Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The HUNGER 9: Best Entertainment Gig in Town - Happy Halloween

Riley Mcmanus stars in The Hunger 9 as Edward Scissorhands in Definitely Superior Art Gallery's mega fundraiser.
One of the best-organized events in town, happening this Friday, is an example of how local business and the arts can collaborate to make memorable experiences for thousands of people while earning money for the host venues and raising money for the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, supporting its alternative art shows and youth programs.
     In its ninth year The Hunger has a couple new venues and expects to top a 4,250 mark for the number of attendees, some of who plan for weeks, even months in advance to design and fabricate their costumes.
     There are eight venues, Gargoyles, Black Pirates Pub, Crocks, A Little to the Left, The Read Lion Smokehouse, The Sovereign Room, The Foundry and the big “dancehall” called Hell, found through the side doors of the old Eaton’s building on Park St.
     Each person or group attending will be creating their own entertainment experience because much of the entertainment runs simultaneously in different venues. This gives you options. Director of the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, David Karasiewicz says, “It’s hard to express in terms people understand… everyone will walk away with their own story that they created for that night. They will have eight separate stories to tell, not including the stories in the streets between the venues which is something incredible on its own.”
    David describes the Hunger where its events are condensed into six hours, as bigger in terms of performance, than the largest weekend long music festivals that Thunder Bay has in the summer. With 56 performance acts and 44 bands, both local and from across the country, you have to make a little effort to pick which bands and acts you want to see, since you can’t see them all. And if you’re with friends, a little democracy or flip of the coin will be necessary. You may want to check out the DefSup Facebook page, “The Hunger 9” to make your choices. The cost is only $15.00 to access all eight venues, which you can pick up at any venue. You will get a Multi-Pass and Wristband.
     There were complaints last year that people couldn’t get into the smaller venues where lines were slow moving. Hell will be the easiest venue to access, as it is the biggest with 10,000 square feet of space. A trick is to go early and either plant yourself in one spot all night, which doesn’t take advantage of all that is offered, or roam all the venues and go for the ones that are easy to access first. Making a plan is great, but prepare to be versatile.
     This is a great time to check out Thunder Bay’s local bands. They go all out for their audience. In fact what any musician, or any performer loves is a big audience. The acts will go all out when the room is packed. So you will get a great opportunity to see talent at its best and boldest. 
     The biggest act of all, of course, is the audience. No matter where you go, even if you have to stand in line for a bit, you will be entertained. Prizes will be given out in the venues and in the street. Young people will go all out to have fun, join in, and in some cases, really impress with their creative costume. Costumed attendees will be everywhere.

     For older people, if you feel a little shy joining in and wearing a costume, which isn’t necessary, you may want to do a slow drive-by on Friday night. “Slow” because there will be students traipsing around in costumes, some with a little of the drink in them, and finding it difficult to see.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

First Big Juried Show at the TBAG in Ten Years, and the Annual Walkabout Tour

     Tomorrow night the grand opening for a juried exhibition called The North Now begins at 7:30pm at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. It’s the gallery’s first juried show in ten years, and the first time the gallery has looked to represent the entire Northern region.
     Some names will be familiar and there will likely be a few surprises. This is also likely to be a very good show as the quality of art produced in and around Thunder Bay has been growing over the years due to younger artists keeping roots, due to the City’s mandate to beautify Thunder Bay, part of which offers up competitions for local artists.
      For the last eight years the Ontario Arts Council has been supporting the North with their Northern Ontario Arts programs, instrumental in allowing artists of our region to explore their métier, to start new projects or complete them. The OAC also supports artistic venues and the installation process of new works. With this support, younger artists across the region have have found their hometowns to be a viable alternative to leaving for cities where the cost of living is high. Older established artists have also been able to try out new tricks. As a result, this exhibition will feature new works from a range of artists of different ages from diverse backgrounds and locations who will have the OAC to thank.
     There could be some controversy as juried exhibitions elicit all sorts of commentary from people who feel that this or that artist’s work should or shouldn’t have been represented. If you’re not the one feeling burnt, this can be a provocative or entertaining aspect of a juried exhibition, so the Thunder Bay Art Gallery has to be commended for their courage and setting up a fair jurying process.
     The show runs from October 24 to January 4, 2015. More information can be found at
    This coming weekend, Friday to Sunday, the annual Walkabout Tour features a couple changes to the roster of artists who will be displaying their works in their homes and studios. This tour takes place with a somewhat circular route encompassing a few blocks around Hillcrest and Waverly Park, so it is a delightful walk with an opportunity to Christmas shop and meet the artists. Information can be downloaded and maps can be copied at:
     This year the tour is in commemoration of Alison Kendal who passed away in August. Alison was a former and active member. There was some discussion about having Alison’s studio open for the tour, but it’s a little too soon after her husband’s loss to consider it this year, mostly because organizing the prodigious amount of work that Alison created will be a long process.
     A few of the artists are trying out new styles. Luke Nicol is back this year with bolder and brighter landscape paintings. Sculptor Chris Stones and ceramicist Kasia Piech both have more contemporary and somewhat surreal works for sale.
     Potters are notoriously secretive about their techniques, especially for glazes. Sara Link is trying out some wonderful new glazes on classically styled pottery. Liz and Peter Powlowski have lots of new pieces that are both functional and decorative. Tim Alexander is always exploring and has given an edge to his functional pieces. He says, “a new branch of my work will explore geological and environmental themes in a series I've coined Ring of Fire. It consists of a variety of large heavily textured platters in different shapes and sizes.” You can ask how he does it, but don’t expect a direct answer.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Rock Art hits Red River Road and KAPOW the Naysayers Go Wild

     The enablers of this serendipitous event were all smiles despite a sudden burst of protest from three very vocally agitated naysayers. They complained that the delivery trucks no longer had easy drop-off points, that the sculpture was yet another waste of public money and bound to be vandalized.
     The naysayers couldn’t be bothered to get the facts, and when there were attempts to offer the facts, during their loud ranting, they weren’t interested. Some people simply don’t like change, and don’t want to understand. They have their worldview and no one is going to change it. It’s especially hard to do so when they stomp around in circles looking angry, and yell as opposed to listening. It was funny to see how the two children ignored the ranting and fondly ran their hands over the stone.
     The Waterfront District BIA was planning to put a couple big planters and a garbage pail where the big rock was carefully placed by crane on Friday. The BIA wanted to ensure that the path between the Scotia Bank and the Daily Grind coffee shop wasn’t continually used as an alley drop off point for delivery trucks.
     It is a pedestrian walkway, which is supposed to be a safe passageway. The potential for an accident and lawsuit was nearing. A young employee at the Daily Grind regularly hears complaints from customers who have near misses with the delivery trucks. Scotiabank customers have similar complaints.
     Fortunately, the planter and garbage can was only a stopgap. Fortuitously, a couple days before, Don Bayes a new member of the BIA, and operator of Art’s Gallery on St. Paul Street, came up with an alternative solution. One of the artists with work at the gallery, John David Hart, was meeting at Rooster’s Bistro with the supplier of his stone, Howard Pilstner of 23 Aurolite Mine. John and Howard strolled into Art’s Gallery and during the conversation John said he would like to donate a big piece to the city. KAPOW! Don got inspired and mentioned the problem with the walkway. Howard too liked the idea and was willing to donate the rock. Contact with the BIA and the City was made and bang, done deal.
     Don chortles when he mentions the speed at which it all came together. “72 hours, man!” And who paid for the delivery of the stone? “The BIA had to foot the bill to float the stone out of the mine before the snow flew,” says Don, grinning. “Cost the taxpayers nothin’”
 When the 4,000lb rock was released from its straps it was immediately fawned over by a couple children. Passersby took pictures and video. The amount of quartz and amethyst visible on its surface was pretty extraordinary.
     John Hart got out his grinders and went to work over the next couple days, carving and shaping and applying other stone pieces to the bigger rock with rebar and construction adhesive. He carved in the shapes of traditional Ojibwa spirit animals: owls, fish, turtles, eagle feathers and more.  
     As a work of art, the stone had a lot to say before it was carved. In it’s own way the earthly spirit of a 1.5 billion year old creation could be left to its own devices, to speak of its ponderous yet beautiful evolutionary geological formation. But there are lots of big rocks in Northwestern Ontario that can speak to this.
     However, John lets the stone do most of the speaking. His approach to sculpture is physically shallow, allowing the shape and nature of the rock to present itself. He hasn’t carved the rock in its entirety to look like anything representational. It’s as if nature had a pact with the artist that neither would intrude too much on the other.
     John allowed the rock to be rough, to be unpredictable in shape, to be blocky and unformed in parts. This gives a graffiti feel to John’s etchings and additions, as if overly creative hikers in a park had taken their time to scratch in animal symbols and then stood stones upon one another.
     The stone and sculpture will have its fans and detractors, but two groups of people who have taken to it immediately are children and many First Nations people, who will stand and thoughtfully admire the work.
     The young women at the Local Grind have decided to take it upon themselves to throw water on the base of the sculpture as a couple of the aforementioned naysayers have decided to piss on it on a daily basis so far. If the police can, it would be good to catch these jackasses in the act. Downtown is for everyone.

     And if you don’t mind, I’m going to plug my own art show! I’m helping out the Habana Gallery, 118 North Cumberland, with some exposure. Tomorrow night at 7:30 I have a gala opening for portrait and figurative works of mostly local people at the gallery. The show will run for a month or so. The gallery is located across from the former Cumberland Cinema Centre.