Since 2000, the Canada Council for the Arts has presented the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts to over 100 individuals nominated by peers for their achievements and contributions to Canadian contemporary art. Even though the recipients listed below were awarded individually, many belong to the collectives at the root of the artist-run movement.
Vera Frankel (2006), for instance, has been involved in artist-run centres (arcs) all of her career. There are also many artists and curators (from arcs) who worked at the Canada Council; and many more who directed arcs and who then went on to manage, curate and administer public galleries and museums. “This would be the longest list,” remarks Clive Robertson.
However, recognition for artists comes in many forms. For instance, Council’s international residencies, established long ago in a few major cities and discontinued as of this year, offered more than just accommodation. Artist Romeo Gongora, the last recipient of the London Studio, argues in a letter to Council that these structures have become symbols of achievement for a long lineage of Canadian artists. What is lost with this discontinuation of an opportunity for professional development, renewal and increased visibility? Without analysis, it’s not clear what exactly is at stake.
In the strategic development ofinternational programs, what role will be assigned to artists, and to arts organizations supported by Council, such as artist-run centres, art magazines and publishing? Are these structures part of this strategic development? If so, how?
Anne Bertrand, Director
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List of recipients mostly rewarded individually, many of whom belonged to the collectives at the root of the artist-run movement:
AA Bronson (2002) created Art Metropole in 1974, for the exhibition, publishing and distribution of artists' books, multiples and videos;
Ian Carr-Harris (2007) among the first members of A Space Gallery (1971) one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada;
Peggy Gale (2006) Co-Director Art Metropole, Executive Director, A Space (1979–81)
Jamelie Hassan (2001) aligned with London's Forest City Gallery and Embassy Cultural House in the 1970s and 1980s, where she actively contributed along with artist/partner Ron Benner;
Suzy Lake (2016), Bill Vazan (2016), Tom Dean (2012) are among the 13 founding members of Véhicule Art in Montréal in 1972; Suzy Lake also played a role in the creation of the Toronto Photographers Workshop (Toronto, 1978);
Tanya Mars (2008) helped found Powerhouse in Montreal in 1973, one of the first feminist art collectives in Canada and edited Parallelogramme from 1976 to 1989;
Eric Metcalfe (2008) and Michael Morris (2011), in 1973, co-founded Western Front, an artist-run centre in Vancouver;
Edward Poitras (2002) co-founder of Sâkêwêwak First Nations Artists' Collective in 1993;
Suzanne Rivard Le Moyne (2003) when at the Canada Council, awarded the first grants to artist-run centres in 1973;
Tom Sherman (2010) Curator, A Space Video and co-founding editor with Lisa Steele (2005) of FUSE magazine;
Lisa Steele & Kim Tomczak (2005) co-founded Toronto’s V tape artists’ cooperative (Vtape), in 1982;
Paul Wong (2005) was instrumental in the founding of two artist-run centres in Vancouver: Satellite Video Exchange (Video-In) in 1973 and On Edge in 1985.
Thank you, merci, meegwetch - Mideway in my career, where I consider myself to be, I still rely on the artist-run system, where I hang out, speak with colleagues, other artists, meet the public, use the washroom, use the computer, make a phone call, use their telephone, so I think that for me, being an artist is a job; so I see it as my job. And over the years, I’ve struggled financially as most artists do and it’s kind of an up and down ride: sometimes you have money, sometimes you don’t have money. Today I have money. I am very happy.
—Rebecca Belmore, Governor General award press conference thank-you speech, Montreal, march 2013
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On the transformation of the International Residency program
at the Canada Council for the Arts
Regarding the cancellation of leases with residences in six major cities: Paris, London, Sydney, Berlin, New York and Santa Fe in favour of greater flexibility, read the following statement issued by the Visual Arts section of the Canada Council.
> And articles (in French only) published in Le Devoir on March 4 and on March 12.
Artist Romeo Gongora, last recipient of the London residency grant, sent a letter to the Canada Council last January requesting existing programs be maintained. He copied the letter to ARCA on March 8.
Gongora expresses surprise that the new model includes cancelling leases with the current residencies and the introduction of a program that requires the artist find his or her own residency location for a maximum grant of $20,000, including lodging. This new program gives more artists a greater freedom of choice. But, drawing from his own experience with residencies over the previous 10 years, he wonders about the impact of the decision over the short and longer terms for the following reasons:
The artist will be responsible for negotiating the terms of the programs, rentals, and other agreements, increasing the administrative load of the artist;
Artists will be exposed to greater risk in dealing with unequal structures and the absence of historical partnership between the residence and the funding body to represent the artist;
Artists with less experience and no network will be at a disadvantage under the new program;
Reducing budgets will no longer offer artists the possibility of a long-term residency such as the Kunstlerhauss Bethanien in Berlin ($35,500 for 1 year, exhibition and lodging costs included) or Acme Studios, London ($23,500 for 6 months, promotion and lodging costs included) par le CAC), and La Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris ($21,000 for 6 months, lodging included);
Reducing the budget will promote shorter term residencies, which will impact the quality of research, the development of collaborations and networking;
In the network of international artists, paying residencies listed in Res Artis and other online resources can greatly vary in quality and notoriety in the visual arts milieu;
Discontinuing the agreements with international partners also has an impact on those structures that rely on the stable revenues of the program. The new program encourage a more individualistic approach that may lead to greater precariousness for the artists and an insistence on quantity rather than quality, and overall, less stability. (R.G.)
Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference wishes to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for its support. / La Conférence des collectifs et des centres d’artistes autogérés reconnaît l'appui financier du Conseil des arts du Canada.