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News in Brief: Another Public Art Scandal in Calgary and More

Derek Besant finally apologizes for unauthorized photo use. Plus: OAAG Awards released and artists are concerned about underfunding in Toronto and Quebec

Our editors’ weekly roundup of art news.

Calgary artist Derek Besant has apologized for his unauthorized use of UK entertainers’ headshots in a public art piece. Earlier this week, UK-based comedian Bisha Ali complained on Twitter that an altered photo of her was used without her permission in the artwork. Her image was among several plastered up as part of the temporary underpass art project, called Snapshots, which has been in place for two years and cost $20,000. A friend of the comedian who lives in Canada alerted her to the photo, then Ali took to Twitter to call it out, bringing to light that images of other comedians—mainly from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival program—had been used without their or the photographers’ permission. “[From] where I’m sitting,” Ali told CBC, “it looks like these people haven’t been credited or compensated in any way for their work being used, and as an artist myself, that’s kind of bulls—t.” A day after the story hit national news outlets, Besant issued an apology, stating that he was under the impression the images were public domain. Besant’s latest account conflicts, the CBC notes, with a 2015 Avenue Magazine article suggesting that “Besant chose the 20 people at random from the pedestrians he met at the underpass.” (CBC News)

On a brighter note, perhaps, Douglas Coupland has been commissioned to create Calgary’s largest public artwork yet. Northern Lights at Telus Sky Tower will be a 160,000-square-foot LED installation consisting of 600 custom bulbs. The installation will wrap around the building’s window frames to create pixels that will form patterns and colour displays reflecting the season, key dates and city events. Beginning at sunset, the 11-minute loop will run five times per hour. The curved skyscraper is set to be the city’s third tallest building when it opens in early 2019. (press release)

Toronto artists are campaigning for the city to finally reach its goal of $25 arts funding per capita. At the eighth annual Arts Day at the City on November 23, artists met with city councillors, pointing out that the original promise to reach this funding level was made in 2003, with that promise to have been enacted by 2008. In 2017, the funding is still $2 per capita short of the goal. Montreal has already reached $78 per capita, said Metro News. (Metro News)

A Quebec group is also expressing concern about the future of arts spending in the province. In particular, the group Coalition La culture, le cœur du Québec called out the lack of comment on arts and culture in the province’s latest economic update. The province is expecting a surplus and the organization wants to make sure some of that is redirected to the arts. The group is an umbrella for some 45 organizations representing 150,000 artists and cultural workers in the province. (press release)

Newfoundland and Labrador is poised to enact Status of the Artist legislation. The Status of the Artist Act, says a government press release, is intended to enhance the recognition and support of professional artists and to ensure fair compensation. Through the act, the provincial government encourages everyone, with government departments and agencies leading by example, to pay artists fairly and equitably based on existing industry pay scales for their genre. (i.e. visual artists, writers, musicians). (press release)

The Ontario Association of Art Galleries has named its 2017 award winners. A total of 23 awards were distributed on November 27 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. The awards for Exhibition Installation and Design and Exhibition of the Year Budget over $50,000 went to Kent Monkman’s “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience” at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. The Curatorial Writing Award for Major Text over 5,000 Words went to Emelie Chhangur’s Paving it Forth for the Art Gallery of York University. And the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Doina Popescu, founding director (Retired) of the Ryerson Image Centre. (press release)

Also, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the alter ego of artist Kent Monkman, is publishing a memoir. The memoir, based on texts in Monkman’s touring exhibition “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience,” will be published in fall 2018 by McClelland & Stewart, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Monkman’s friend Gisele Gordon, who helped write the texts for the exhibition, will also be working on the book. (Toronto Star)

Two emerging Vancouver designers have won an international award for their new tool aimed at helping help Alzheimer’s sufferers. Leslie Mu and Mia Feng, who graduated from Emily Carr University of Art and Design earlier this year, won the WGSN + Arts Thread Future Creators Award New York at the WGSN Futures Summit held at the Museum of Modern Art on November 2. Their rounded, hand-held Echo design, says an ECUAD release, “integrates music therapy to comfort people with Alzheimer’s Disease and functions as a messenger of caregivers, embedded with attributes of physical interactivity.” The design was “developed with Mu’s grandfather, in his mid-late stages of Alzheimer’s, in mind. The product assists Mu and her family care for her grandfather despite living in other countries and hectic schedules.” (press release)

Award-winning artist and arts worker Kristen Fahrig has died. Fahrig, who won the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award in 2010, was a board member at CARFAC Ontario. She also won awards for her community arts projects at MacGregor Park in Toronto. Fahrig died of cancer on November 10 in Toronto. Her final body of work will be exhibited at Loop Gallery next year. (obituary)

And in case you missed it: Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch are the latest artists to participate in the Tiny House Warriors project. (Canadian Art)

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