As discussed in an interview within these pages with cohort Mary Christa O’Keefe, I decided to start up my blog, PrairieArtsters.com back in April of this year as a way to document the Edmonton visual arts scene in a consistent and critical fashion. With a burgeoning flux of local exhibitions, a handful of previews per month was no longer sufficient or even remotely satisfactory.
There is a real and diverse visual arts community here, but you would never know it from just absorbing media. The handful of local arts writers (all three or four of us) are often bound to covering the “legitimate” shows up in commercial and artist-run galleries. In comparison to the local music scene, this would basically be the equivalent of only previewing gigs happening at Rexall, Shaw Conference and Commonwealth—minus the defining review that situates a community as “being there” too and deciphering together an experience and an effort.
There are of course exceptions, like the installation-driven curation behind “The Apartment Show” that occurred in the spring and the do-it-yourself graffiti posters of the “Make It Not Suck” projects along Jasper Avenue—both of which received plenty of media attention, with the latter spurning a lot of discussion. This needs to happen more, across the board, if this relatively young arts community is going to survive and gain notoriety.
But even these two independent shows are just the larger tips of the metaphorical iceberg happening within Edmonton’s arts scene. There are low-key art exhibits and openings happening in restaurants and cafes, record shops, hair salons, basements, flower shops and other spaces all across the city. The arts scene is invisible to those outside of it, and the scene is deaf and mute to those within it.
Starting with this edition, Prairie Artsters will be a biweekly column in Vue Weekly as a print companion to the ongoing reviews online. The print version will fall more along the lines of ruminations on a cluster of shows or something equivalent.
Everyone is talking about the economic boom, but the reality is that most artists will or already have been abandoned by it. All that remains is the work and the voices in the community, and for this community to foster and develop, work—and thoughtful discussions of the works produced—needs a communal venue from which to grow.