Friday, November 24, 2006

Brian O'Dea and private donations to artists

I was lucky enough last month to attend the Fresh Fish Award ceremony as part of WANL's annual AGM. It was great fun with numerous workshops over the weekend, a nice supper, and drinks.

Something Brian O'Dea, the Fresh Fish benefactor said before giving out the award has been sticking in my craw ever since. He mentioned how the award is the biggest of its kind in Canada, and given that he "doesn't have any dough" (a matter for some debate), how was it conceivable that he was the one putting up the money for this sort of thing?

Given how the public is constantly bombarded by how proud we should all feel for Newfoundland and Labradorian culture, how can it be that the wealthy members of our community are dropping the ball? I know, I know: the wealthy patrons are out there buying art, making donations to cultural orginazations (Saint Rick Mercer's $10000 donation to the Hall springs to mind), but given the comparably pitiful amount the NLAC has to dole out each year, where is the splashy, headline grabbing generosity for which Newfoundlanders are so renowned?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Paul Bowdring, NLAC, and Arms Length Funding

Paul Bowdring

Now that the grants have come out (or not, as the case may be), I thought it may be timely to bring up several things that have been bothering me about the functioning of our dear provincial funding body.

For those of you who don't know, Bowdring, poet, novelist, editor and teacher, stepped down in disgust from NLAC, citing "government interference" as the chief cause of his resignation. Why this event hasn't caused a shit-storm of controversy amongst the local community is beyond me, illuminating perhaps artists' ignorance to the growing political machinations behind the Department of TOURISM.

It also illuminates the need for serious action to be taken by VANL (and the various other artist representatives in this province) for Arms Length Funding for the arts. What this means, of course, is that government bureaucrats will have no say on which projects get funded and which do not. As it stands, a representative from the department oversees which projects have been selected for funding, and essentially has veto power over projects he or she believes isn't in the best interest of the government. Many artists I've talked to don't even know what Arms-Length Funding is, leading me to believe that VANL has failed to educate artists about the issues they face in regards to their livelihood.

As for Mr. Bowdring, he deserves credit for being a stand-up guy. Thanks.


Recent talks with associates of mine who didn't receive funding for their project grants has confirmed a suspicion I've been carrying for a long time. Appointment to the granting committee at the Arts Council doesn't necessarily indicate an understanding of what visual art actually is. You may have been a hobbyist photographer for the last thirty years, but that doesn't mean shit if you know nothing about art history and contemporary art practice. Contemporary art is not simply defined as art being made today, but rather questions (conceptually, formally, etcetera) the assumptions and conventions under which art production has operated for the last 3000 or so years. That members of a jury in Newfoundland and Labrador have the arrogance to reject projects because they "couldn't decide if the proposed project was art or not", or because they thought the project was flawed "ethically", would be laughable if it weren't so fucking depressing.

What needs to happen in the selection of jury members for NLAC is a bias toward adjudicators who stress fairness and open-mindedness when considering proposals, and not those who adhere to an extremely narrow view of art making that excludes all other modes of expression aside from their own.

And also, I didn't apply for a visual art grant this time around, so it isn't just sour grapes on my part.