I should have posted a Nuit Blanche update months ago, but there had been so much movement over that time things never felt settled enough that it made sense to post an update. With recent events however now seemed to be the best time to let everyone know what’s going on.
Here’s the whole story:
On December 9, 2009 I saw a tweet from a friend in Toronto saying Scotiabank Nuit Blanche was now accepting applications for the 2010 festival. I retweeted saying something like “why don’t we have this in #yyc?”. My tweet was then retweeted and echoed by about 10 Calgarians. I thought to myself, what does 10 retweets really mean? What sort of support does that translate to? And so I put together a Google Docs form asking people to provide their details if they “might be interested in helping plan or attending a Nuit Blanche in Calgary.”
In two days 150 people had signed up.
Suddenly I was faced with a reality: that’s a pretty good critical mass, but what’s the next step to make a Nuit Blanche in Calgary a reality?
I thought about it and realized with my contacts in the arts I could at the very least get the right people in the room to talk about it. And with 200 people (where the list ended at after about five days) we knew there were people who wanted it in our City.
So that week in December I met with two people from Calgary Arts Development and pitched them the idea. And then I met with five people from the Calgary Downtown Association. And then a few others I know in corporate community investment, and even Michael Green from the High Performance Rodeo. Everyone said the same thing: it’s a great idea and we should make it happen.
Obviously I couldn’t do it on my own – not to mention I didn’t have any interest in organizing a festival – but buoyed by the 200 names on the list I felt I should at least see it through. As luck would have it toward the end of my meeting with CADA, Karen Ball mentioned that I should talk to a friend of hers. He had mentioned to her before that he thought Calgary should have a Nuit Blanche, but – I’m paraphrasing her words – he didn’t know the kind of people needed to make it happen. But she thought he and I would counter balance each other because I knew the people and he knew Nuit Blanche. He knew it so well in fact, because he had curated a zone at the Toronto Nuit Blanche for two years.
Email introductions were exchanged and a few days later I was sitting in the Auburn Saloon with a pint of Grasshopper in my hand across from Wayne Baerwaldt – a complete stranger. We chatted a little bit about our backgrounds: me in arts marketing, him the curator and director of the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design, before quickly getting to the point of our meeting. I must have talked for 10 or 15 minutes straight, laying out everything I knew about making Nuit Blanche in Calgary a reality, everything I learned from the half dozen or so meetings I had the week previous. When I was finally out of breath, Wayne asked one or two simple questions, which, if I remember correctly, I answered surprisingly succinctly, and then he said “okay, let’s do it.” I was taken aback by how easy it was to get him on board, but I did nothing more than put my hand out to shake his. I had a partner.
And a partner who is knowledgeable too. A month or so after that we had a tour of Stephen Avenue with Janet Jessiman, the manager of Stephen Ave from CDA, Karen Ball from CADA, David Down, senior architect with the City of Calgary, and Paula Dozois, a prof from MRU and a friend of Wayne’s. Following our hour and a half tour, it was decided that Stephen Ave was the place and the festival should probably run from City Hall to Bankers’ Hall with two major installations per block. Ideas for big brought in installations were exchanged, as were ideas for smaller projects undertaken by local artists. (That’s not to say some of the big installations won’t be done by local groups however.)
Things were getting real and it was time to become real. In order to apply for funding we needed to become an official not-for-profit society and we needed five directors to do that. Wayne approached Paula, and we also added Rita Mckeough and Diana Sherlock, both instructors from ACAD. We had our first meeting at Paula’s house on April 24 and the paperwork was filed by lawyer Tyler Shandro (who was one of the original ‘re-tweeters’), arriving in Edmonton on May 11.
Last week it became official as the Certificate of Incorporation from the Alberta government landed in my inbox.
We are moving forward with a target of September 2011 for the first Nuit Blanche Calgary.
Grants are about to be applied for, but in our first VERY rough budget we estimate it will take $300,000 in cash to make the kind of splash we think a first year needs to have. Potential sponsors will be approached soon. The plan is being developed. Identifying our needs at the same time as applying for funding.
Wayne has already had meetings with Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto about ways that we might be able to work together, and he’s just returned from Berlin where he spoke with organizers of their Nuit Blanche.
We’re serious about making this happen – even if I’ll need to take a step back soon lest I be suddenly “organizing a festival” like I said back in December that didn’t want to do. But we’ll need your help soon to make it all a reality!
So if you haven’t done so already please fill out this form: http://bit.ly/nuitblanchecalgary. It’s still the original form that started it all.
And please share the link with your friends!
The case of the missing question mark, or How it’s important to remember no one on Council is ‘evil’
We all make mistakes. They happen. But we need to be man enough to admit them when we do.
One of the things that I value most about having a blog that is followed by as many people as this one is the number of comments or emails or tweets that I get about it telling me how the writer agrees with me, or how they disagree but see my point. It’s important to have both sides of this equation to maintain perspective, balance and a foot firmly planted in reality. (Never believe your own hype.) I try my best to break down the hyperbole – and sometimes hypocrisy – that often comes with our political landscape. To do this all one really has to do is take a step back, peel back the layers, and rationally examine the situation step-by-step. Almost always you will find Occam’s razor holds true.
Last week I wrote a blog post called ‘Council playing politics with the Pumphouse’. I received a lot of positive feedback about the post – more than usual – and so thought I must have hit the nail on the head. It was a few days later that I got an email from a friend who noticed my post was unusually pointed and didn’t have the same sort of level-headedness I usually try to apply to an issue. It was the lone dissenter. None-the-less I decided to take him up on his suggestion to go back to the Administration report and re-read it. Mistake number one: I didn’t read it to begin with. I inferred – albeit mostly correctly – from other people heavily involved what was in it. The nuances of the report however do paint a slightly different picture of what probably happened in the Committee meeting.
The most important thing I saw in the report is that despite my understanding that the Province pulling their funding not being the impetuous for the Pumphouse returning to Council for another $2 million, the largest paragraph in the entire report focused on this aspect. Upon reading that I can only think to myself, no wonder a couple of the aldermen had a lot of questions about this. If it’s given a great amount of weight in the report, it’s fair to think it’s going to get a great amount of attention during questioning.
The second thing that I noticed was that the report was anything but clear. You can probably sense my confusion in my original blog post about whether this ask was another $2 million or just the top up to the total $4 million that was previously approved. I can only imagine the aldermen were stuggling with the same issue. The report does not make this clear. Here is the very first sentence of the report:
Under CPS2006-45, 2006 September 18, Council approved the facility expansion project, in principle, based on the evaluation completed by the Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA) on behalf of The City of the Calgary, subject to the conditions outlined in Attachment 4 and to submit a Request for Expenditure for the Pumphouse capital project to the Infrastructure Coordinating Committee totalling $2 million, to determine project and financing priority, in accordance with the approved 2007-08 Multi-Year Capital Budget process and since the Pumphouse Theatre is a heritage building, direct Administration to investigate other potential sources of funding.
Note that’s not the first paragraph; that’s the first SENTENCE.
Even in areas where the Pumphouse project has a clear advantage, the report doesn’t do a great job of outlining things. For example, every Administration report comes with a triple bottom line assessment. In this report the “Social” assessment is only twelve words: “The project will increase artistic incubator and rehearsal space capacity in Calgary.” That’s it? The Pumphouse is a catalyst for an entire industry’s basic training; every theatre artist has worked there as they started out! The Pumphouse has a waiting list for users twice as big as they have capacity to house. And the social impact of this vital cultural icon is summed up in twelve words? Again, no wonder the questioning skipped over this line of inquiry all together.
One other area that surprises me is the “Risks” section which says, “Pumphouse will be required to submit its project business plan… for Administration’s full due diligence review…” If I were an alderman the first question I’d have is: what are we waiting for? Why is the business plan not included as an attachment now? With a statement like this, I can certainly see how the committee would not want to approve anything until they had seen the business plan.
As a matter of fact the entire project description and funding breakdown is only one page long. When it is juxtaposed against the previous page saying Administration (not even Council, at that) will see a business plan later, this page looks woefully short for $2 million. There simply is not as much detail as there could have been – which opens the door for more questions. For example, it lists “Government of Canada” as a contributor. Aldermen had every right to be wary of how strong the fed’s commitment might be if the Province pulled out so easily. It’s the lack of detail here that is the issue. I’m told the Province pulled out easily because it was a one off commitment from a department. The GoC commitment isn’t going anywhere, because that money is being allocated through a granting program. One is a well-defined funding system, the other carries as much weight as a handshake from an MLA.
If the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, I should never have bought into the hype that Council is playing politics with this proposal. At the very least the title of my last post should have had a question mark on the end: “Council playing politics with the Pumphouse?”
So the question is what does this change in the content of my first post? The answer is ‘not much’. Everything I said still holds water, I just have a much better understanding as to why the recommendations “got a rough ride”.
I still hope as many supporters of the Pumphouse expansion project come out to the Council Meeting on Monday. The only difference is they do not need to be their to show their defiance at the evils of aldermen who are out of touch with the basics of their job, instead they should simply be there to illustrate how important the Pumphouse is to them.
Hopefully the crowd won’t make the same mistake I did.
And hopefully Administration, the Pumphouse Theatres, and Calgary Arts Development have been hard at work getting all the questions asked at committee answered so Council has all the information they need to approve the $2 million on Monday.
20 images, 20 seconds, 200 cities, 2,000 presentations, 200,000 people.
In a matter of seconds, thousands of lives and dreams were destroyed in Haiti. Now, the global PechaKucha network is joining with Architecture for Humanity to help rebuild Haiti, 20 seconds at a time.
On February 20th, 2010, the 280 cities that host PechaKucha events worldwide will converge to present one continuous edition of PechaKucha Night. Kicking off in Tokyo, the presentation wave will travel eastward, with cities presenting one after the other. Crossing all times zones and cultures, the event will be streamed live online.
Please save the date for Calgary’s contribution to this historic global event, which will be centered on the theme of rebuilding. Speakers include Calgary architects, planners, individuals and organizations at the forefront of disaster relief and rebuilding efforts around the world.
Saturday, February 20 at 7:00pm
Conoco Phillips Theatre, Glenbow Museum, 130 9th Ave. SE
Tickets available for a suggested donation of $20 at the door or in advance. All proceeds will go to Architecture for Humanity for rebuilding Haiti.
Additional donations may be made at ArchitectureForHumanity.org.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit CalgaryCulture.com/PKNForHaiti.
About PechaKucha Nights:
Devised and shared by Klein Dytham Architecture in 2003 as a place for designers, developers and architects to meet, network and show their work in public, PechaKucha Nights are now taking place in 280 cities around the world. The format is simple: speakers present 20 slides each, for 20 seconds per slide. Calgary Arts Development has an agreement to host PechaKucha Nights in Calgary and will be hosting several PechaKucha Nights over the course of the year.
Also available on the Calgary Herald’s Q.
The recent “resignation” of Jeffrey Spalding from the Glenbow Museum has created a new call for a gallery of contemporary art. The Herald is all over it. And I’ve had several of my colleagues bring up the thought as well since Spalding’s departure.
The Herald article is the one I find the most interesting however. The first thing I see is they talk to the IMCA pushers (the group that tried their damnedest to secure the old AGT building on 6 Ave SW for the gallery a couple years back) and they mention the $165 million the City of Calgary has available currently as a possible starting point. Yes, that is a good fund to draw from, but you didn’t make it to the short list last year – assuming you put in an application. The money won’t help you if you don’t ask for it. But first you need to get organized better. This is the one over riding thing I’ve heard from people: the group is a high profile group but not well situated to lead the creation of a new gallery. Trust me: after being part of building two new cultural space in the city you need to have a good solid group of people who know what they are doing and are connected in the right ways to get it off the ground.
Which leads me to the second thing I noticed in the article: the IMCA pushers think Spalding may be the man to lead there charge. This is a very good idea – but have you talked to him? I’m not sure this is the best time for him personally. The article says he is has not made any comments since his “resignation”. True, but I’ve had a conversation with him, albeit a shortened one over email. Let’s just say my thoughts are not baseless. (And those quotation marks aren’t for gramatically incorrect emphasis.) I emp
The long and the short of it is – the opportunity for a contemporary art gallery is upon us. But someone is going to have to get a supportive organization organized in the very near future it make it happen. Spalding is just one man – as evidenced by recent events. Someone else will have to step up to lead the organization.
The Glenbow will not and cannot be that gallery. I’ve said it several times over the last few days – they don’t have the space or the brand to make it happen. Don’t even try. We’ll have to wait and see if someone else can make the seemingly impossible happen.
Is anyone else tired? Or is it just me?
I’m an arts advocate (among other things – don’t try to define me!) and it turns out that has been about as busy a person as you could be lately. First I was run off my keester during the Federal election because the PM decided to run his mouth in Saskatoon there-by getting the entire arts community up in arms, and lately it has been all about making sure a proposed increase to Calgary Arts Development’s budget was approved in the City of Calgary’s 2008-2011 budget. I haven’t been alone in the crusade (wow, now that is hyperbole!), but it has been exhausting and pretty much thankless.
Those that know me, know I prefer to – to steal a theatre phrase – stay backstage and out of the spotlight. I never wanted to be an actor. I always wanted to be a designer or a stage manager. But I do have to say it has been very nice to get all the encouraging and thankful emails lately. I’m no glory hound but I wanted to say to all those folks: thanks for backing us up and appreciating what we’re trying to accomplish.
I was pushed over the edge on this front today by Stephen Hunt and his Blade Runner blog over at the Calgary Herald’s website, where he basically republished a few of my recent ‘call to action’ emails. Thanks Stephen! I was equally blown over by the congratulations offered this morning by Rick Bell at the Calgary Sun after Council rejected the proposed cut to arts funding. For all his recent bluster in the paper about arts funding it was very kind of him to offer such kind words of encouragement.
Now I beg everyone to please let the arts be for a little bit so I can get some sleep! (Will I be able to stay out of this conversation?)