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Thursday, December 17, 2009

See art, buy art, save art!

Galleries are hurting. That means artists will be hurting. That means we'll all be hurting, because...less will be produced. Less will enliven our lives. Shop or visit galleries now, even if only to clear your mind of the commercial dreck we're all drenched in!

There's a week left before "the day." I keep trying to buy local for the holidays, but I can't do this alone.I can't stress how lovely and affordable the show and sale at Sandra Whitton Gallery is (253 Ontario Street, above Serendipity). Even if you just want to look. I love the fibre work by artists such as Tina Barnes and Denise Sokolosky (hangable or wearable), prints by Rebecca Cowan and Adrienne Herron, paintings by Alex Jack and Su Sheedy and drawings by Laurie Sponagle. This was organized by the Chameleon Nation folks, who also have artists' work at Kingston Glass Studio on Queen Street. Pop into Robert Macklin Gallery while you're down here. Great work...tell your art collector friends.

Afterglow: Lindsey Fair organized some very talented artisans at the Gift Giving Show in the interesting spaces at Fort Henry, and an entirely new range of people at the Holiday Hop at NGB. The Fat Goose Craft fair, presented in association with Apple Crisp, was a bold new venture - and very friendly. Thanks to all of them for doing this. Our town is richer for it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fat Geese...Arts of Giving...Blind Boys of Alabama. Treats are in the air.

Hub and I decided last weekend that we should co-author (with a good psychologist) a book called The Christmas Problem, since we're at the mucky crossroads of 3rd marriages/different religious backgrounds/long distance families/blended families...and it only seems to get easier if we get looser about it. We have the "have to" lists and the "optionals" and try to make sure there are at least a few mandatory optionals for spice. We'll see at least one of the kids...go out of town at least once...hear one or two concerts...spoil the grandkids, but only the ones who are old enough to remember...Entertain once. Ask what the grown kids want, but give what we like.

This year, I've no time to make things...and I also want to support local artisans whenever I can. BUT...geez, like eating local, it gets pricey. I go to a show, stop to talk to someone I know (or would like to know), and I suddenly feel obliged to buy a handmade this and a handcrafted that. Before I know it, Toys R Us starts almost looking good (financially, anyway.) The Fat Goose Craft fair was very homemade and simple, with the younger organic crowd well represented (and appreciated). I love Vincent Perez's cards...Annie Clifford's little books...most of all Dorothy Young's handwoven scarfs and outrageous dolls.

Still, I hope that less is more - one of a lovely handcrafted something might have to do for two people. Or make up for a birthday skimped on... This being said, there are several gift shows coming up with quality local artisans. The Potters Guild Show starts tomorrow at the Tett, Made 4 You has good stuff for the younger set (and some of these people will also be at NGB studios the weekend of Dec. 13), Sandra Whitton's show (stuff under $250) is absolutely gorgeous and the Gift Giving Show at Fort Henry on the first weekend in December will also be a reason to tie my hands behind my back. I'll tell you how stuff compares after I spend some time (my first time) at the One of A Kind SHow in Toronto this weekend. And Oh Boy Oh Boy Santa's bringing the Blind Boys of Alabama next week, Dec. 1 to the Grand! Ecstasy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Caution- Free Range Children Event. Warning of the future?

Okay, I'm not young. Sure. Some things start to get up my craw a little more than others now...others I'm astonishingly accepting of (certainly more than when I was young.) I was a sort of hippie back "in the day", I had my share of "let it be" years... I understand the dilemmas of parents, and how they want communities to be age-inclusive. I even went to a great dance last night where kids danced right along with the adults ...and did handstands at intermission. That was fabulous.

But listen up folks, if you bring kids to an indoor concert for adults (as was the case at the Kyra and Tully concert at Sydenham United Church last night), and let them run around where not only the performers but the audience can also see and hear them, I think you're massively irresponsible and downright rude. And you're infringing upon my space as much as if I came to a kids concert and swore my head off or smoked cigarettes.

Also, if a concert is not billed as a fundraiser, I don't care how marvellous the cause is, I don't want a sermon beforehand. At intermission, perhaps, when one has the choice to sit or listen.

I'm thankful for all these creative young folks in Kingston. Really quite enjoyed the Fat Goose Craft Fair yesterday where mostly younger funky people displayed their wares...and half of the vendors seemed to be wearing snugglies... And I know a lot of them are in the music scene. I'm choosing to do as much as possible local shopping and entertainment-going to be "local arts supportive" this season. But if something is going to be a "Free Range" event for kiddies (and a fundraiser platform, I think there should be notification on the tickets or ads or pr.

I'm glad I got to see Kyra and Tully (who seem like very nice people with great taste in session musicians), but mostly enjoyed Bruce Cockburn - who showed everyone how passion, performing and lyric-writing skill can indeed all be combined for incredible results. And I'll look up the Water Keepers movement. But if I ever again wander into a sit-down adult concert with running kids present... I don't think I'll stay. I'd rather babysit the kids somewhere else- with a CD in the background.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goblin Market -only here for 10 days. Get off the not so comfy couch...

This week: Very much looking forward to Theatre Kingston's Goblin Market for only 10 days, previews starting Weds and Thurs....It's a sexy musical story about two sisters who relive their childhood experiences in an imaginary world, where they are tempted by seductive goblins. Since Queen's drama dep't head, Tim Fort, directs it...(and he's really a musical expert, with perfect taste in musicals) it has to be good. It stars Queen's grad/Shaw Festival talent Robin Evan Willis and localite Maryanne Wainman (Beauty and the Beast). Particularly looking forward to the music by Danielle Lennon, Sarah McCourt and Michael Man. Tix: Grand Theatre Box office. (PS you can apparently scoot off to see Danielle play with Swamp Ward Orchestra at the Mansion Saturday night after the show, too...)

I got a sneak peek preview of the Art of Giving show at Sandra Whitton Gallery today. It's really, really good. Most stuff under $250. Hard buying art for someone else, unless you drop hints bigtime. Opening TBA. I preferred it to the one Chameleon Nation is also doing at Kingston Glass Studioon Queen Street (oh, the glass and big pottery bowls are wonderful!), but that one definitely has more gifty things like jewellery and baubles. And you can always drop into Black Dog Pottery next door...I love his "bleeding stoneware." Someone's getting something for the you-know-what holidays! I'm really pushing buying local again this year, as much as I can. Socks from Carolyn Barnett are nice too. And the Humane Society Calendars have that AWWW factor going for them...

Art last Weekend: The Storytellings show at Modern Fuel by Peter Kingstone is fascinating...loved sitting around in half-comfy couches (felt like I needed a red nose) watching male sex trade workers on videos talking about their grans. Objection: They weren't terribly articulate portrayals of the "grans", way too much "she's wonderful, I dunno, she's just, uh, fabulous" ...and somehow creating a stereotype of one type of person (grandmas) to modify those of another gets up my (aged) nose. Referring to his 55 year old gran, one "kid" used the term "little old lady." Good grief! And you won't find a tacky piece of ceramics on my tv (Well, I collect them, but that's something else...)! Worth seeing, though. I liked the Ed Pien influenced drawings in the Cut and Paste show at Union Gallery a lot.

Did I mention if you're going to Ottawa, don't miss the Hoffos exhibition at the National Gallery. Everyone is absolutely blown away by it. And apparently you can eavesdrop on the hologram projections. It's on until Valentine's Day. No Excuse...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Art openings this weekend in Kingston, and other bits

I'm so nervous about winter coming on, that I've got to keep moving to take my mind off it. Anyone want to join me, hopping around on Saturday evening, Nov. 14? You can go to receptions at both Union Gallery (6-8 pm.) and Modern Fuel (starting at 7 pm.) Now, I love free munchies and good art – which is probably why I had to start a diet after last weekend’s food-packed (and buyer- thin) Modern Fuel auction, so I have no shame about going to two openings this Saturday night…just to graze, meet and watch! Since The Hub is off to Greater Perth (!) and I'm Dog-a-Mama, I have to pick events that will at least give me some human contact, as opposed to being spectator sports only.

This weekend’s openings at both galleries coincidentally highlights Canadian artists born in Zambia, Hong Kong, and Guyana as well as Canada. Union Gallery’s show, runs from November 10-November 28, and features the work of Donald Chan and Carlyn Bezic who “ create bizarre bodies, many-limbed monsters, and unsettling scenes.” In the other room, Vancouver’s Tondela MylesMechanisms for Selection “explores portraiture themes based around identity, gender and sexuality as a way to speak about awkwardness, secrecy and instabilities found in the human condition.” I can relate to that.

I'll then zip down to the waterfront and across King Street to Modern Fuel between 7-9 pm for the opening of two video installations, Storytellings by Lucy Chan and Peter Kingstone, which runs from November 12– December 12. Also a look at a different perception of sexuality, Kingstone’s 100 Stories about My Grandmother is a four-channel video installation that weaves together documentary portraits of male sex workers telling stories about their grandmothers Chan's video installation Yearning to See was created during a residency in Banff where she, according to Modern Fuel, " drew portraits of people that she met while asking them if there was a personal cultural lesson they might share. "
Union Gallery is at the corner of Union and University, in the corner of the Stauffer Library. Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre is located at 21A Queen St, Kingston

Now NEXT Friday night (Nov. 20 already!), Theatre Kingston's GOBLIN MARKET (on for only a week) opens....and on Saturday night I'll be at both the Kyra and Tully launch at Sydenham United Church and the Delhi 2 Dublin Dance (tix at Tara, etc) for Livewire. Buying tix today!

RECENTLY IMPRESSED : Really enjoyed the speakers/slides at the Solo Studio-Watch Series' Round Table Salon (well, it wasn't much of a salon, but cozy all the same). A great set up to find out about the people behind the art: the purposely self-effacing conceptual art of Michael Davidge; the political meets cultural drawings of Doreen Inglis; the whimsical but meaningful drawings and paintings of Chantal Rousseau, Lisa Visser and Erika Olson, and the gorgeous work of relative newcomer painter (who knew?) Su Sheedy. Kudos to Jan Allen for making this discussion happen. More like these, everywhere, please.

ALSO - who knew how much I'd love the Kinsmen's amateur Wizard of Oz. I frequently find the varying skill levels' reaching for the sky sort of embarrassing in amateur theatre, but this brought out nothing but the best in everyone (and there was a lot of big skill, as well as emerging skill). It's only on through Nov. 21 at the Grand, though.

Out of town: The exhibits by Hoffos and Daphne Odjig at the National Gallery were fabulous. Loved Hoffos's peeping tom holograms. At the Canadian Opera Company, Robert Lepage's extraordinary staging of The Nightingale was wonderful all around, (and the cheap Kingston Opera Guild return bus trip to Toronto was good too) but the uber-magical moment was when the dying Emperor's semi-waterborne deathbed transformed into a gigantic skeleton. The U.S. has Sondheim. We have Lepage.

NOT SO IMPRESSED: The discussion at the library about some Journal readers' complaints about the lack of inclusivity in the music scene was so politically sensitive that it accomplished nothing, after taking 40 minutes to set up "the discussion." More will follow from this, though. That's the good thing. And the students' acting, set, movement and Judith Fisher's concept were perfect for the Queen's Drama major Twelfth Night...except the kids were just too cool (or laid back) to understand that "Yes, Virginia, Shakespeare can be a fast moving farce."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goblins, Swamps, Gertudes and Good Tastes

The only thing bad about all the good stuff in November is that it’s so close to December…. Here’s a peek at the things that really leap out at me for the weeks ahead. (For a two month list, see beginning Nov. 1)

Sunday, I’m off to Toronto for a whirlwind trip to Robert LePage’s water-set and puppetized staging of the opera The Nightingale, at Canadian Opera Company. How neat to be able to get tickets and a cheap return bus ticket through Kingston Opera Guild. (Next it’s Carmen and Otello in February.)

Hot tip from Al Rankin, if you want best seats for Gordon Lightfoot, just announced for April, on Nov.2 go to and use the password GORDIE.

A far cry from that, Nov 2, Monday, there’s what may be a maddening discussion of privilege/diversity and the music scene in Kingston from 6:30-8:30 at the Kingston Library. Delahaye Room. The same week, Queen’s drama will open Judy Fisher’s Cole Porterized Shakespeare, Twelfth Night – which sounds quite elegant. It runs Nov 5-8, 11-14. 613 533-2104.

Art-wise next week, we’ll dash back from an afternoon matinee of Elephant Wake at the NAC for the Modern Fuel Good Tastes/No Frills Fundraiser, simple munchies and silent auction on Sat. Nov. 7, 7-9. Mind you, we were happy to get a mindblowing Rebecca Soudant piece last year – this year you could have a Robert Linsley, Aly Ogassian, Ben Darrah or Dave Gordon painting!. These MF guys work hard to keep Kingston edgy, and part of the proceeds can go to the artists. (You can’t say that everywhere.) Preview the works now at On Sunday Nov. 8, there is also the Solo Series Roundtable in at 2 p.m. at the Agnes. One of the speakers is Su Sheedy, who also has a show in Toronto –at the Muse Gallery on Yonge Street from Nov. 18- Dec. 10. Also on Nov. 8, the too-cool band The Gertrudes play a family-friendly afternoon set at The Mansion. 2 pm.

You might want to look ahead to the following weekend, Nov. 14 and 15 for Julie Davidson-Smith’s all weekend long Encaustic Painting Workshop and the opening of Sandra Whitton’s/Chameleon Nation Art of Giving show.

But the REALLY busy and dynamite weekend is Nov 20- 22 (here before you know it) which kicks off Fri Nov 20.with the opening of the sexy Theatre Kingston musical Goblin Market (starring local musical genius Danielle Lennon with the very popular Shaw Festival actress Robin Willis). The hard, hard choice (or total feast) is a triple threat of musical treats Nov. 21. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible to catch all 3, but there’s a Jenn Grant/ Kyra and Tully CD release at Sydenham United Church at 7 pm ---and the dance from Live Wire, the Delhi to Dublin Celtic Punjabi band –AND the delicious Swamp Ward Orchestra playing at the Mansion the same night. But I do want to try. Tix for the first two are at “the usual places.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

La Vida Grande

I realized last night that I should probably get a prize for "the person who's been to the most events at the Grand this week." It just turned out that way. I was particularly interested in the difference in crowd types at the three events, as well as the quality of entertainment itself. In reverse order" Brian McCurdy (Kingston Cultural Director/Grand Theatre boss...) said last night at Afro Cuban All Stars "Now, I think that's about as 'get down' as Kingston gets!!" (Even he was wearing jeans!) I've seen people going crazy with applause there for events like Ailey 2 Dance last year, but here people were actually standing and dancing in the aisles, in front of their front of the stage. And I was SOOOOOO glad for those past (and mostly forgotten) Latin dance classes with Ebon Gage and Josef Riha!

They say you look around and try and figure out if you "fit with the crowd" as a way of deciding if you're going enjoy what you see---no matter what is on stage.For those of us with multiple personalities (or multiple partners) I suppose we have a few more options, but I felt pretty at home with both the All Stars crowd and the largely cool and smart ( but slightly more sedate/older) bunch at Garth Fagan Dance (where you actually got to chat with the gorgeous dancers in the house afterwards). Feeling at home with The Kingston Symphony is a little more of a stretch for me, since so many of those people seem to have been going for years, have friends on stage, etc- and are probably more familiar with classical music in general. I was lucky at La Diva et le Maestro, since she sang every song I was trained to sing when I was young...but there is also something incredibly soothing about music that has "endured." And now that I'm getting old enough to talk to anyone around me...I never really feel like a stranger!

This brings me to the Alvin Lucier talk at the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre this morning, which was a tad more "arts esoteric" in feel. (As Matt Rogalsky joked, "it feels sort of like a church service, at 11 on a Sunday." )In many ways the audience for this Tone Deaf Festivalevent seemed like a "usual suspects list" for 'avantarts'....but I loved listening to this legendary 78 year-old pioneer of electronic music (who is a visiting artist at Queen's this year) and his 1969 piece I Am Sitting in a Room. For this classic, Lucier had recorded himself talking, then recorded the recording being played back in the same room, then recorded that recording being played back in the same room, etc... for up to 16 versions (and more.) Now, if I were to hear someone describe that...I'd say possibly say "that's sort of indulgent" isn't it? But it wasn't. It fascinated, mesmerized, and opened the mind to a world of possibilities. It was also a tangible and quite musical transformation.

I don't have the formal education in arts to toss about critical theory to describe it - but for me, it's what I like about the arts in general: sharing/investigating the processes and magic of a human mind - one that has been shaped by specific education and unique influences - and yet has a life of its own. Lucier was trained as a classical musician, but was inspired to 'push the envelope' by people such as John Cage. It was noteworthy to me that he eschewed the idea of "high falutin'" stuff more than once - although that's exactly what many people might call this sort of event, without actually hearing it.

Skill is one thing, but nothing can beat the "questing mind."

Friday, October 23, 2009

See the Kingston Prize finalists and winners!

Have a look at these great paintings.

A weekend awaits

It's too late for me to vote for the People's Choice at the Kingston Prize show at the Grand (open from noon -4 tomorrow) but my fave won anyway - Marina Dieul for Le Defi. It isn't too late to see the Prize (exhibition closes tomorrow) or bid on one of the works at the Art on The Street (185 Princess St.)

Friday, 23. For me it's The Diva and The Maestro at the Grand from the Symphony at 8 but I wish I could clone myself to see Really Live Electronics Concert at the Artel ($5/$10) with Nicolas Collins and Ben Manley that’s part of the Tone Deaf Festival at 9. There's so much going on that one of us is going to Thousand Clowns at Domino and the other to Diva!

Saturday 24 More Tone Deaf about Alvin Lucier –Two portrait concerts (4 & 7 pm) at Sydenham United Church..... OR The Afro Cuban All Stars at the Grand (since I probably am not getting that Cuba trip this year?)How much rationalization can a gal do (while remembering to book a haircut)? Booked the tix and the Cuba concert, so we HAVE to go to Tone Deaf on Sunday...

Sunday 25– Cam Shaefer has his SongLab at 2-5 pm at RCHA, featuring Danielle Lennon (who also we be starring in Theatre Kingston's new show) and Brian Flynn. Then there's a whole day of free Alvin Lucier stuff at the Agnes. Talks by the man himself at 11 a.m., one by Nicolas Collins at 2, and a panel discussion with lots of people at 3:30.

Look ahead:
Oct. 28 Weds- Every other Weds, Julie Davidson Smith has Creative 4 Play arty nights for women at her studio – 6-8:30. $35, materials supplied.613 531-8901. And she’s doing a whole encaustic weekend Nov. 21 and 22 (speaking of looking ahead )!

Oct. 30, Friday. Live Wire is doing a showcase of roots and blues at the Octave with Ontario and Quebec artists including Ariana Gillis, Jerry Walsh, Laura Bird and Crowfoot. Tickets at Brian’s, Tara and Renaissance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oct. 20-30 What's a gal to do?

I guess this new arts blog is giving me the opportunity to join the ranks of “last minute decision people” after all. It’s just becoming an issue of: do I blog/research about it, or get out and do it? I’m missing a lunch hour walk for this one (then I have to pay a trainer, or miss something else to do the gym -and on it goes!) At least I’ll remember what’s up...

Last week, I really enjoyed the Town and Country Studio tour on the weekend (and particularly great conversations with artists like Barb Carr, Michele LaRose, Hennie Marsh, Jane Thelwell, and Carolyn Barnett.) Bonus, I got to drop into Lindsey Fair’s and Julie Davidson Smith’s studios, and also meet the visionary Kingston artist Don Maynard (who had an incredible public art sculpture in Kitchener recently, and has also been engaged to do a formidable public art piece for the Ottawa Archives.) BUT I had to miss Aurora Dokken’s apparently great combo of German Beer Tasting (and discussion) with baroque musique, at Baroquetoberfest. My non-drinking hubby enjoyed it all for me. NEXT time!

A plus, though – last Friday I just had time to run home for a ‘tini then back to the office area/Sandra Whitton Gallery for a poetry reading run by Susan Olding (whose provocative memoir Pathologies I’m reading). Words set amongst colourful art of Sharon Thompson and Sandy’s gold creations– sensory heaven.

This week: On tonight to the first Grand Presents dance event Garth Fagan Dance. Too cool that they’re running master classes. Too bad that I may have to miss the incredible guitarist who will be playing at the Mansion with Rueben de Groot /Ridley Bent starting at 8:30 though. Isn’t Kingston changing?

Weds. 21– Reena Kukreja’s India/Canada produced film about rural women who move to the city for work. From 7-9 at the Chernoff , rm 117 on campus sounds tough but insightful – and the Art on the Street show (benefit for the Street Health Centre) has an opening reception from 6-8 (185 Princess.)

Generous artists’ who have donated work for the silent auction that ends Oct. 25 include Su Sheedy, Jane Derby, Sharon Thompson and Margaret Hughes. Hey, maybe you can combine your trip (2-9 Oct 22 and 23, 11-9 on the 24, 11-2 on the 25th with a visit to catch the Portrait show in the Grand Lobbies (12- 5:30, closes Saturday), if you haven’t already. Gotta go back and vote for my People’s Choice fave.

Thurs 22– Part of the Art on the Street – the Tribe of Irritable Poets (best name ever!) 7-9.

Also at 7 pm, ArtDocs Agnes Etherington The View from My Room is Great, Visual Artists of the Kingston Area - billed as "a series of half-hour videos produced by the Kingston Artists’ Association Inc., forerunner of the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre. An intriguing picture of Kingston’s visual art scene in the mid-1980s." Since this was before my time (here) I'm intrigued!

Then you can go and get witchy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This week:
The various Wingfields open tonight at the Thousand Islands Playhouse-in case there are any of them you haven't seen, he might be "playing your song!" (And- hot tip -the new local pub in Gan is THE theatre bar to go to, in future.)

Portraits, Portraits -in addition to seeing the Kingston Prize winners (12-5:30 p.m. daily, at the Grand) remember that Dr. Stephanie Dickey speaks about the relevance of portraits at Memorial Hall at 7:30 on Weds Oct. 14, with a reception across the street at Robert Macklin Gallery, who is holding a tongue in cheek Salon des Refusees. Many of the artists of that show (including the talented Judith Sherreff, Daniel Hughes, Katherine McNenly, and Cleah Bunting) will be there.If you just want to go to the Refusees show and the reception, it’s 6 to “whenever…”

The following evening (Oct. 15) at 7 p.m. you can get another opinion at October’s Arts And Letters Club’s Whither Portraiture at the RCHA Club, where Gary Michael Dault entertains the topicality of portraiture in our modern world. After having just seen Steichen's photographic portraits, I'm curious to see where his art/not art stance might fall.

Thursday night Domino Theatre opens the classic comedy A THOUSAND CLOWNS at the Baby Grand, and there's another studio tour this weekend featuring so many of our best artists ( So many talents, so little time.

If you think there's just not enough arts stuff of interest, check out Once you find the events listings, there isn't a bad assortment of music groups to choose from. I'm elsewhere that night, but the "midnight blues jam" at RCHA on Saturday features the "MoJo Shooters and and open jam for vocalists and musicians.

And, just so you don't let them slip away...Garth Fagan Dance at the Grand next Tuesday, Oct. 20 should be dynamite (all their dance presentations so far have been.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Toronto Toronto

God I love going to Toronto. Seeing even one play and one art gallery show is like getting wrapped up in a big, wonderfully colourful shawl - it's something that can keep me warm for days or even weeks. And then there's the Theatre of Being A Mother to a 29 Year Old Daughter.... something that also stays with me for days. Hmm. The art of motherhood is also an evolving art form. I think we're still knitting that one... and I still drop more stitches than I care to admit.

After a dash through Kensington Market with said daughter (such a tonic!) we went to the A.G.O. to see the Steichen photography and the Calder exhibit. NOW I remember how we all wanted to be when we were young: lithe and seductive like those timeless photos of Garbo and Dietrich... But since we weren't, the Calder exhibit was a lot more fun. His circus - and the film of his executing it - were total testaments to that extraordinary combination of skill and whimsy. Feet tired, I curled up in the bookstore with the book about the 50th Anniversary of the Cape Dorset prints, since they've just opened at Cornerstone (on Ontario Street) in Kingston. Will look at them completely differently now.

In the evening, we took off for CanStage's production of Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll. This was the creme de la creme of Thinking Person's Theatre...and taught me (embarrassingly) so much about history (and rock and roll, too.) Fiona Reid is wonderful...Stunning set.

Kingston is calm and lovely and "there's just enough of everything" --but it's also closecloseclose to Toronto, and that's a good thing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Feel Like A Teenager Again - Go to an arts event!

The best line of the week happened at our arts marketing lunch, where we hooted about the "audience benefits" of being anyone 50 or younger in the crowds of most "major" arts events. "You'll feel like a teenager again!" was the motto - since you may well be up to 20 years younger than some people there. And hey, ageism begone.. there's a ton of laughter under some of that white hair. Well, especially when you ruffle it a bit.

I'm not exactly a big crowd fan - but I think it's getting better. Still, the donor dress-up nights like those of Weds and Thurs were really quite charming - with or without the free food and wine! If you're one of the innerly shy such as I am, repeat after us, selves: "You wouldn't worry at all about how you come off, if you knew how little others were actually ever thinking about you.

Weds. night it was Member Appreciation night at the Agnes. Fabo style, a huge turnout and lovely, donated wines and food due to the hard work of a stellar committee (although the overwhelming turnout made it bad news for moderate latecomers such as ourselves, who ended up at fast food afterwards.) The shows are great at the Agnes right now and there has been a decision that the new "gift shop" focus is on the art rental programme and the strong catalogue collection. (Okay, I still want a wider range of cards to buy...especially from locals... but I suppose a real painting for as little as $30 something a month is very cool. What if every business in town were showing the work of a local artist? For that little a month, hey - they should have a tax break or something. Or get listed on somebody's website. Or everybody's. Should we start a movement?)

Thursday night, sadly had to miss the Abject Nature talk, because I was suddenly invited to the Kingston Prize in the Grand lobbies. Now, for all the fretting and backstage drama, all sets of parties should be terribly proud. It's a gorgeous setting, the lighting was fine enough ...(okay, too bad they have to shroud a couple of portraits for the kiddie show that's on) and the portraits are really tremendous. I keep taking portraiture classes, because I love the challenge of capturing people ---and see nothing at all wrong with portraiture being considered art, particularly considering the ENORMOUS skill and patience that portraiture requires. There's certainly a range of styles and approaches, ranging from the small work of Roselina Hung, a couple of fascinatingly- referenced works, including Jennifer Campbell's After the Flood (she should sell it to Margaret Atwood...) and the highly dramatic Familial Ties by Tammy Salzi. The monochromatic winner, Personal Surveillance by Andrew Valko, surprised me - not for quality, but because I "assumed" it would have been done by someone as young as the subject. Very interesting. GO see!

For a wee change of pace, we hit The Mansion, to listen to a few groups, including local faves Reuben DeGroot and our young friend Corbin Murdoch. I like it there. Although there I find I'm self conscious about my age...and flat shoes. "It's always something." BUt the Mansion makes me remember all the good things about being young -and keeps reinforcing respect for the young who have smarts, energy, and artistic talents. They're pretty tolerant of oldsters too. (It's upstairs where the good stuff happens, and has comfy chairs.) PS gives a pretty good listing of bands playing in town...

Finally, congrats to Hennie Marsh, who got both Honourable Mention and 1st prize in Acrylics for her works in Cornwall's Focus Art juried show. Check it outL

Hot off the press, think ahead for Tone Deaf 8, the always adventurous Festival Of Adventurous Sound Performance, from Oct. 23-31. It's happening betwixt Modern Fuel, The Artel, Sydenham United Church and at The Agnes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Best Bets for this week and next...

I’m going to have a go at a few more ideas for this week and next, before heading off to Toronto.

First of all, “an avid reader” had said he wanted to know mainly what’s worth getting a sitter for. Maybe I’ll flag those things. Mind you, those young enough to need sitters might not share my values, but…

This week I’d say the Sitter Challenge brings up two things: A) Forms of Devotion (a very sensual little piece, with good (but not enough) text by Diane Schoemperlen, and it’s less than 90 minutes long. FOD is at the Baby Grand, from Theatre Kingston, so that means viewing the 30 some paintings of the Kingston Portrait Prize is thrown in for free, (If you’re getting a sitter you’ll have time for a nice glass of red wine after the show, too. Drink it in the car after you deliver the sitter, if you’re too tight to go out.) B) Josef Riha’s one hour dance class at Upper Canada Academy yada yada. See way below. Friday from 7-8.

If you just want to stay home and submit art, Kingston Canadian Film Festival is now accepting feature film and short film submissions for inclusion in its 10th annual event. Early bird deadline is October 9, 2009. Info:

Words: On Thursday, writer Ingrid deKok reads from 1-2:30 at Watson Hall Room 517, (Bader Lane.) I’ve been to a couple of these readings at Carolyn Smart’s class, and she has topnotch taste. Ingrid de Kok has published four volumes of poetry, most recently "Seasonal Fires: new and selected poems" (2006 ) Next week Oct. 15, (same time, same place) Oct. 15, John Barton reads his ninth collection of poetry, Hymn, (published this fall by Brick Books.) His previous books include Great Men, Designs from the Interior, Sweet Ellipsis, and Hypothesis.

After Thursday, I’m going to catch the Kingston Prize – (with a $10,000 first prize!) at least twice. The show is at the Grand noon to 5:30 until Oct. 24. I love reading the bios too, to see all the work these people have put into their careers. Music: I think after seeing the portraits on Friday night we’ll treat ourselves to the start of a holiday weekend with Cam Shaffer’s “Blazz” (blues and jazz) 5-7 at RCHA Club. Makes me thirsty just thinking about it… THEN:

I JUST might be able to talk the hub into going to the really fun (and very simple) ballroom dance classes Friday night (starting this week) from the ever dapper Josef Riha, at the Upper Canada Academy of Performing Arts. We did it last year and there’s a group of pretty funky smart artsy types who make it a real giggle. .7:00 to 8:00 pm Beginners welcome (they’re serious!) For more information please call (613) 5429988 Upper Canada Academy of Performing Arts 260 Brock St

Be Thankful! (Hey, you don’t need a sitter for this, take them along) -Coming this weekend: I won’t be around to visit the Westport region’s Fall Colours Studio Tour scattered around 11 different locations from October 10 to 12 (though I’d LOVE to see Isidora Spielman’s studio.) We’re heading off to Toronto to see something at the Gardiner Ceramic Museum and probably Tom Stoppard’s Rock and Roll at CanStage. More on those later!

Next week: It’s still striking me as extremely bizarre that there are TWO talks about the current relevance of portraiture going on, a day apart. Doesn’t anyone get “a picture is worth a thousand….” Dr. Stephanie Dickey speaks at Memorial Hall at 7:30 on Oct 14, with a reception across the street at Robert Macklin Gallery, who is holding a tongue in cheek Salon des Refusees. If you just want to go to his show and the reception, it’s 6 to “whenever…” The following evening (Oct. 15) at 7 p.m. you can get another opinion at October’s Arts And Letters Club’s Whither Portraiture at the RCHA Club, where Gary Michael Dault entertains the topicality of portraiture in our modern world.

And you’d probably better book ahead for Empty Bowls now, that’s happening Oct. 18 at the University Club on Stewart Street as a fundraiser for Martha’s Table.. I have to… Here you can choose a handcrafted pottery bowl, one of 400 graciously donated by a number of hardworking and selfless potters…and you fill it with soups specially made by Kingston's finest restaurants. Three seatings at 11:30 am, 12:15 pm and 1:00 pm, coffee and deserts afterwards. Tickets $25.00 Tickets and information at Tara Foods, Renaissance Music, Springer Market Square (on appropriate occasions) and Martha’s Table 629 Princess St. or email

Sunday, October 4, 2009

September Arts Diary - the artsathon

Lin's September Kingston Arts Diary.
Or: After 3 weeks of Hot Arts Kick offs and Trying to Memorize Hundreds of Names, Can I Leave Town for a Few Days, Please?

INTRO. Although I have had the pleasure and opportunity to write what began as a monthly arts blog for Kingston Life ( once it was turned into a semi-monthly piece, I realized I couldn’t even scratch the surface. Of course, the Whig won’t pay for any more arts writers and has been laying people off right and left, so what is an art snoop to do but actually start a real blog? Note: this won’t be perfect , since it’s a volunteer gig whereas my semi-monthly artsblog has been rather impeccably (knock on wood) edited by someone else. Here I’ll try to go back to monthly news, or more frequent, on my own (which will make it shorter than this ridiculously thorough introductory tome! )

For more succinct synopses, please check out the blog around the first of November, January, March, etc. because they also have a lot more listings and editorial online as well. Other local arts-related news sites to check are (daily arts updates, twitter sign up, and a calendar) and Modern Fuel, if you’re a member, sends out a darned good list of things happening too. And Nancy Grieg, of Absolutely Music, does the best “press release forwarding” around! Let’s keep the cooler months warm by congregating together in all the culture hot spots, okay. (FYI, I can even mention a few out-of-town things that we go to. Would love to hear your ideas too.)

Sept 7-12 Maybe we can just start September after Labour Day, since I can’t remember anything back in the first week. This is probably because I was just getting into “school year mode” again, and writer Donnalee Iffla and I realized we’d better get cracking if we were actually to perform the little piece we’d promised as part of Theatre Kingston’s opening launch. That and “geez, I’d better get signed up for that fall class after all” –which turned out to be portrait painting at Kingston School of Art. We also joined the Kingston Opera Guild for the first time, because they offer tickets and /or trips (and talks) to some great operas at the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. I also started working on laying some groundwork for the new Arts Hub project at the Kingston Arts Council. – which is devoted, in large part, to combing through a couple of thousand names in the database and getting to know all about who does what here. Thank you, God, for the opportunity to re-sharpen a memory I’d started to doubt! If you think you’re not on the database, email me at and tell me what you do.Anyway, with names going through my head night and day, it was time to add a few more, as the Arts Season 2009/2010 kicked off in Kingston

The packed Theatre Kingston launch at the library’s Wilson Room Sept. 10 was a good place to start, since Diane Schoemperlen’s reading gave a taste of not only the sort of level of writing we would soon be experiencing at the inaugural WritersFest, but also a taste of the work to be combined with movement in tk’s season opener, Mark Cassidy’s theatrical staging of her Forms of Devotion. Theatre legend Jim Garrard also spoke a bit about Charlotte Corbeil Coleman’s version of Hamlet that Kingston-raised Rockne will perform in Jim’s Salon Theatre co-production of The King’s Conscience in the new year. Kim Renders (artistic director) movingly read from an excerpt from the stunning Joan Didion work The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she’ll perform this season. Donnalee Iffla and I turned out to be a regular standup comedy routine of cheeky old broads in our piece Sixty Secrets About The S- Word, which rather surprised us, after having tanked at a poetry reading at The Artel a few days earlier. I guess that’s what “out-of-town- previews are for! Those Artel readings, (hosted by writer in residence, Bruce Kauffman with really good coffee and snacks) were sort of art gallery -serious, but also intimate in a sparse living room atmosphere and featured everything from political sound-based works to funny theatrebits by my hub, John Lazarus.

Sept 13 – 20 Since my “art event” of that week was the Milestone Birthday and the family theatrics that ensued, I had to miss things like the first Arts and Letters Club night in their new location, the RCHA Club. Nonetheless, we did pop into Sandra Whitton Gallery to see the ever beautiful charcoal abstractions and drawing work by the equally lovely Laurie Sponagle (who, I’m happy to hear, is now teaching drawing at Brockville’s St. Lawrence College campus.) We fortunately, also to the OKWA (Organization of Kingston Women Artists) Juried Show at Chameleon Nation which featured things such as a beautiful button collage/family history by Zillah Loney, a haunting (prizewinner) by J.T.Winik, a stunning Skeleton Park (prizewinner) ceramic bowl by Marney McDiarmid and evocative works by women such as Margaret Hughes and Barb Carr. Good thing I went when I did because barely at the end of the week, we got the news that the CN’s doors had been bolted by the landlord, and the OKWA show would only be able to be seen one more time: at the Art After Dark reception night, which was brilliantly moved to (and accommodated by) Kingston Glass Works.

Sept. 21- 28 Arts and Culture week. AKA: A Whole Month Packed Into 7 days!
I started the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Association’s Arts And Culture week both excited and grumpy. Not only had that whole Chameleon Nation business been so distressing, I was concerned that the consultations for the Kingston Cultural Plan ironically had to happen on probably the biggest culture week in Kingston (those who did like culture or were involved in making it probably wouldn’t be there…) We never are correct in our prognosticating, of course (you MUST read the non-self-help book Stumbling on Happiness) and those meetings, in general, were good news, as it was all about finding some consensus on Kingston arts issues. Appropriately, the amazingly busy Lindsey Fair remarked on how great it was that there are now “clusters” emerging…which is true…although we do have a habit speaking up more about our complaints rather than our kudos. Someone even noted that the CKAF (City of Kingston Arts Fund) was a good thing for more than just the money, because people actually now look outside of their rabbit holes to see what those who get the money are doing, and they actually have to evaluate their planning. Sessions like these, led by some very talented culturati Jenny Ginder and Janis Barlow highlight the positives first…which should be a rule everywhere in life! And it was good to see young movers and shakers around the tables with the “older guard” and institutional policy makers.

Art and Culture week was even more active than the posters and ads would lead you to believe, since the Downton BIA’s mandate is promoting downtown events, (and apparently the bigger ones). The Kingston WritersFest dominated my week (as it did for hundreds and hundreds of other Kingstonians) starting out with Margaret Atwood’s theatrical booklaunch for Year of the Flood. It had a style that certainly echoed the book….everything from the amused and diminuitive grande dame herself, reading little bits at the corner, to three “genuine actors” (Michelle Girouard, Krista Garrett, Jim Garrard…my God, I didn’t realize they were the G-Guys!) doing staged excerpts on the other side of the stage. Each of them was great, since Jim is born to play an irreverent reverend and Michelle was perfect as a punky cocktail waitress in plumes. The name of the game for this launch is that the music and text are sent to the local community, who does what it will with it…and here Andy Rush and about 20 friends did a fully costumed rendition of the craggy “tunes” that form part of the novel. Due to acoustics, or articulation, one or two of the tunes would have been enough for me…but it was sort of a “suspension of disbelief” theatrically. Atwood wrote extensively about being in Kingston on her own blog (although the local paper somehow couldn’t find her appearance at the Community Harvest Working Group – or any of the other readers– newsworthy enough to cover that week!) Ms. Atwood’s blog, with pix of both events:

Ahem. Thursday night was a conflict for me between Art After Dark, the Artists on Art lecture at the Agnes, and the readings of Joseph Boyden and Michael Crummy (moderated by local writer Steve Heighton) . My hubby reported back that the guy readings were a dynamite event. ..and since I was exhausted from art talk all day, I "only" managed to see Kevin Viner’s Parisian photography at Robert Macklin, Bruce Millen and Molly McClung’s work at Studio 22, the Chameleon/Kingston Glass Studio show, have a quick glance at Modern Fuel’s films (based on the work of local residents with Bear Thomas) in Market Square and zip up to Modern Fuel’s Chronotopic Village and Dream Temples show in Modern Fuel. Fortunately, each and every show was high quality. The nibblies weren't bad either...Viner’s silver gelatine prints were both subtle artistic portraits of “current and contemporary views on familiar themes “ and largely showcased the classic grandeur of Paris with a soupcon of contempo eye (a hand of the artists sticking out from a garden portrait, a balto bar, a piece of graffiti on a wall.) Since my kids had just given me a ticket to Paris for a birthday gift…I felt the show was devised just for me.

Studio 22’s show I think was the one I’ve most enjoyed so far, because there was a simplicity and uniformity of works chosen from only two artists. It also, of course unwittingly, was a perfect segue from the black and white Paris photos at Macklin’ s. At Studio 22, Bruce Millen’s Quietude (nearly monochromatic photographs of ice and icy landscapes) were soothing yet provocative, particularly works such as Holes in Perception and Zipper 1. Molly McClung’s new works in stone, Mythography, was a myth moving through stone –transporting you in a 3d fashion through themes you didn’t even need to be familiar with to enjoy. Have out of town visitors who aren’t that adventurous but like quality? I’d say to take them to this one…and to Macklin and Whitton…then to the Agnes. “Downtown Kingston” to the rest of us really can emcompass a trip past City Park! I also stopped by the Kingston GlassWorks/Chameleon Nation OKWA show, which was packed with well wishers. Unfortunately, a couple of works such did not travel with them to the Kingston Glass Works event, but it was a rather surreal treat to see people blowing glass while dozens of other folks VERY carefully wove their ways through the glass work and paintings

At Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre, Chronotopic Village, curated by Wanda Nanibush, may be one of the most successful shows there, with works from First Nations artists “recontextualizing Indigenous time based media” “engaging audiences in multiple and diverse time spaces.” (I couldn’t say it myself, and would be glad seeing those words in larger type somewhere. My eternal complaint.) Still…it was a hypnotic and yet thought provoking, stepping “out of time” in much the same way as the Diane Landry’s “umbrella piece” at the Agnes does. Nadia Myre’s Portrait as A Line (shown both as a rear projection and an embossed canoe) were two of my favourites.

Then it was back to WritersFest events (and more cultural consultations) for a few days, interspersed with Theatre K’s beautifully fluid and sensual Forms of Devotion and the impressive (no pun) First Impressions show by Kingston printmakers at Rebecca Cowan’s studio. At WritersFest, in addition to being charmed by constantly-glowing and hard working writer/organizer Merilyn Simonds (and her great outfits!), I enjoyed seeing all sorts of people (mostly women) venturing forth for tips on writing. My favourites were hearing local writer Susan Olding’s excerpts from Pathologies and Lorna Crozier’s takes on memoirs (a rather risky business when you’re talking about your family…), listening to the reading and writing of Gil Adamson (the Outlander) and seeing (dapper) old friend Bill Richardson cheekily and semi-sexily introducing the Speakeasy on Saturday night. It was fascinating how some readers’ work really changed with a jazz backup of Trio Without Words, led by the brilliant sax player Jonathan Stewart. Leon Rooke was the only one to leap off the page in something approaching sound poetry…and he was a relative oldster! I think we need a spot in town for writer cabarets…maybe the new Arts And Letters club location at the RCHA will turn into that. (Cam Shafer’s “blazz” -blues and jazz - events there on Fridays may lend themselves to this sort of thing.)

Sept. 27 – Oct 4 September just kept going, didn’t it? The week included the Sept. 30 performance Machine a Foudre by Diane Landry, courtesy of Agnes Etherington Art Centre. At that piece Landry stitched on a map, with a huge video project of her hands working, while the sound of the machine was amplified. Okay, I’m a dolt. Off I dozed. Repeatedly. But to a very interesting soundscape! Then we went to the gallery and I kicked myself for not seeing her fabulous installation The Defibrillators first, because it’s so brilliant and contextualizes her whimsical yet strong political sense. (Fortunately, her installation is on until mid-December, because it is not to be missed). I particularly love anything where well dressed people can be seen getting on their knees to peer underneath a bed! And don’t bypass the backrooms, particularly the one behind Landry’s performance videos, since it contains a pretty potent yet humourous link between women and washing machines.

Also had a great night “among the young folk” sitting cosily in a chair, reflecting on my own arthippy youth as those gangbuster Gertrudes tried out their Montreal set at The Mansion. I wasn’t the oldest in the crowd, just second-olderst…and you gotta love 10 people with bangos, horns, a theramin, and everything else! “Nerdgrass” Josh Lyon calls it. A Youth Tonic, I think.

Good news came midweek too. 1) the disappointment of Chameleon Nation’s forced disappearance was alleviated by an announcement that the uber-dedicated Ashley Fortune and Kate Graff will be working with Sandra to curate and manage the gallery part of Sandra Whitton Gallery. Sandy is featuring the boldly colourful paintings of Sharon Thompson through the month. 2) Just found out that there will be an event during the first two weeks of February called Artignite, designed to showcase arts events happening both on campus and in town, encouraging “cross overs” from both the civilian community and the academic world. Maps, please! At least these won’t require thousands of dollars in police surveillance… (although a good coat, parking money, or taxi might be required). You have to submit an application to be included in this big co-promotion, however. More info:

At the end of the week, I was pretty impressed by the 75 year old nimble fingered Oliver Jones and ever-brazzy (a new word, but fitting) vocalist Ranee Lee, even if jazz is not a big taste of mine. (I’m such a fan of lyrics - I have a weird impatience with trying to “find them” among all the brilliant pyrotechnics. Sorry….silly….status quo. I’m working on it.)

The capper of First Week in October is one of those events that only the inner circle of Kingston theatre seems to attend, and I bemoan it every time. The Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition readings.…This 7th incarnation of the biennial Playwriting competition, that brings two very strong scripts to town, with strong professional casts and one (free) reading each, are always on my calendar. These top-notch works solicited from across the country almost always go on to bigger productions in other cities, and are nearly the only time Kingston can witness such a strong combination of visiting talent with such powerful writing. Maybe the Queen’s Artignite thing will help to get locals more familiar with Queen’s locations. Maybe the Drama Dep’t will have to give up on using their own free space and go into “the centre of town.” Maybe? Gas Girls was a lively yet unsettling piece set in Zimbabwe, about 2 young women who have to work in the sex trade just to make money to live, by Donna -Michelle St. Bernard (who had worked with the playwrights unit of Toronto’s Obsidian Theatre...) The second piece, Tom’s A -Cold by David Egan, starred Shane Carty and Matthew Gibson in a time and perception-twisted tale of two men abandoned in the Arctic by their shipmates, many of whom had also turned to cannibalism to survive after they had been trapped in King William’s Land. Two years from now maybe the Voaden show will combine with the similarly biennial and national contest of The Kingston Prize and the cumulative impact of “visiting art” will perhaps have the audiences they both deserve!

Things to be thankful for in early October, fellow gluttons:
Oct 5-11 Oct. 7 –it’s Members Night at the Agnes (to see how they’re reworking the art rental/gallery space and mingle some more in the Landry show); Oct. 8 –we’re being torn between the Opening Gala for the Kingston Prize (which runs until Oct. 25 in the lobbies of the Grand, open between 12:30 and 5 daily) and the talk/closing reception at Union Gallery for Abject Nature (which you don’t need an invitation to attend. ) Later that evening, it’s back to the Mansion for a little “lower art” to hear Reuben DeGroot and his pal and mine, singersongwriter Corbin Murdoch from Vancouver. Then, honest to God, I’m getting out of town. Probably to Canadian Stage, the Gardiner Museum, and the AGO.

Pss. If you want to get ready for some fisticuffs, arts style, I dare you to go to the Kingston Prize (in addition to some of the great studio tours) on Thanksgiving weekend, then attend the reception for Macklin’s cheeky Salon des Refuses on Oct. 14th, and follow it Oct. 15th’s at RCHA with Arts And Letters Club’s talk Wither Portraiture Globe and Mail’s Gary Michael Dault (who now lives in the region) entertains the topic of the viability of portraiture in our modern world. Consider it a performance art triatholon!

Whew. Did Kingston really just survive all that? Did I? Did you?