The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) threw open the doors to a new era this morning during a media preview of its newly renovated and expanded project gallery dedicated to exhibiting works from the National Gallery of Canada‘s permanent collection. NGC Director Marc Mayer, left, and MOCCA Artistic Director David Liss, right, made the announcement prior to an official unveiling tonight and public opening tomorrow.
Dubbed the National Gallery of Canada at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the three-year program will see the two institutions co-organize and co-present a series of exclusive exhibitions in the new space.
Jean Miso, left, is a composer and music teacher at Etobicoke’s Seneca School for children with developmental disabilities. Five years ago she wrote a simple song about the Remembrance Day poppy called “We’ll Never Forget“. Tailored specifically for her students, some of whom can only hum along, the song has a rudimentary melody and easy to follow lyrics that celebrate Canada’s war veterans.
The reaction to Miso’s tune was so positive she was encouraged to go one step further and create a book dedicated to the veterans of all of Canada’s combat and peacekeeping missions since World War I, including the current campaign in Afghanistan. Miso has taken special care to include each sector of the Canadian forces – army, navy, air force, tank force and medics – in short profiles and interviews with veterans.
“I wanted the students reading the book to see themselves reflected in its pages so I looked at ethnicity and gender for people to be used as role models. I see each of these people as a role model and excellent representative of the greater Canadian forces.”
One of the special screenings at this year’s Reel Asian International Film Festival (November 9 – 15) is Suite Suite Chinatown, a program of short films by local filmmakers examining the rich and layered significance of Chinatown(s). To discuss the program and the festival generally, I invited Reel Asian Artistic Director Heather Keung, left, to walk me through the Chinatown she knows best, the one centred around Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West.
A second-generation Chinese Canadian, Keung studied at nearby OCAD beginning in 2000 and she’s worked in the 401 Richmond arts hub since 2003, so this stretch of Spadina is truly her ‘hood. Walking north, as we cross Grange Avenue the tenor of the streetscape changes immediately, the sidewalk suddenly swells with shoppers, buggies, men loading and unloading trucks – at one point we’re nearly bowled over by a man with a whole pig slung over his shoulder.
The genesis of Suite Suite Chinatown came from Toronto-based filmmaker Aram Siu Wai Collier who was born in San Francisco, site of an even more famous Chinatown. “Aram has a really interesting perspective on the constructed idea of Chinatown as a ghettoized neighbourhood,” observes Keung. “I think second-generation Chinese in particular have a very different experience of Chinatown, a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. It’s nostalgic and it’s our heritage but it’s not our heritage.”
Toronto-based filmmaker Patrick Reed, left, is probably not the guy you want to be seated next to at a dinner party; ask him what he’s working on and you’ll find yourself discussing rape in the Congo or famine in Somalia — not everybody’s idea of a nice night out.
Reed’s latest effort, Pet Pharm, has given the doc maker a respite from the heaviness if not from the controversy; the film, which airs on CBC TV Thursday at 9 pm and on CBC News Network Friday at 10 pm, examines the provocative practice of treating animal behavioral problems with anti-anxiety drugs and mood stabilizers. “Being able to talk about the pet film has been a nice change of pace,” says the affable Reed. “I’ve discovered that a lot of people really enjoy talking about pets and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Although Reed likes to approach his subjects from a neutral position, he admits that he was initially somewhat judgmental of the idea of putting pets on Prozac. “My knee-jerk reaction was that this is a sign of the apocalypse,” he says, “an example of our overly indulgent society.”
But as Reed started digging and meeting pet owners struggling with severe behavioral issues his own opinions began to shift. “I found it fascinating,” he confirms. “I was looking at a different world, a kind of sub-culture. And both of our experts — Nicholas Dodman and Dr. Ian Dunbar — were diametrically opposed in their positions yet I liked them both, they were equally engaging. Their hearts are in the right place and while I might disagree with their position, I certainly didn’t want to make a film that misrepresented what they say or make them into simplistic versions of themselves just to fit into the story.” READ MORE
I attended an event at the Art Gallery of Ontario on a recent Wednesday evening and was amazed at the crowds taking advantage of the gallery’s weekly freebie. Every Wednesday from 6 – 8:30 pm, the AGO offers free admission to its permanent collection; special surcharged exhibitions are not included but featured exhibits like the current Shary Boyle show are.
Thanks to a special sponsorship arrangement with Fairfax Financial Holdings, Rogers Communications and Scotiabank, the AGO’s upcoming exhibition Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts (November 20 to April 3, 2011) will be free to visitors 25 years of age and under. The AGO is also free to Ontario high school students with valid student ID, Tuesday to Friday after 3 pm.
There are a number of other free admission opportunities at some of the City’s premier cultural institutions . . . READ MORE