Recognition and awards meaningful to artists

A national award competition is proving beneficial for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The gallery and the Sobey Art Foundation are working together to offer the prestigious prize for Canadian contemporary artists under the age of 40.

By Laura Hubbard

Laura Pierce incorporates both contemporary and traditional styles and mediums into her artwork. Her most recent commissioned project is an oil on canvas painting (Laura Hubbard photo).

A national award competition is proving beneficial for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

The gallery and the Sobey Art Foundation are working together to offer the prestigious prize for Canadian contemporary artists under the age of 40.

Bernard Doucet, director of development at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, is excited about the award and its ties to the gallery.

“A national level prize being here every other year brings really provocative and interesting, prize-level work into the gallery,” Doucet says. “We’re fortunate to be able to do that.”

To be eligible for nomination, artists must be working in Canada and have had their work shown in a public or commercial gallery within 18 months of the nomination period.

The Sobey Foundation was created in 2001 to recognize and encourage contemporary artists. At the time, there wasn’t a prize for them to be acknowledged in this way, Doucet says.

Laura Pierce, an artist from New Brunswick currently living in Halifax, recognizes the prestige associated with awards such as this one.

“There are lots of opportunities (for artists),” Pierce says. “There’s small galleries that are willing to take unknown artists, but at places like the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, it may be difficult if you don’t have that CV to show for. But, if you have been selected for the Sobey Award, you’re set!”

Related Sites
Sobey Art Foundation
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Laura Pierce’s work

Pierce classifies her work as contemporary with traditional subject matter.

“I do painting, photography, I’ve done print making, but I also do what people normally look at as ‘craft’,” Pierce says. “So, maybe I’d use a landscape, but do it with fiber art which is a different take on traditional.”

Pierce, a fine arts graduate of Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, has shown her unique artwork at several group and solo exhibits, including one at the Owens Art Gallery in Sackville. She has also been involved in several sales and markets, including Alderney Landing on the Dartmouth waterfront.

“It’s pretty exciting because it means that people are appreciating your work, that they see something in it that is worthwhile,” Pierce says. “We work so hard for so little, so that recognition is really meaningful.”

Last year’s Sobey Art Award winner was Daniel Barrow, from Winnipeg.

The Award winner receives $50,000. Four finalists receive $5,000 each.

Nominations for the 2011 Sobey Art Award are due April 1.

Listen as Laura Pierce offers advice for new artists looking to get recognition within their communities and gain experience with exhibiting their work:

Sobey Award – Laura Pierce – Clip

 

Chinese dance strives for cultural unity

Under the Skin is a multi-cultural collaborative performance with Chinese choreographers Wen Wei Wang and Gao Yanjinzi, “We speak different languages and we have different skin, but under the skin we are all equal,” says Wang.

By Megan Rudson

Wen Wei Wang after the performance (Megan Rudson photo)

Under the Skin is a multi-cultural collaborative performance with Chinese choreographers Wen Wei Wang and Gao Yanjinzi, “We speak different languages and we have different skin, but under the skin we are all equal,” says Wang.

Wang emphasizes the importance of cultural mixing and individuality through his dance, In Transition.

Wang moved from China to Canada in 1991. He created In Transition using six dancers from the Beijing Modern Dance Company.

“When North American people think of the Chinese, they think of chopsticks,” says Wang. In an attempt to break this stereotype, Wang combines modern Canadian dancers and trained Chinese dancers to create In Transition.

“In Transition is about the freedom of who we are and what we want to achieve,” says Wang.

Gao Yanjinzi’s piece, Journey to the East, combines modern and Chinese dance.  The dance combines traditional and modern movement.

“For me, personally, it showed incredible ability of the dancers to interpret the world around them. All the water imagery…how fluid the bodies were,” says Gay Hauser, general manager of Live Art Dance.

Under The Skin debuted to its Halifax audience this past Saturday at the Rebecca Cohn theatre in the Dalhousie Arts Centre. “Comments from our audience through a survey showed the level of satisfaction was very, very high for this show,” says Hauser.

Live Art is a contemporary dance presenter that works to bring shows, like Wang’s, to Halifax. Under the Skin was put in the Live Art program last spring.

“We had Wen Wei here previously and our patrons really liked the work that Wen Wei brought here, so we knew that there would be an audience. When we saw it at the dance festival we were thrilled at how good they were,” says Hauser.

Gay Hauser (first women on left) informs people of Live Art at their desk set-up outside of Cohn theatre (Megan Rudson photo)

Wang created In Transition to show who these dancers really are and to disprove the Chinese stereotype. “I want to bring the people, who they are, and not the Chinese that we think. They are just like us. They have emotions, they have desires, they have struggles and they are just people.”

Instead of morphing the Chinese dance into a modern North American form, Wang combines the two cultures by bringing Chinese and Canadian dancers together. “The training is different and the way we work. They all understand movement. The Canadian dancers are more open and they do a lot of improvisations. The Beijing dancers are more closed, they dance and it looks like they come from some training.”

Wang wants to show his audience that, no matter the background or culture, everyone is equal. Hauser says, “As a new Canadian, he wanted people to recognize that while we have different cultures around the world, we are all the same human underneath and we are all the same as dancers.”

New England folk dance drew crowd

This Saturday evening, the St. Matthias Church hall will transform into a lively dance space for the Halifax Contra Dancers.

The group, run by Eliza West and Jonathan Franklin, meets once a month, teaching and practicing traditional New England style contra dancing.

By Laura Hubbard

Dancers wait for further instruction from Jonathan Franklin at Saturday's Contra Dance (Laura Hubbard photo)

The St. Matthias Church hall transformed into a lively dance space for the Halifax Contra Dancers, Saturday evening.

The group, run by Eliza West and Jonathan Franklin, meets once a month, teaching and practicing traditional New England style contra dancing. This style, a fast folk dance, is instructed by a caller and danced in lines, as well as pairs.

“If you’ve ever seen a Jane Austen movie, that’s what we’re doing,” said West. “It’s faster, livelier, it’s very energetic.”

West and Franklin, both from New England, have taken over the Halifax Contra Dance group after the Smokin’ Contra Band – a popular group within the dancing community – asked for a break.

“We’re both from Vermont,” said West. “We’re trying to get that strong New England style dancing going. And for me, I wanted to dance more, and the only way I could dance more was to start planning the dances and making it happen.”

Contrary Motion – a folk quartet familiar with the style West is looking for – will accompanied the dance, which had a fairly large turn out. The dance last February was disappointing in numbers.

Related links
Event Information for Saturday’s dance
Smokin’ Contra Band
St Matthias Anglican Church

West said the attendance at that dance was a bit lower than expected, but it fell during spring break.

“It’s building more in the student community, which is nice, because it’s an easy spot for the dance to grow.”

Interested dancers don’t need prior knowledge of folk dancing but should be prepared for an aerobic exercise. West suggested bringing a water bottle and wearing leather-soled shoes, which many of Saturday’s dancers did.

“At this point, we’re trying to build a community. When we came to Halifax, the dance was at a simpler level than we were used to and we want to see if we can get the dancers here dancing like we do back home.”

West urges people to come out next month and see if contra dancing is for them.

“It’s a small community right now, but it could get bigger, and so everyone should come out and try it,” said West. “There is a big enough population in the Halifax region to support a really great dance community, and I think we can make it happen with a little bit of elbow grease.”

Watch part of Saturday night’s dance, as Jonathan Franklin calls and Contrary Motion provides the music:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aRCjXQ4M1Y

For more images of Saturday’s Halifax Contra Dance, please view the gallery below:



Liberian Refugees CD Launched in Halifax

This Tuesday the Dalhousie Grad House hosted the East Coast launch of Giving Voice to Hope: The Music of Liberian Refugees, a CD of African music. The CD is the outcome of a project that began in 2008 between the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana and the University of Alberta.

By Kate Howell

Andrea Landriault (left) and Shelly Whitman at Tuesday's CD Launch (Kate Howell photo).

This Tuesday the Dalhousie Grad House hosted the East Coast launch of Giving Voice to Hope: The Music of Liberian Refugees, a CD of African music. The CD is the outcome of a project that began in 2008 between the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana and the University of Alberta.

Giving Voice to Hope, which included songs from a variety of Ghanaian musicians, launched in September 2009 in Edmonton. Andrea Landriault, an International Development student at Dalhousie who studied ethnomusicology in Ghana, decided to introduce the project to the East Coast.

“It’s a social capital that no one takes advantage of,” said Landriault. “Edmonton was a success but it should be so much more.”

Landriault played a music video made by one of the musicians, Shadow, as well as a 30 minute video about Shadow, music at the camp and their latest project, Refugee Music Television.

The musicians are not allowed to come to Canada due to lack of documentation. Landriault played a few tracks from the CD and invited two drummers from Mas Cencerro and two dancers from the Jabulani troop to keep with the African theme.

“Having live performances reaches people,” said Landriault. “Tracks weren’t enough.”

Watch an excerpt from a performance given by Mas Cencerro drummers Glenn Fraser and Dan MacNeil and Jabulani dancers Joyce Saunders and Susan Barrett.

Shelly Whitman, deputy director of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie, spoke of the power of music.

“Music is a fantastic medium for reaching people across different spectrums,” said Whitman.

In 2006, Dr. Michael Frishkopf, associate professor of music at the University of Alberta, went on a study abroad program in Ghana. The following year, he was given multiple CDs and cassettes recorded and produced by local musicians.

Frishkopf sifted through the tracks to make one CD. When United Nations declared Liberia safe in 2008, resulting in many of the musicians returning to their native country, Frishkopf was unable to reach the musicians to sign contracts.

“We had to start over with who was there now,” said Frishkopf. “We decided to try to include everyone so it wasn’t a competition and edited (the songs) down for time.”

The CD contains 16 tracks recorded and produced at the refugee camp in Ghana and includes traditional music, gospel, hip hop, rap, R&B and reggae. Five thousand copies were printed and so far an estimated 600 have been sold.

Landriault was able to sell 15 CDs Tuesday night and plans on trying to get them sold in stores.

Frishkopf said that it’s hard to get the contacts necessary to get the CD better circulated. The recording quality isn’t advanced, but Frishkopf said that aspect is part of what makes the CD so inspiring.

“It’s remarkable what they were able to do with what they had. It’s like looking directly at an artifact from the camp,” said Frishkopf.

The project aims to encourage post-conflict healing, global education, fundraising for learning initiatives in Africa, Liberian musicians and the Center for Youth Empowerment, as well as research on musical life in refugee camps and how music can be used as a tool to overcome the realities of conflict and displacement.

The Center for Youth Empowerment, a Liberian non-government organization, has been a liaison between the Buduburam camp and the University of Alberta.

“People think of refugees as poor and uneducated, but everyone is just displaced by war,” said Frishkopf. “The project is raising awareness about their careers and forced migration.”

External links
Music of the Liberian Refugees Webpage
Michael Frishkopf
Center for Youth Empowerment Website

Nominations open for Mayor’s Poet Laureate 2011-2012

There’s a job opening at city hall. It runs for a year and a half. You get paid $3,700. You get to travel across the province, and it helps if you can write poetry.

The job is the Mayor’s Poet Laureate.

By Emily MacKinnon

There’s a job opening at city hall. It runs for a year and a half. You get paid $3,700. You get to travel across the province, and it helps if you can write poetry.

The job is the Mayor’s Poet Laureate.

The Mayor’s Poet Laureate is defined on HRM website as “a resident poet or spoken word artist who has achieved excellence and whose work is of relevance to its citizens.”

The current Poet Laureate, Shauntay Grant, is a slam poet writer, musician and broadcast journalist.

“Generally, a poet laureate’s main role is to serve as a literary ambassador,” said Grant, via email. The target audience, according to Grant, is young teenagers.

“They’re old enough to appreciate it, and young enough to be really impacted by it.”

Nominees for the prize must have resided in the HRM for two consecutive years prior to the year they are named Mayor’s Poet Laureate. They also must be professionally published in at least one of several mediums. These mediums can be print (books, literary journals or periodicals), audio (CDs, tapes) and/or video (TV, DVDs or tapes).

Siobhan Wiggans, Arts Programmer for HRM’s Community Relations and Cultural Affairs, is in charge of the selection process for Mayor’s Poet Laureate. Wiggans said nominees must include a resume, cover letter and a one-page letter outlining their goals and intentions as Poet Laureate. , Applicants should also include three examples of published work.

“It’s quite a process,” said Wiggans. “But then, it’s quite a position as well.”

The Mayor’s Poet Laureate is a relatively new position, dating back to 2001. Sue McLeod held the position from 2001-2005. Lorri Neilsen Glenn took over from 2005-2008. Grant became HRM’s third Poet Laureate in 2009.

Applications are being accepted until March 28.

Comedians host pub trivia night

Comedians Ben Mills and Dylan Rhymer hosted a European-style trivia night at The Loose Cannon pub this past Sunday.

By Courtney Greenberg

Rhymer explains to a participant how to keep score. (Courtney Greenberg photo)

Comedians Ben Mills and Dylan Rhymer hosted a European-style trivia night at The Loose Cannon pub this past Sunday.

“So You Think You Can Think?” is an interactive trivia game, influenced by Rhymer’s experience in Europe.

“If you go to England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand – in most of the colonies this [pub trivia] is part of their culture,” says Rhymer. “It’s just that in Canada it hasn’t quite taken off yet.”

Rhymer thinks that this influence is positive for Halifax, a city that is full of local art, music and theatre.

He wishes to make pub trivia a regular Halifax event, like in pubs across the pond.

Ben Mills says he started out as a writer before he became a stand up comedian (Courtney Greenberg photo).

The trivia starts and the lack of formal rules becomes clear as Mills screams, “No cheating on your phones!”

The wooden tables in the dimly-lit pub started to fill up as participants and spectators arrived.

The trivia questions ranged from, “What country is Mount Everest in?” to “What is the record for most leaves on a clover or shamrock?” Nepal and 18.

The winner is the group with the most correct answers through the four rounds of trivia.

The Vancouver-born comedians decided to accept food bank donations instead of cover.

External links
The Ben Mills website
Dylan Rhymer standup comedy
Feed Nova Scotia
The Loose Cannon

 

ViewFinders film festival celebrates 10th anniversary

The 10th annual ViewFinders: International Film Festival for Youth kicks off next month, with many new events being added to the lineup.

By Ben Harrison

ViewFinders director Jason Beaudry talks about the festival (Ben Harrison photo).

The 10th annual ViewFinders: International Film Festival for Youth kicks off next month, with many new events being added to the lineup.

Jason Beaudry, director of ViewFinders, is excited for a new event taking place at the Discovery Centre.

“We’re going to preview the festival on April 10 with the ViewFinders Expo at the Discovery Centre,” says Beaudry.

“We want to reach out into the community and bring in some hands-on activities that young people can participate in.”

ViewFinders is the only youth film festival in Atlantic Canada. The festival gives young filmmakers the opportunity to produce and screen films for an international audience.

Other new events include daily screenings of previous award-winning ViewFinders films made by Canadian youth, a day of programming in French and a panel focusing on two international films about Asperger’s syndrome.

Beaudry says that the festival wants to acknowledge its roots while looking ahead on an international scale.

“It’s not so much about what ViewFinders as a festival has accomplished, but the ‘ViewFinders’ in our name. They’re the people who participate. We want to highlight what they’ve accomplished and where they are going,” says Beaudry.

“ViewFinders has built a reputation with our audience in a unique way, in the way we speak to our audience. We speak with young people, rather than at them. We’ve gone around the world looking for films to speak with audiences, to build this engagement.”

Will Kellerman, 2010 ViewFinders Movie Challenge winner, shoots his next film (Ben Harrison photo).

One way ViewFinders looks ahead to the future of youth filmmaking is through the Film Challenge contests.

Filmmakers under 18 years-old can enter one of three categories: Animation Challenge, Movie Challenge or Green Screen Challenge. Winners of the Film Challenge contest receive a full scholarship to the One Minute Film program, part of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.

Last year’s winner of the Movie Challenge, Will Kellerman, is already working on his next short film. Kellerman says Viewfinders gave him the support he needed to make movies, thanks to the scholarship program.

“ViewFinders gave me the scholarship to work with the Cooperative. Next thing you know, I’m making a silent noir film on a 16 mm camera,” says Kellerman. “They gave me this incredible opportunity and supported me all the way.”

Kellerman’s film, The Right Thing to Say, will be playing at ViewFinders this year as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.

Kellerman hopes to make feature films that will reach out to an audience, and says he is inspired by human connections through dialogue and image when he makes movies.

“I really like studying and seeing how people act around different people, that inspires ideas…If I hear about something in the news, or through word of mouth, that inspires me,” says Kellerman.

Here’s Will Kellerman at work on his new film. He also talks about his experience in the 1-Minute Film program:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVfhPJP_KxE

First Crossroads Ceili a success

The first Crossroads Ceili was held on March 5 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Cornwall Street in Halifax.

By Shannon Galley

Dancers from the Diaga Irish Dance perform at the Crossroads Ceili (Shannon Galley photo).

The first Crossroads Ceili was held on March 5 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Cornwall Street in Halifax.

A ceili is a Gaelic social gathering with dancing, music, song and performances.

The ceili was organized to expose the community to different forms of Irish dance and also to showcase Irish dance talent in Halifax. Many people gathered to learn traditional Celtic dances and to watch the talented performers.

External links
Diaga Irish Dance
Irish Association of Nova Scotia

There were chairs facing a stage where the musicians sat, and a screen behind them displaying the different dance groups,as well as old black and white photos of past ceilis. The chairs had to be constantly pushed back to make more room.

The event was organized by Zeph Caissie, owner of Diaga Irish Dance school, and sponsored by An Cumann, the Irish Association of Nova Scotia.

The evening started off with Elizabeth Macdonald calling out dance steps to those who wanted to take part. It was an evening filled with social dancing, Irish music, and performances demonstrating different styles of Celtic dance.

Elizabeth Macdonald calls out dance steps at the Crossroads Ceili on Saturday (Shannon Galley photo).

Caissie says he would like to see more ceilis happen.

“The ceili scene in Halifax kind of died out, I’d like to organize one regularly, maybe every six months.”

The three schools who performed were Diaga Irish Dance, Greene School of Irish Dance, and Scaip na Celti. They demonstrated dance styles from Irish two-hand, Cape Breton, Scottish step, and  Highland.

Elizabeth Macdonald has been dancing and teaching Irish dance for more than 20 years. Her group Scaip na Celti focuses on Cape Breton style Irish two-hand social dance. They have dances every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse.

“The social aspect to Irish dancing is great,” Macdonald says. “It’s about community, and showing people it is fun and not hard.”

Sheena Boucher dances with Diaga Irish dance and says ceilis are something she is used to and enjoys.

“I grew up in Cape Breton, so this is my roots.” Boucher says. “A ceili is a gathering of people participating in and performing the traditional music, dance and song.”

She joined the Diaga Irish dance school as soon as it opened in September 2010.

Many people at the ceili were familiar with contra dance, which is similar to the Celtic dancing at the Ceili.

People waiting for steps to be called so they can dance at the Crossroads Ceili (Shannon Galley photo).

 

Jessica-Rae Linzel had never been to a ceili before, but thought that it would be a fun night out.

“It was awesome, lots of energy, good dancing and great music.”

 

 

 

 

Watch dancers at the Crossroads Ceili

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuPL-MWt8cA