Months of planning and countless hours of creative energy came to fruition today with the unveiling of design concepts for the new Fort York National Historic Site Visitor Centre. City Hall Committee Room 1 was packed for a lunch hour presentation that included remarks by Mayor David Miller and Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone. Special guest, Burlington MP Mike Wallace (far left), announced $4 million in federal funding for the project. The public is invited to view the designs and to comment on their favorites December 4 – 6 from 12 – 6 pm. Public reaction will be weighed along with the opinions of a panel of experts who will announce the winning design in mid-January. The short deliberation period is necessitated by the tremendously tight timeline: the $18 million Visitor Centre will help mark the bicentenary of the War of 1812, which means it must be realized in a little over two years.
Five design teams were shortlisted from a field of 31 candidates: Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc., du Toit Allsopp Hillier / du Toit Architects Limited, Patkau Architects with Kearns Mancini Architects Inc., Raw Design with Gareth Hoskins Architects. Of those five, one team bowed out of the competition, which means four designs are presently on display.
Said Mayor Miller, “The new Visitor Centre will help us further understand the place where urban Toronto began, while connecting Fort York National Historic Site to the new communities that continue to emerge around it.”
Montrealer John Heward is not a Torontonian living with culture but the musicians performing with him at MOCCA tomorrow night are. Heward’s impressive retrospective, A Trajectory / A Collection, opened at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art November 14 and augmenting his paintings and photographs is a small bank of CD players and headphones sporting a selection of recordings spanning the artist’s career.
Heward, who graciously showed me around the exhibit prior to the opening, stressed that he’s a musician rather than a sound artist. “I think musicians concentrate more on harmony, melody, rhythm, whereas, many sound artists, while they may be very trained musically, tend to be looking for a spatial context that you might not be looking for in music. My music is based largely on ’60s free jazz. Mingus is a big influence. I love bebop, I love all jazz really. I’m a drummer.”
There was nothing staid or static about Korean-Canadian artist Insoon Ha‘s exhibition launch at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art on Saturday (November 14). Ha’s show called Drain has gone up in MOCCA’s project room in tandem with a retrospective show by Montreal visual artist John Heward. About 40 people were on hand Saturday afternoon as Ha staged a performance piece in which she smeared a blank wall with chocolate before licking a series of words into the impromptu canvas. The words quickly bled back into the chocolate ground but the audience stood quitely mesmerized as the artist spelled out the words TASTE, PANT, OBEY with her tongue (see below). Chocolate dripped onto a three-dimensional tongue afixed at the bottom of the wall; Ha ended her performance by licking the tongue clean.
Leaving MOCCA last week, I happened upon installation technician Danielle Greer in deep concentration as she literally dotted the I’s on the exhibit introduction. It never occurred to me that someone had to manually apply all the fininshing touches like dots and periods to such a big, graphic display. Talk about i-strain.
Attendance was light at yesterday’s press launch for the Gardiner Museum’s new show, Bigger, Better, More: The Art of Viola Frey. Such is the fate of any event daring enough or foolish enough to fly too close to the Toronto International Film Festival. Not that Gardiner staff were especially bothered by the weak turn-out; they know they’ve got a big show on their hands and I do mean BIG.
That’s Gardiner curator Charles Q. Mason, left, staring down one of Frey’s monumental ceramic sculptures. Mason led the press tour with a spirited description of the artist’s life and work, establishing her place alongside San Francisco Bay-area artists of the 1960s like Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bishoff, as well as fellow ceramic artists and sculptors Robert Arneson and Peter Voulkos.
Mason confirms that Frey’s works aren’t just big, they’re heavy, too. He personally assembled the sculptures with the help of the late artist’s assistant Sam Perry, who worked with Frey for 17 years until her death in 2004. “Sam is probably the only person who knows how to assemble all of her works,” says Mason, “which are constructed in pieces bolted together.
The show required two trailers to haul the requisite parts across North America. From Toronto it travels to the Museum of Art and Design in New York City and then on to the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.