community Art Space. I’d build a concert hall with a sprung stage for ballet in Mill Woods. I’d build a Jazz club in Belgravia, a Blues joint in Allendale, another art gallery up in Belvedere. . . And more theatre spaces and galleries in more neighbourhoods.

Imagine if there were no Community Rec Centres in Edmonton, only a huge Rec Complex Downtown. Imagine if there were no branch libraries, only a bloated Milner Library on Churchill Square. Does that make sense? Of course not.

Do yourself a favour and read the whole post here.

8. Pushing Past Obstacles, Winning Awards

I’ve been to The Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts and I can tell you it is a joyous, exuberant recognition of just what this city can create.

Nominations for artists and orgs end today at 5 PM, so be sure to give a shout out to your favourite #yegarts contributors.

Even without enough venues, or funding, or time, or support, or … you get the idea. Even without the perfect conditions, we are making Edmonton beautiful and sharing that beauty. 

Here’s a small slice of how. 

8. Embrace The Quiet Rebuild

This weekend you can take in The Quiet Rebuild: New Portraits, from Alexis Marie Chute, at the Harcourt House Annex Gallery. The opening reception is tomorrow night, Feb 28, and is part of the Exposure Photography Festival. Get the deets here

9. Our Luck is Changing with The Serca Festival of Irish Theatre

Right here on The Ave there is a plenty to celebrate. Making a theatre venue from a Community League is old hat for Mark Henderson and Frank Zotter, part of the team bringing us the Serca Festival of Irish Theatre in a couple of weeks. There will be feasting! Merriment! Sport! Drink! More feasting! 

Find otu what’s on with Serca on their website.  

Official SkirtsAFire poster

10. But First, The SkirtsAFire Festival

Now in its third year, the SkirtsAFire Festival is back on  Alberta Avenue

Experience theatre, dance, comedy, art & design, music, workshops and spoken word from women. 

The festival runs March 5-8, and coincides with International Women’s Day, but you needn’t wait. You can catch the World Premiere of The Mothers, a play by Nicole Moeller, now in its 10 day run at the Alberta Avenue Community League.  

Official poster

Official poster

11. Pecha Kucha Night

20 images illustrate 20 minute talks on creativity, innovation, design and the like at Pecha Kucha Nights. And speaking of creative women, Julie Rohr brings her project, The Women to this edition of Pecha Kucha Night, on March 5!

Get your tickets and be inspired

12. Be Inspired Right Where You Are With the Storm the Perfict Podcast

The latest episode of Storm the Perfict just posted, with a conversation with pinhole photography artist Wenda Salomons on the unpredictable beauty of imperfection. We also chat about something I’m sure you can’t relate to; self doubt. 

13. ArtLuck With Us Next Week

All these online resources are great, but there’s nothing like creative community in person. 

ArtLuck provides space to share good art, good food and good conversation. You are invited to join us March 5 at The Bleeding Heart Art Space at 7.

RSVP on Facebook here



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