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If you were down on Barrington during Nocturne, you may have noticed a video projection of a market scene on the Roy Building that wasn't listed on your program. Mandaee Bazaar is the work of Scott Saunders and Ariel Nasr, who have brought a new view of a bustling Kabul market to broken-down Barrington. The video was shot by Nasr, currently in Kabul working towards building a film co-op, as part of the Afghan Film Project.
The two artists worked together years before, including on the documentary Take Back Education, which examined the affects of debt on Nova Scotian students. Since then Nasr has worked for the NFB, directing the well-received documentary, Welcome to Kandahar, and Saunders was responsible for the Public Gardens anchor project at this year's Nocturne.
The project was funded through the city's Open Projects temporary-art program. And, of course, couldn't have been possible without Saunders' pals over at Tour Tech East, who have done a lot of work with the artist, including last year's phenomenal Tide's Comin' In', which also appeared at the Roy Building. The pair has long-term plans of pushing the project further: documenting other hotspots in the world and projecting them in other downtown cities.
At tonight's city council meeting, HRM staff will present the staff report "1588 Barrington Street as an Arts & Culture Incubator." This, of course, is the recommendation from staff to council to continue using, and to expand the cultural services offered in the Khyber building, which is seen as a big part of the Barrington revitalization plan. Historic stuff, kiddies. Well, yes and no.
Issues surrounding the building, its management and occupancy have been looming since I started at The Coast, over six years ago. Graffiti, taxes, overwhelmed staff, physical repairs, empty spaces—there's a long history of conflict between the Khyber Arts Society board and staff and the city. So last week's panic over some of the language in the report isn't a surprise.
The Khyber board received the report last Friday at the end of the day (of a long weekend), which gave them no time to prepare their own presentation for a Tuesday council session. "We were expecting it earlier," Khyber director Dan Joyce told me last week, "but the length of time kept shrinking and shrinking." Concerned, board member Garry Neill Kennedy approached councillor Dawn Sloane and asked for a postponement to this week, which probably would have happened anyway, but it gave a chance for the Khyber and the city to meet to clear up some issues. "We want clarity," said Joyce, in that conversation. "We're not looking to argue."
While everyone wants the same thing—a fully functional arts centre—the biggest issue that the Khyber saw in the report was a duplication of services. From page 16: "The proposed Operating Strategy recommends retaining a third of the leasable space, or about 1,776ft , for HRM’s own cultural programs, such as artists studios, exhibit space and a reception desk." If a third of the space was programmed by the city, did that mean that KAS, who had been programming the space for years, would eventually be squeezed out?
On Friday I spoke to Christine Lavoie, team lead, HRM Culture and Heritage Development, about the role of the report. "The purpose of the report is to inform council what is happening with that specific property, but also to inform them of the gap we are experiencing, which is the need for an incubator-type space. So first council will be looking to identify if that's their priority. And if that's the case how will we proceed."
According to Lavoie, talk of programming is premature—right now it's up to council to pass the recommendation.
"There are no plans. This is just the first step on trying and get the support for this type of space. And once that's done, if it gets done, then we'll be able to work with the community to program that space. And by the community I mean as well, the Khyber Arts Society, of course."
Earlier on Friday, KAS board members Garry Kennedy, Colleen Wolstenholme and Wallace Brannen met with Dawn Sloane and HRM staffers Andrew Whittemore and Jamie MacLellan. Lavoie and Joyce both say that the meeting went well, and that the outcome was fairly positive. Nothing will happen anyway, unless council approves tonight. This should be interesting. In fact, I am working on a little drinking game that involves certain councillors' reactions... Although Lavoie says that community cultural space planned for the new Halifax Central Library is a completely different type of arts space, and she's totally right, I wonder if some of the councillors will understand the difference. The support for the Khyber building will most likely come down to whether enough of them see it as strategic for Barrington.
Although it's way too early to throw the confetti, here is the Khyber's vision for the space:
-to rent the first floor to a private business like Just Us cafe (the two have had very early discussions about the potential partnership). HRM would collect a market rent and allow Just US/KAS to program daily music/readings/lectures.
-the second floor would continue to be used for arts programming and special events.
-re-start a 80-90 seat indie cinema on the third floor, like the old Wormwood. Right now, the Carbon Arc film series is happening on the second floor.
Last week, the first Starfish Properties Student Art Award was presented to MFA grad Amelie Proulx. But that's not the only place the downtown developer's putting art. Quietly, the Starfish logo paper—which was covering a large number of empty Barrington windows—was replaced with local photography. A smart move, considering how many people associate that underwater creature with the dismantlement of the once-busy downtown street.
I recognize Susan McEachern's wonderful horse photos, but I'm still tracking down the rest. If you know, help a lady out.
I'm really excited to hear what Jennifer Leonard has to say. She is an interdisciplinary project leader at IDEO, a global design agency. She co-wrote Massive Change with Bruce Mau, a book that really made me think differently about the potential of design.
Before that, the Haligonian-born Leonard was a journalist, where she worked as an intern at Rolling Stone, then "she went on to run a series of popular radio programs and publish feature pieces in a variety of magazines including Details, Nylon, Seed, DAMn, Azure, Saturday Night, Form and Shift." In 2008, she was recognized in "I.D.'s 2008 design issue for her concept to raise awareness of global warming."
Leonard speaks tonight: “Referencing a personal selection of design's many colours, forms, functions, methods, stories and applications, I will paint a landscape of the design world today with wide brushstrokes. My hope is to take the audience on a journey from ‘the design of the world’ to contemporary ‘design fiction,’ leaving plenty of time for discussion.” 7pm in the NSCAD Bell Auditorium.
It seems that even the celestial beings are now abandoning sad old Barrington Street. About six months ago, a large, raw plywood door appeared on the stone wall outside of Grand Parade, in front of the bus stop. Open the latch and there was a wooden triptych of a saint, custom-sized for the space. On one side of the altar-style painting, all the bus schedules painted in gold. He was my Saint Metro of the Transit.
Well, just as secretly as it appeared, the painting vanished without any fanfare. Jamie MacLellan from HRM’s Cultural Affairs, who is a fan of the piece, says that he was contacted by others asking about the mysterious bus saint. “I obviously couldn’t provide much detail, but for whatever reason they allowed the installation to carry on. It was great, actually. I still don’t know who was responsible.” To his knowledge, MacLellan says that no one in HRM took it down.
So if you’re the Raphael responsible, thank you. But get in touch, we want to talk.
Richard Florida, who's like the Bono of urban philosophies, has become synonymous with his Creative Class theory: that cities of the future will only be successful if they attract and retain knowledge-based workers. When he moved to Toronto a couple of years ago, the creative-city-in-training was thrilled by his arrival—our national newspaper even gave him a column—but according to this article in The Star, the curtain has been pulled, and Florida is now being accused as being elitist by the very creative class he wants to cultivate.
I saw him speak about five years ago, and while it's definitely compelling stuff, every cultural and bureaucratic meeting I attended for about a year afterwards was layered with annoying Floridese. Sadly, few cities have the kind of visionary leadership (other than perhaps former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray) to actually turn this philosophy into reality.
That said, I am optimistic about the fact that Florida's Creative Class Group, his Washington-based consulting firm, will be helping to select the architectural firm for the new central library at Spring Garden and Queen. Look for a decision soon, followed by public consultations.
Friends, family, students and colleagues of Gerry Ferguson will have a chance to remember the enigmatic artist and professor on Sunday afternoon, 3pm, at NSCAD’s Port Campus. It’s an appropriate location for a memorial: Ferguson, who passed away in early October, ruled that school. As former NSCAD president Garry Neill Kennedy told Coast reporter Mike Landry, Ferguson “was a master at imparting essential skills while introducing students to the idea of becoming an artist, For that’s what Jerry was, first and foremost—-an artist.”
In addition to the memorial, Gallery Page and Strange is holding an exhibition (Dec. 5, 7,8) of Ferguson's Frottage Paintings (1999-2009), including some rare works.
On my Nuit Blanche trip to Toronto I visited the amazing Artscape Wychwood Barns, an old streetcar repair barn transformed into a cultural community centre with affordable residential housing and a farmers' market. The Master Plan for the Bloomfield Centre, which was passed by council in September, follows a similar mixed-use model.
Artscape, a "non-profit, urban development organization that revitalizes buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities through the arts" has been a positive force in Toronto. I can't think of a single project that's failed, actually. They were doing the green thing well before it became a toss-away marketing term, and they've never quibbled about modern vs. historic architecture styles, though I see their current project—affordable artist loft space on Queen West—as a smart way of protecting an area that traditionally was "owned" by artists before the fancy condos and restos moved in and rents shot up.
On Thursday, Imagine Bloomfield, sponsored in part by HRM, is hosting Artscape for a day-long workshop on cultural space development. The event focuses on building capital campaigns and development, with spotlights on local projects. According to Imagine Bloomfield board member Susanna Fuller, there are registrants coming from Saskatoon, Hants County, Truro and Newfoundland as well, hoping to soak up some of this expert creative community knowledge.
While I'm enthusiastically hopeful for Bloomfield's future, I really hope this workshop is a a step towards resolution for the Khyber ICA. We're still waiting for results from the consultants' report, which was supposed to be released late summer/early fall.
But maybe it's time for us to start thinking inside the box too. Two years ago when I was in Helsinki, we visited a portable art gallery housed inside a container box, and I've been obsessed with container architecture ever since, especially after reading that it's estimated there are over 700,000 abandoned containers in US ports. Hello? We live in a port. I'm guessing we can find a few...
Cool links to container architecture:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/17/garden/last-stop-for-long-haul-containers.html The architect mentioned here, Jennifer Siegal, spoke in Halifax a few years ago on her prefab dwellings. Very cool.
There’s a great exhibition in the Dalhousie Architecture and Planning building (main-floor exhibition room, 5410 Spring Garden) that captures the intersection between art and architecture, minus the jargon and usual art-speak. Installations by Architects is a companion show to a book of the same name, published by Princeton Architectural Press. Curated by Dal prof Sarah Bonnemaison and Ronit Eisenbach, the survey looks at temporary architectural installations that invite public participation—-touching, entering, experiencing—-under a variety of categories, including tectonics, body, nature, memory and public space. (The female urinal pants is probably of interest to at least 51 percent of you).
Nocturne-goers who popped into the architecture school’s installations on October 17—-the ghostly lines of green lights hanging from the front window and the wooden shelter in the courtyard—-have already experienced this type of temporary environment. But like all good things, even the exhibition must come to an end: After the show wraps up here on Saturday at 5pm, it will travel to several international destinations, including Berlin.
Apparently those wooden doors, located on the stone wall on Barrington outside of Grand Parade, open up to reveal a tri-panel painting of a saint. Lord knows that street can sometimes use a little divine intervention.
One of the coolest magazines to come out of Canada in the last decade, Spacing—-the Toronto urban spaces journal—-will now have an Atlantic presence, thanks to a new blog, spacingatlantic.ca. The official launch for the website is Wednesday, October 28, from 7-11pm, at Eye Level Gallery.
Besides promising the same fresh, critical take on political, cultural and social urban affairs that Hogtowners have enjoyed, Spacing is responsible for that awesome series of one-inch buttons featuring the tile art and landmarks of every Toronto subway station. Expect to see a series of “cool Halifax-themed buttons” at the launch. I’m hoping they’re making WINO (Windsor and North) buttons for my ’hood. (Credit: thanks to artist Sym Corrigan for the WINO designation.)
Any other suggestions for Halifax neighbourhood names?
An outdoor photo exhibition, at Spring Garden Road beside the Dalhousie School of Architecture, aims to put a real face on cancer survivors, victims and loved ones. Cancer connections, a cross-Canada touring show, is sponsored by the Canada Cancer Society and PhotoSensitive, an organization that uses black-and-white photography to draw attention to social issues like child poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Walking through the main archway of photography, which envelopes like a warm hug, it’s hard not to become emotional, especially when the images involve children. Each photo is accompanied by a small write-up, as the situations are not always what you think. Some photos show bodies clearly wasting away, some contain the joy of recovery, while others, like a headshot of “Margaret” (taken by C. Taeuschel), shows a widow who stares directly into the camera, as if she’s still looking for answers. The show is up until September 27. For more photos, as well as audio interviews, visit photosensitive.com/cc.
If you’ve walked through Grand Parade recently, maybe you noticed that the traffic control box is looking less dull these days. Take a closer look. The panels are painted in muted, watery colours, like age-old slate, with faded images of ships and skylines. And there are words. Elegant, poetic phrases that carry around the box, demanding you to follow.
The painted traffic box is part of an HRM-wide project. Poet Matthew Robinson was contacted by Heather MacLeod, who works for the city’s Community Relations & Cultural Affairs department, to work on a site-specific poem for Grand Parade.
“From that point on I started to do a little research on the Grand Parade—-after Heather explained the particular traffic box that she had in mind—-and eventually came up with the poem we ended up using,” says Robinson. He says the poem isn’t exactly commemorative, but “something that was accessible and interesting; something that would be rather easily associated with the city and its people. I hope the poem does that in a reasonable way.”
The poem subtly references the city’s significant historical events and future possibilities, its geography and ever-changing population. Robinson says it also “plays on the idea of the parade square as a space/pause in the syntax of the ever-developing downtown. In the now bustling, crowded, sentence of the downtown core, the square is a breath of fresh air, a kind of reflective pause.”
The box itself was painted by artist William Johnson, who collaborated with Robinson on the basic concept: “stone base in terms of the box's look, monument-type/chiselled letters, shadows of the various aspects of the city.”
In some ways, this project became a muse for Robinson, as one poem led to another. He wrote an entire series based on other aspects of HRM, which will fill a second section of his new poetry collection, to be released in Spring 2010 by ECW Press. He calls the section “toeing the slack-toed narrows.”
“I'm not sure where this will go next,” says the poet. “ I'm hoping it'll be well received. I've noticed folks stopping and reading when I've wandered by the box in the last few weeks, at least. Ideally, this might result in more boxes with more poems elsewhere…I also think it'd be amazing to have a program where we have all sorts of different poetic voices from the area speaking to different sections of the HRM, different landmarks, etc. We certainly have the folks to do it: Brian Bartlett, Sue Goyette, Sue MacLeod and our new HRM poet laureate Shauntay Grant, just to name a few of the top of my head...”
Projects from previous Dal Architecture workshops.
If you noticed something odd happening around Dalhousie Architecture & Planning building on Spring Garden, don't worry—it won't affect any sight lines. The school's B3 Architecture class is working on an intensive Structures Workshop, where, according to a press release from the school, they will be "developing and fabricating large structural models (1:5 scale) of long-span structures over the three days, in various locations around the building and grounds. Throughout the three days, we will be doing rounds of consultation with the student groups to help develop the structural design and models."
On Friday at 2pm the class will be conducting "destruction testing of the models" on the front lawn. That sounds like some smash-'em up fun to me.