Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fine Art and Culture in our rural urban daily lives.

When reviewing academic literature I have come across the idea that art and culture occur primarily in urban areas. Not so historically.  It is certainly not a reality in our daily lives as Canadians.

In the age of globalization and electronic communication, more and more folks can live in areas of their choosing. Quality of life choices abound and community profiles in rural and rural urban communities are shifting to include art and culture as an economic sector.

So it should not be surprising that not only have art and cultural expression always existed in rural areas, as detailed in the writings of Canadian community development scholar Jim Lotz, but the rigour of art and cultural contributions to our smaller communities is changing nationally.

For instance in October 2008 AyrSpace Gallery opened our doors as a community economic development initiative based on social enterprise – offering those in our often-ignored art and cultural sector a place to exhibit and sell their work.  After the global economic downfall a few months earlier much of our small downtown was in transition.

We were not the only small Canadian community gallery to morph out of an economic downturn. As a result of International Women Celebrate! our exhibition for the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2011, we met scores of artists from around the world. We stayed in touch with a range of Canadian artists from coast to coast. With that opportunity came the awareness of other art galleries in small communities.

Swoon Fine Art
Brandt Eisner of Swoon Gallery in Hammond Plains, Nova Scotia and Karen Gimbel of Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta have both championed destination galleries.  Both believe in the role of art in our daily lives. In fact we represent some of the same artists in our different geographies in Canada. These artists are technically astute problem solvers that compel us to see the world through their lens. They move us.

Bluerock Gallery
Karen captured the sentiment of what I believe is the key to developing a gallery that folks collect from and keep coming back to.  We, as gallerists, take the responsibility of presenting artists that demonstrate the rigour of art making as part of their everyday lives. It is that exciting component of who they are as individuals, in orchestration with their formal or informal, academic or empirical training which attracts and compels us.

‘The artists I’m most honoured to represent – are the ones who MUST make art – they really don’t have a choice.”  Karen Gimbel 2014

In fact all three of us are committed to showcasing working artists, not for only for the artworks they produce but as a catalyst of change in our society and in our local communities as a demonstration of professional creativity. Engagement is a thread in our discussion.

“Often an artist can feel like an outsider and misunderstood. Through years of being involved in the community I continue to build up a skill set in which I can not only represent other artists but also encourage and mentor them along the way. Having this personal interaction and watching artists grow and develop, impacts me just as much as it does those I work with.”  Brandt Eisner 2014

What to expect from our destination galleries in the New Year? Brandt is taking “Swoon” away from bricks and mortar. Online, Pop-up exhibitions in the Halifax Regional Municipality and guest curating are included in his new direction.

Karen is expanding the already vigorous offerings of Bluerock Gallery to included art instruction, participatory art and meaningful ways of artists interacting with their following in Alberta and beyond.

AyrSpace Gallery is exploring partnerships in new community projects, presenting two interdisciplinary shows in 2015 and continuing to introduce folks to thoughts and daily lives expressed as works of art by exceptional professionals from across Canada.

AyrSpace Gallery

Jill Yuzwa – Gallerist – AyrSpace Gallery – Ayr, Ontario Canada

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why shop at a commercial Art Gallery?

by Jill Yuzwa – Gallerist – AyrSpace Gallery – Ayr, Ontario Canada

The last few weeks in the gallery have been another period of intense learning.

I have taken the message about the quality of our offerings in the gallery for granted and thought that the levels of authenticity and accountability we adhere to would be a given in the minds of the public.

Let me explain:

I had a lovely woman in last week trying on the designs of one our silversmiths.  “These are beautiful and so nice to wear,” she said of our handcrafted meditation rings by a local silversmith. “You know I was in (another village in the region) and a ring like this was priced over twice as much…and the maker and materials were not indicated.”

“Huh”…I thought. “Why was the artist or maker not indicated?” Perhaps the ring in question was factory made, or perhaps it was not 100% sterling and the alloys or materials were not indicated.

When a ring is offered for sale at over three hundred dollars and an individual artist or maker is not credited that sends up a red flag. This situation, however, may happen when things are production made. The woman saw the other ring at a fancy clothing store, branded for it's location, not necessarily quality.

Another couple rode into the village on their motorcycle a month ago. “Paintings” they said, “We like the idea of a gallery to monitor artists for us to consider. There was a young woman who came to our door last night asking large dollars for paintings on rolled up canvas. She was not the painter, did not know who the painters were, but pitched the artwork nonetheless.”

In art galleries transparency is generally part of the protocol. Most of us don’t bring in production-made items. That would just defeat the purpose of the artist and our representation of them in our galleries.

Certainly the background of the artist must be accounted for.  Where are they educated? What does their CV look like? Have they received grants to support their work?  Have they been juried into any professional arts organizations? It all boils down to the rigor that artists and makers have put into their careers.

At AyrSpace Gallery we have followed the models of most of Canada’s art and design colleges and universities.  We embrace and offer works of visual artists: painters, fine art print-makers, sculptors, and of functional artists: ceramic artists, jewellery artists and glass artists.

The funny thing is that messaging outside of large centres is that original works at commercial galleries are prohibitive in cost. Not so. If you can afford dinners out, you can consider collecting original works.

Why not start today and support Canadian artists?

I believe in community economic development and in October 2008 put forth my own resources, with the help of fine art and business mentors, to develop a gallery of distinguished Canadian artists – AyrSpace Gallery of Visual and Functional Art in Downtown Ayr, Ontario, Canada, my hometown. This destination gallery is located the southernmost point of the Region of Waterloo minutes off Highway 401.

My undergraduate degree in landscape architecture is from an Ontario university with a highly respected Fine Art department. Studying drawing and sculpture was a requirement in landscape architecture. My advanced degree is in Local Economic Development and my current academic work encompasses global Cultural Policy shifts and Art in the Community.

Sterling silver meditation ring by Kim Kropf at AyrSpace Gallery.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

When visiting Ayr and North Dumfries...

Downtown Ayr, Ontario, Canada can be a bustling little place during the business week with its commerce, legal and health care sectors...but the best kept secret is the village's lovely calm between Christmas and New Year.

Friends and also patrons of AyrSpace Gallery have likened the winter context of Ayr to that of a Norman Rockwell (or should I say Peter Etril Snyder?) painting and I would have to agree.

This is certainly true with that Christmas feeling all around. We used to have community bonfires and sing Christmas Carols in this very park!

The truth is anytime is a great time to visit Ayr. It is a special place (and I have written a lot about place...) where authenticity still rings true - most of the inhabitants or business people in the buildings are the owners/stewards of the buildings.

This year the Explore Waterloo Region website Explore Waterloo Region - Ayr/North Dumfries suggested that our community, "is a unique and quick get away from the urban hustle and bustle."

I hope in 2014 that you will be encouraged to visit our 'little winter village' as I have lovingly referred to my hometown...even if you come in Spring or Fall.

In the quiet hours of early morning this New Year's Day I walked with my dog toward this park and noticed an Airporter creeping south into Downtown Ayr on Northumberland Street.

My mind flashed back to all the years I was part of the Christmas travel rush back and forth from a frenetic California lifestyle of 16 hour workdays and the after meeting freeway gridlock between Orange County and Los Angeles.

I was delighted with the realization that this van, which would shortly make its way to Pearson Airport, was not intended for me.