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News / July 21, 2017

News in Brief: Beloved Atlantic Curator Dies, Statue of Halifax Colonial Founder Shrouded, Rodney Graham Directs Saint Etienne Video

The Atlantic arts community mourns the loss of curator, writer and arts administrator Mary MacDonald
Curator, writer and activist Mary MacDonald. Curator, writer and activist Mary MacDonald.

Our editors’ weekly roundup of Canadian art news.

Atlantic Canada’s arts community is mourning the loss of curator, artist, writer and organizer Mary MacDonald, who died on July 18 at 32 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. Among the many projects she spearheaded, MacDonald was director of Eastern Edge Gallery from 2012 to 2015; organized the W(here) Festival in her hometown of Pictou, Nova Scotia; and founded Girls Rock NL, a free-to-attend summer camp that provides self-identified female youth with mentorship opportunities and teaches them how to write, play and perform music. MacDonald was also well known in Toronto, where she lived while completing an MFA in criticism and curation at OCAD University and working at C Magazine. In 2014, she was included in Blouin ARTINFO’s 2014 list of Canada’s 30 Under 30 art influencers. In an obituary published on, arts administrators, curators and artists grieve the loss of a devoted visionary who was committed to exhibiting and advocating for Atlantic artists. “She was emotionally invested in Atlantic Canada and people saw it…. She was definitely trusted,” said Michael McCormack, a Halifax-based multidisciplinary artist and artistic director of Flotilla, an upcoming conference for Canadian artist-run centres, which MacDonald curated.

Almost 200 protesters and onlookers watched and cheered on July 15 as municipal crews shrouded a bronze statue of Halifax’s colonial founder, Edward Cornwallis, with a black tarp. The protest was led by Mi’kmaq elders and organizers of the Facebook group “Removing Cornwallis,” who say that the statue represents genocide and obstructs reconciliation. Though organizers of the Facebook group called for the toppling of the statue, Mi’kmaq elders wanted its removal to be symbolic and peaceful. “Removing Cornwallis” organizer Suzanne Pattles has called for the group’s official demands to be met by October 1, the beginning of Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.

British band Saint Etienne released a music video for their new track “Heather,” directed by Vancouver artists Rodney Graham and Shannon Oksanen. The band says the video was inspired by Enfield Poltergeist, a case of supernatural activity reported by two preteen girls in the Home Counties in the 1970s.

The Salt Spring National Art Prize (SSNAP), a national biennial visual-art competition, announced finalists from across the country on July 19. Finalists are in the running for the grand prize of $17,000, with seven more awards amounting to $30,000 in prize money. The jury consists of David Garneau, associate professor of visual arts at the University of Regina; Denis Longchamps, artistic director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Burlington; and Naomi Potter, the director of Calgary’s Esker Foundation. Finalists include painter Jamie Bradbury from Montreal, textile artist Meghan Price from Toronto, painter Kae Sasaki from Winnipeg and photographer and performance artist Tia Halliday from Calgary.

Last week, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition awarded $40,000 in prizes to artists who “demonstrated excellence, originality, workmanship and innovation in their practice.” Categories included 3-D works, craft and design, jewelry, photography and digital media, painting and ceramics. Some judges were Olga Korper, owner of Olga Korper Gallery, Tiana Koffler Boyman, chair of the Koffler Centre for the Arts, and Denis Longchamps, artistic director and chief curator at Art Gallery of Burlington, among others. Some of the prize winners: Daniel St. Amant won best of exhibition, Layne Verbeek and Chason Yeboah won the founding chairman’s award, and Mary Philpott was awarded for best of 3-D works.