Archive for the ‘Canadian Art’ Category

I Want My CBC

March 21, 2009

I want to take my thoughts from yesterday and carry them off on a wild tangent.  The CBC has been in the news lately because they are facing a budget deficit, like the other major Canadian broadcasters.  As I’ve reflected on whether or not the government should bail them out, my mind drifts to the very idea of subsidizing the Arts and how exactly a society should go about doing that.  When I say the Arts I am referring to music, visual art, film, theatre, dance, television, and any of the other creative endeavours.

There are three main ways that Canada/Canadians subsidize the Arts: through government programs, private patronage, and consumer purchases.  Each type of art utilizes each of these to various degrees.  I imagine that music or television are more dependent on the average consumer than visual art or dance, for example.  I am particularly interested in the government’s role in promoting Canadian Arts.  This brings us back to the CBC.  I was able to find this handy guide to the CBC’s finances in the Annual Report:

For the fiscal year 2006, the CBC received a total of $1.53 billion from all revenue sources. Expenditures for the year included $616 million for English TV, $402 million for French TV, $126 million for specialty channels, a total of $348 million for radio services in both languages, $88 million for management and technical costs, and $124 million for “amortization of property and equipment.” Some of this spending was derived from amortization of funding from previous years

As I understand the breakdown of revenue, they receive about $1 Billion from the government, with the rest coming from advertising on television and subscription fees for their cable channels.  Without doing the research I assume that the CBC is the most heavily funded Arts project in Canada.  It may be hard for some to justify a crown corporation receiving money for advertising, but for me the issue comes down to use of the money.  As I see it, the federal government should be supporting the production of homegrown programming.  That $1 Billion should be used to make outstanding Canadian television programs.  It can also be used for the promotion of the same.  Does this mean the CBC needs to run multiple television channels, and radio stations on the public dime?  That is a very complicated question.

For starters I have to ask if the CBC is actually producing quality Canadian programming.  There is certainly some, Newsworld, Hockey Night In Canada, and The Fifth Estate, are well made and a testament to the talents of Canadian television people.  Of course, CTV and Global have both made their own great shows without the same level of government support (I’m pretty sure individual programs receive funding from grants and tax breaks).  For this discussion let’s say that the CBC is producing quality and valuable programming.

I also wonder if the two roles of the CBC producing and presenting television shows (and to a certain extent live music performances) are both required of a Crown corporation.  Now before I go too far I should say that I am someone who believes that the Arts enrich our society and that the government should be promoting them as a policy.  I’m not completely clear on the organization’s connections to each program they show, but for those that I am sure are produced in house, I suppose they are a necessary part of doing business.  After all, without good programming the CBC would be useless.  Would the CBC be better as a media entity that presents programming produced by others?  I don’t think so, in fact I think that would be a good reason to take away their funding. As it is, while I believe they could make better programming, for example shows that were more popular abroad, the broadcaster has actually done pretty well in this regard.

Perhaps the biggest criticism I’ve ever heard about CBC is the apparent mismanagement.  It seems most observers assume that being a government agency has created a bureaucratic mess.  The CBC, like most media empires, in involved in many diverse ventures. Other than some major bungles in their sports division, and annoying a lot of people by switching the format of Radio 2, they have done pretty well at keeping up with the emerging trends in media.  I am not qualified to comment on the financial issues as much (though both Global and CTV are also facing severe budgetary problems) but I do know that projects like Radio 3, and the CBC News website show that the corporation has some bright minds on board. In fact, CBC Radio 3 is such a brilliant project that it should be emulated around the world.  Indie music has never had such a mainstream home in this country, or probably any other.

I want to continue this topic in future posts by going deeper into the issue of Arts funding.  As I said, I think it is an essential part of a well functioning society. Although my thoughs today are a bit fragmented and don’t lead to any real conclusions, I think the sum total of what I write on this topic will ultimately make sense.


I’ve Got You and You’ve Got Me

January 30, 2009


New podcast is up today with a very special guest, Emily Chen an Ottawa area designer and t-shirt maker.  You can find out about her deisgn work here and her t-shirts/blog here. The pictures above and below feature a number of her t-shirt designs. They are fantastic and you can pick them up through the website. The photos were taken by her boyfriend, John Bagnell. You can find more of his work here. Our conversation was a lot of fun, and she has some interesting things to say. As always you can check out the podcast over there–>.


It was great to sit down and chat with someone about their passion (as it always is on the show) and to learn a little bit about the world of independent design.  Since I am not an artist I cannot give any kind of critical response to her work, but as a fan of art and design I can say I find her work thought provoking, and visually pleasing.


Ever since I first did screen printing in high school as part of graphics class, I have been a fan of the homemade t-shirt. Emily’s designs are funky, fun, and unique. She does the work herself, so when you buy her shirts you are supporting a working Canadian artist along with getting a stylish piece of fashion.


This podcast also features music by New Buffalo from Australia and Toronto’s Apostle of Hustle. They are both on the Arts & Crafts Label, and you can expect to hear more from their artists on future episodes of the podcast.

That’s all for today I will be back tomorrow with more exciting The Alder Fork Blog material.

I Went Up To The Mountain

January 19, 2009
This is mine.

This is mine.

That lovely picture is as close as I get to making visual art.  It’s a sketch of a picture that I took at Mt. Rainier in Washington, USA.  It was a windswept, snowy day on the mountain when my good friend Kern and I headed out on the trails to see what we could find. Once the snow was up to our knees we surrendered and turned around.  After some watery hot chocolate and cheesy nachos we returned to our warm hotel in Kent.

I am posting this to let you know that The Alder Fork Podcast has booked its first artist guest. Emily Chen, a graphic designer, artist, and friend of Kathleen Edwards (you might’ve noticed Emily’s comments on an earlier post) will be chatting with me about her work and what not on a future episode. You can find out all about her, and check out her great blog, here.

I am snowed in Guelph for one more evening, then I will be back to Hamilton. I will have the blog back up to full speed with all of the usual features you have come to expect. The last few days have been great fun for me, and I hope you have enjoyed the change of pace. As promised here is Part II of my piece, An Ecology of Peace. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

How is an ecology of peace framed within the context of this human-nature relationship?  As I understand an ecology of peace, and I am essentially borrowing the term and establishing my own definition, it advocates the same things as the concept of sustainability.  An ecology of peace is a religiously rooted relationship between people and the natural world, that emphasizes the importance of sustainable practices to the mutual benefit of both.  It is religious because the reasoning for an ecology of peace is rooted in an ethical system of divine love.  I will use Christian terms to explain myself, but there is potential for other religious groups to adapt my meaning to their own belief system.  I have already acknowledged that people have taken on part of the role of creator on Earth, and this has to be accepted for an ecology of peace to have real meaning.  If we pretend that what we do is wholly controlled by a divine influence then there is little impetus for change. Religious societies have made many of the great advancements in the history of our species.  People have been the force driving those changes, through their ingenuity and creativity, whether initiated by a divine spark or not.  At this point I might be tempted to abandon any notion of religion completely and move on with a humanist ethic.  If you decide to do so, go right ahead, it is certainly possible. But if you wish to maintain your religiosity or spirituality as you grasp at the meaning of sustainability please stay with me.

The theology that I ascribe to considers human love as the primary driving force for people.  This does not mean we all act out of love constantly because it is obvious that we do not.  I believe that it is our capacity to love that creates many of our greatest accomplishments.  Thus any healthy relationship with the Earth will involve a great deal of human love.  Nature is fairly neutral in its feelings towards us.  The planet would go on with or without us. Yet in an unintentional way (after all “the Earth” has no intentions) it provides us with the means for survival, and an environment we can thrive in.  Whether this is by chance or on purpose it is an undeniable fact.  Although people have struggled to adapt themselves to extreme climates, ultimately we have always prevailed. This is not hyperbole because at this moment there are human beings on every continent. The Inuit are probably the best example of the adaptability of people. They found a way to exist in the unforgiving Arctic, with ingenuity and cunning.  Today, in those hash places, humans are using technology to over come these challenges and be world builders.  My point is that in the face of an ambiguous Earth, one that we cannot destroy, we dictate the nature of our relationship.  As the masters of destiny we make the choices about our planet.  If we look elsewhere for answers, we will find nothing.  Other creatures may adapt their environment somewhat (I think of ants as an example) they are still incapable of the radical changes we have made.

An Ecology of Peace will be continued. Radio 2 Concert on Demand tomorrow, featuring The Empiricals, and The Flaps apparently going head to head.

Thunder and Lightning

January 12, 2009

You, me, and Emily Carr.

The Wheat Pool

Emily Carr

A new podcast will be up today.  No interview this time, but lots of me! I will leave the content as a surprise but please check it out over there –>.

Recently I travelled to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. This picturesque gallery is home to a large collection of art by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries, and native and inuit art. Obviously, I was extremely excited about it.  I particularly enjoyed the work of Lawren Harris and Emily Carr because I had never seen any of their paintings in person.  Although any collection of Canadian art is important becaue it contributes to the promotion and preservation of our national culture, the McMichael Collection is special because of its specific focus.  It is more than just the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, but less than a braod collection of art from all over the world (as is the case at larger galleries across the country.

As I was enjoying the art and reading the descriptions, I noticed that the paintings (and occasional sculpture) were donated by a wide range of people from their private collections. Some had received the art as gifts from the artists, while others had purchased them over the years.  Of course this is true of most galleries that have large permanent collections. It raised, however, the question of what is the more important role of art, as a personal memento or as a public spectacle.  I imagine most artists, like most other creative people, would prefer that their work was admired by the largest number of people.  On the other hand, selling art to private collectors is probably a better business strategy.  The real answer probably lies somewhere in between.  Not all art is not necessarily going to be treasured like the Group of Seven or Tom Thomson, and a lot of those pieces will hang in people’s homes and be passed down. I used to work in a museum that had a collection of art, most of which was donated by the local community.  The pieces were rarely displayed and instead were kept with the other artifacts.  Many of the paintings were not remarkable in any way, some were not even particularly good, but to someone they were important enough to be donated.  While this doesn’t really answer the question I considered above, I think it is safe to say that art, no matter how it is cherished is a significant cultural phenomena and personal experience.

For all you artists out there please check out this site for information about an exciting opportunity to possibly be paid for your work, and to contribute to a volunteer intiative.   Click on apply as an artist for all the info.

Beyond the Big Cities

December 31, 2008

WHen I’m making a sketch I try to emphasize the things I want and ignore the things I don’t want.

A.Y. Jackson

Canadian Landscapes

I’m sitting down today and watching a 1941 National Film Board documentary called Canadian Landscapes.  This is the story of Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson, and his work.  Specifically, it deals with a canoe trip into the north.  The north here is Northern Ontario.

We bgin with a history, geography and art history lesson.  Early paintings of the Canadian North were done by Europeans in a European style.  Then came Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.  The film gives a quick overview, with examples, of thie thoroughly Canadian art movement.  Alexander Young Jackson makes his appearance.  He looks very good for a man of his age, and is identified as the leading landscape artists of his time.  We find him working in Toronto in a building that was built for Canadian artists.  Apparently he lives in a shack with a mining prospector.  He paintswearing a tie, which is an interesting touch.

As Jackson and his companion prepare for the journey north he hopes into a canoe dressed like a coureur de bois.  It is autumn so the trees are colourful.  Since it is 1940 their tent is simple canvas, not the high tech synthetics you found on campgrounds around North America these days.

The image of an artist working in the bush is at first striking and contradictory. After all, while art often seems delicate and careful, the Canada north is rugged and dangerous. Jackson climbs on top of the Canadian Shield to overlook the river he has just travelled. The narration gives a fantastic description of the method and meaning of his work.

It is very useful to be able to watch the painting and the scene juxtaposed, so we can understand the way the artist manipulates his view to create the art.  The quote at the top of this post sums up the general Group of Seven style quite well.  It’s not about caturing exactly what is there, as A.Y. Jackson says, the scene is “the starting point” for the artists interpretation.

I should note that Jackson is working in the area of Grace Lake, Ontario at this point. Next we travel to St. Tite de Caps, in Quebec. It is spring time, though the snow is still omnpresent.  Whereas in Northern Ontario Jackson focused on the hills and trees, in Quebec he turns his attention to the barns and other elements of rural life along the St. Lawrence.  He paints little scenes as he snowshoes through the woods and fields of this tiny village.  The narrator notes the difference in Jackson’s work here in Quebec. With painting done for the day Jackson plays cards with his French-Canadian friends.

This film is intended to demonstrate and explain Jackson’s process of creating finished works.  He is constantly changing his paintings as he gains a greater understanding of the landscape he experienced.  I have to say that the work is absolutely stunning.  The variety of paintings featured shows a breadth of Jackson’s creations I was not familiar with until now.

We are taken on a visual journey across the country, a feature all NFB documentaries should contain.  The narrator speaks of the vast untamed wilderness beyond settled Canada. Although people have since encroached upon more of this space, much of it remains open and empty of human touch.  Still the work of A.Y. Jackson, and this film record of his efforts stands as a reminder of what was once the very definition of Canada.

I’m Not Your Cup of Tea

December 1, 2008

Looky looky I got Hooky!



New episode of the podcast will be up in the morning. This one features some of the music of The Mass Romantics, a discussion of volunteerism, and an interview with Dave and Crystal Fallis about the hilarious times of Pinstripe Mystery. You can find it on iTunes.

I chose to quote Hook today because it is a ridiculous and yet charming movie, and this post will be ridiculous. I want to point out some of the links I’ve added over on the side there, you know over there–>. We have Daivd Hein’s music. He’s a talented singer-songwriter from Toronto. There is also The James Clark Institute, one of my upcoming guests on The Alder Fork Podcast. His new album is great! There is also a link to The Mass Romantics, a group composed of my friend Max and his musical talents.  I have also added Lovesick Designs, which is the work of my old friend Caillin Kowalczyk.  He sells t-shirts and will do commission work as well. He is extremely talented so click on the link and discover his work. The final new link is my friend Iwona’s guide to medical testing in Toronto. Don’t laugh, lots of people make hundreds and thousands of dollars being medical guinea pigs. Check it out, even if you just want to laugh at what people will endure for money.

Alright that’s enough advertising for one day.  Has this blog become a billboard for other things? Not really. There are still a great many things to discuss.  I am interested in hearing from the readers of this blog about what specifically Canadian artists, musicians, and theatrical folk they enjoy.  With the internet it is really easy to find these people, but it must’ve been a real challenge twenty years ago. If you get a chance to travel to Ottawa I highly recommend the National Art Gallery. I was particular impressed with the Group of Seven area (no surprise given my extreme love for them).  I was blown away by the panels taken out of the MacCallum Jackman cottage.  Imagine going away to a cottage deep in the wilderness and having incredible beauty outside and inside. I wish I had the means to pay talented artists to use my house as a canvas. Art on the wall is nice, but when art is the wall, it’s even better. Really if you can get to any gallery that showcases top notch Canadian art, I’d highly recommend it.  We have a strong tradition of unique and diverse culture.

Tomorrow I want to discuss a favourite album of mine, one I’ve listened to many, many times in my life: the self-titled debut disc by Wide Mouth Mason. It’s Canadian, from the prairies, and a rock classic (at least I think so).