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Lindsay Sorell
2017 Critic's Picks
December 13, 2017

Bronze bronco-bucking-cowboys and chubby-upset-businessmen sculptures pass by as the gaping division between Calgary’s colonial corporate arts and its actual arts becomes glaringly evident. Fraudulent rip-offs of the Fringe Festival brochure, flippant hundreds of thousands of dollars, continued evidence of a permeating detachment from the local Indigenous history and the culture of its rightful people – it is an understatement to say this has been a tough year.

Calgary’s Public Art Program aims to acquire “great public art that impacts Calgary’s urban landscape and transforms the way Calgarians see, think, and experience the city around them.” If this is true, we need fewer sculptures of shapeless blobs and white dudes riding stallions, and more help from the thriving and diverse community of actual artists and writers who are a part of this city. To ethically represent the city’s culture, the corporate arts and the actual arts need to be sutured.

Here are my top three stitches for 2017:

1. I propose that a list of all the Calgary artists who exhibit work in the year 2018 be compiled. Each artist is asked to submit a public artwork idea under $75 000 and be a member of the Public Art Panel 2018. Once formed, the panel selects ten of their own public art ideas to present to the public and passes them along as a pamphlet to the door of every residence in Calgary. Each person selects three favoured artworks from the list and mails their selection back in an attached stamped envelope (subsidized by The City, of course). Alternatively, the person can make their selection – and view more information and other language translations – via web-poll (link provided on pamphlet). The committee of artists then tallies the vote and commissions the most-voted-for artist to complete the work.

New York artist Del Geist’s The Bowfort Towers installed along the Trans Canada Highway elicited immediate criticism from the Indigenous community

2. As a somewhat easier option, I propose that every citizen of Calgary apply to be a Public Art Selection Panel member. You can join as an artist or as a community member. Each public art panel is made up of only seven people: three community members, one city employee from the commissioning business unit, and three arts professionals – so each voice would be very important.

3. The Stoney Nakoda Nation – Bearspaw, Wesley, and Chiniki bands – submitted an official application to the Alberta Geographical Names Program in October to change 160 place-names back to the traditional names given them by the Stoney Nakoda people. This would be a crucial step in the preservation of the Stoney Nakoda culture and language, as well as a method for describing the origins and stories of our landscape and dismantling a colonial consciousness. I propose that artists, curators, and administrators only be allowed to introduce their art opening, reading, or screening by acknowledging their presence on Treaty 7 land on the condition that they write a letter to their counsellor arguing for Calgary to go back to its original name: Wichispa Oyade (loosely translates to “elbow town” or the gathering of places and cultures at the elbow). They must write a letter every time they introduce something until it happens.

Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.



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