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News / March 19, 2020

News Roundup: Shutdowns Felt Across the Country’s Arts Sector

Artists and communities are coping with lost livelihoods, facilitating mutual aid and moving projects online
Cole Swanson’s <em>The Hissing Folly</em> (still), 2020. Video, 5 min 54 sec. Documentation: Jamie A. McMillan. This work, installed as part of an exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, has been made viewable online. Cole Swanson’s The Hissing Folly (still), 2020. Video, 5 min 54 sec. Documentation: Jamie A. McMillan. This work, installed as part of an exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, has been made viewable online.

From coast to coast, preventative measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 have developed rapidly in the past week. With the necessary closures of public spaces, including many museums, galleries, theatres, city libraries, schools and university campuses, and the cancellations of performances, events and major festivals, it’s difficult to predict the impact on Canada’s arts sector. In the midst of all this, communities have begun direct-funding groups to support artists and other precarious workers who have lost their livelihoods, and are finding ways to move their art and social experiences online.

The Canada Council for the Arts and CARFAC advise all artists to document revenue losses related to COVID-19 cancellations. Both the CCA and CARFAC say they are working with the federal government on possible ways to help the arts sector; more information is available on the CCA’s new COVID-19 information page. All travel-related CCA grant activities have also been suspended. (Canada Council for the Arts, CARFAC National)

Community care and emergency funding groups have formed to aid arts workers suffering income losses. Funds accepting donations and applications include Glad Day Bookshop’s survival fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers and tip-based workers (link to donate) and COVID-19 GTA Black Emergency Support Fund. The Emergency Fund for Toronto’s Precarious Workers is now closed after aiding one hundred people, but available to consult on how to begin your own funding programs. Other initiatives include Soutien à/de la communauté culturelle québécoise – COVID-19 and the Artist + Arts Directory in Vancouver: COVID 19. For more, the Margin of Eras Gallery has compiled an up-to-date list of resources.

Artists and institutions are moving projects online while physical spaces remain closed. Cole Swanson’s The Hissing Folly (2020), installed at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, is now viewable virtually. Randy Lee Cutler’s new audio work, Rock Album vol. 1, which was commissioned by the Sydney Biennale 2020 NIRIN as part of “Mineral Collection,” a project exploring the presence of minerals in daily life, is now online. Dubai-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who performed at the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, has made three films available online until exhibiting venues reopen. Sky Hopinka has made all his short films freely available online too. The International Festival of Films on Art, originally cancelled in Montreal, has moved their 38th edition online. And the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has announced a daily morning ritual in cultural offering on its social media pages.

For more virtual viewing, consider these platforms and exhibitions: The National Film Board of Canada has more than 4,000 documentaries, feature-length films and cartoons for kids available free, including a robust Indigenous cinema collection. For video artworks, satire and experimental programming, tune in to BUMP TV’s online rotation, modelled after public access television. An online exhibition hosted by Walter Phillips Gallery might hold new meaning in these times: “A distinct aggregation / A dynamic equivalent / A generous ethic of invention: Six writers respond to six sculptures” thinks about accessibility, remote viewing/listening and the practice of visual description through putting spoken word to sculpture.

If you know about a project, exhibition, screening or event that has moved online due to CV-19, please tell us about it. Submit your current or upcoming projects to our Agenda listings, from which we select Editors’ Picks, or pitch us your ideas for reviews, features or other online content.