A Taste of Alberta at Congress 2015 Opening Cocktail

What Can be Considered Art?

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Let’s explore that question… culinary practice is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about art. At the National Congress on Culture, Opening Cocktail, I went out and asked culinary experts about food creation as an art form.

Top Chef, Nelvin Reyes believes that in order to gain someone’s attention in the industry, an artist must use their culinary expertise to keep the guests or audiences entertained, whether it’s the way the dish is presented or the details which are added afterwards. The arts, heritage, diversity and spirit in the community, is told through these different characteristics that make up the cultural and artistic person.

Other culinary experts believe that the only thing which gets them ahead of the game is word of mouth. Sous Chef at North 53, Josh Dissanayake says, “it’s more important to do what you want to do than to know how to do something”. Josh took me through the steps to create the Duck Rilette with Salt Cured Foie Gras & Sweet N’Sour Jelly. With immaculate attention to detail, he provided evidence to backup the claim that culinary practice is indeed an art form.

Josh says that “anyone can cook if you learn how to, but to be an expert you have to cook beyond toast and eggs.” He embraces the culinary arts as a positive challenge and encourages taking the “least easiest thing to cook and make it into something likeable.” The challenge is what motivates him.

Culinary kitchens don’t often allow guests to view the actual kitchen. But at Josh’s restaurant, he lets guests tour the kitchen to see how food is prepared. People enjoy knowing where their food comes from, and it’s important for the community to see the hard work that goes into the art of food. It’s not just simply “stuffing your face,” says Josh.

When asked about his strategies for progressing in the culinary field, Josh emphasized that work is part of his identity, and his personality is brought out in the food.

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– See more at: http://culturedays.ca/blog/2015/05/08/taste-alberta-culture-days-2015/#sthash.MXb3eag4.dpuf

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Cities for People: Putting Art at the Centre

Culture Days and National Broadcast Partner CTV (Bell Media) invited Canadian journalism and media students to participate in a Student Reporter and Media Internship program during the Annual National Congress on Culture in Edmonton, Alberta on May 7 and 8, 2015. Five lucky students participated in this innovative program including a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the CTV Newsroom in Edmonton and a once-in-lifetime mentoring session with Marci Ien, co-host of CTV’s Canada AM.

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We, as cities, and communities, must create an environment, or habitat where each and every one of us does not just survive, but thrive. That’s the impetus of Cities for People, says Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director of Musagetes Foundation who facilitated a conversation about the national initiative during #Congress2015.

With partners across the country, Cities for People explores a series of broad themes: CityScapes, New Economies, Citizen Spaces, and Art and Society. At #Congress2015, Van Sluys focused on the work of the Art and Society team who have been experimenting on changing the stories and practices of the community through arts and culture. Their goal is to find a way to make art more accessible in cities, and they recognize that they will need to use different techniques for different cities.

Van Sluys wants to transform unused spaces in cities into useable spaces. For him it is about people contributing to the creation of their city. People should “not just be living in concrete blocks but should have a reflection of themselves in the city,” he says.

The creation of Cities for People reflects the urgency to understand each other across the world. According to Sluys, the arts build empathy and have the capacity to increase love between people of different cultures across the world. With an interest in art education and centrality of arts, Sluys asks: how do we create a more accessible space for the arts? “How do we connect arts in a meaningful way to the urgent issues and concerns in society?”

The SenseLabs project in Lethbridge, Alberta has been looking at ways to address these questions. Participants looked at wasted spaces in the city, such as spaces between boulevards, and came up with a two-week project to “fill” those wasted spaces. A red carpet was placed in all the places that are overlooked in the city.

“Our perception of the world is developed through artistic thinking, and when we are living in a city where every building or potential artistic space can be creatively decorated, then members of the community should join together to make it a better place to live,” says Sluys.

The SenseLabs engaged a group of non-artists to be creative, and discovered that most of them had some experience with drawing that they carried with them from early childhood.

So “how do you make arts central and meaningful in our community?,” asks Sluys.

Cities for People suggest that individuals in a community do not become interested in arts and culture until they practice it themselves. Sluys says we should remove barriers in the cultural industry.

“We are not paying to see that piece of art the same as we do for outdoor concerts. There’s a difference between not paying for art because it’s worthless and engaging audience with complimentary performances and street art,” he says.

The question we ask moving forward is, “how can we hold ourselves responsible for improvements in our city?”

– See more at: http://culturedays.ca/blog/2015/05/12/cities-people-putting-art-centre/#sthash.VGtiMIBX.dpuf

The Arts Flourish at Congress 2015

Culture Days and National Broadcast Partner CTV (Bell Media) invited Canadian journalism and media students to participate in a Student Reporter and Media Internship program during the Annual National Congress on Culture in Edmonton, Alberta on May 7 and 8, 2015. Five lucky students participated in this innovative program including a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the CTV Newsroom in Edmonton and a once-in-lifetime mentoring session with Marci Ien, co-host of CTV’s Canada AM.


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The 2015 National Congress on Culture brought many laughs, new connections, exciting and insightful new experiences, and most of all, the biggest collection of art in all its’ forms. The biggest take away from the Congress was learning that art does not just mean a painting on a canvas; but rather it can evolve into a dance, instrumental number, song, poetry, multimedia production, culinary arts, and just simply words in relation to media interviews; you’ll see this art get knocked out of the water by Marci Ien, Co-host of CTV’s Canada AM. Marci mentored the CTV/Culture Days Student Reporters on Saturday morning, sharing her profound and insightful stories that inspired the emerging reporters and taught them important tips about the journalism field.

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The Student Interns gathered together with Marci for a group photo

The first exhilarating experience involving art was the red carpet welcome by the improv team. They made “regular folks” feel like celebrities by asking to pose for photographs with delegates and requesting their autographs

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The fun improv team provided a grand welcome to delegates.

Their attempt to make everyone feel welcome succeeded through performance. This selfie-taking skits prompted a lot of conversation at the start of the event and set the tone for the rest of the day. We, as the CTV/Culture Days Student Reporters, were able to experience the making of a Culture Days video titled “What’s Your Story?” directed by Culture Days’ Communications Manager & Content Producer, Elvira Trugila, working with her camera man, Tom Gunia.

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“What is your story?” as taken from different perspectives of the Delegates

Each person took a turn speaking in front of the camera and holding up a sign that said “What’s Your Story?”; many delegates from different cultures participated in the video. It was a fun and educational experience for Student Reporters to be part of a professional artistic video.

During the break between events, the Student Reporters and Congress delegates enjoyed a unique performance by a contemporary dance group which took the hallways of the Citadel Theatre by storm. They presented a series of short dance sequences with an old fashioned record player as their musical source. The women flowed through each motion like a wave in the water, flawlessly and with grace.

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Contemporary Dancers took the hall by storm with their short but memorable routine.

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The art of journalism is often overlooked as it is considered abstract. People often do not consider someone who is using words or photographs, instead of a canvas and paintbrush to connect with audiences on an emotional level, as an artist. During Congress 2015, one talented individual managed to accomplish this through her attentive and careful journalistic skills. Marci Ien conducted an interview with facilitators, community organizers and award-winning interdisciplinary visual artists Eric & Mia. They spoke about their motivation to use performance and art as tools for social action. They are also driven to create a tightly knit community through participatory performance by citizens. These cutting-edge artists were able to answer a collection of focused questions about their emerging art, and struggles as artists. Here, they can be seen answering questions for Marci, while inspiring the entire auditorium.

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Marci sits down to talk with progressive visual artists, Eric & Mia.

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Marci asks focused questions about the emerging art of visual artists Eric & Mia.

On the topic of dance, there was more culture to absorb watching the talented Running Thunder Dancers perform a traditional Native American tribal dance at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner. The Running Thunder Dancers are an Edmonton-based First Nations dance group that promotes health and wellness through their talented routines. Wearing Jingle Dresses (also known as Regalia), dancers performed a healing dance featuring intricate, controlled footwork with poise, endurance and grace. The Running Thunder Dancers brought the entire dining room full of people to life; all eyes watched in amazement as one dancer held several hoops and executed various types of tricks and maneuvers. The dancers put an artistic twist to the start of the evening.

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The Running Thunder Dancers.

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Native American Dancer of the group Running Thunder Dancers

The delegates and the CTV/Culture Days student interns were able to enjoy a lovely Awards Dinner & Cocktail while being entertained by some of the most interesting and unique performers and artists among Canada’s cultural community. This included the Vancouver-based multi-instrumentalist Chloe Ernst performing songs from her debut album “Dedicated State”. The album grabbed the attention of the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2008, where she won the ‘Emerging Artist of the Year Award’ sending her on tour across Canada playing at folk festivals, clubs, and coffee shops. She is building her career through a loyal fan base and getting to know them one song at a time.

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Chloe Ernst playing the guitar at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner.

Another talented performer during the Awards Cocktail & Dinner was Edmonton’s Lindsey Nagy. Renowned Canadian singer/songwriter Jully Black called Lindsey “the future of Canadian music” after hearing her play at a 2006 showcase. With fifteen years of performing under her belt, Lindsey has performed with the Red Piano Players, Gateway Big Band, Grant MacEwan Showcase Band and many other musicians. In a flourishing career, the singer/songwriter currently performs at the Red Piano and teaches voice and piano.

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Lindsey Nagy performing at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner

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To top off an rewarding night, all these memories would not have been possible without the talented services of one particular artist and owner of Edge Photography, Paul Thurlin. His photographs did not miss one moment of the 2015 National Congress on Culture.

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Paul & Elvira posing together for the last time during the Congress.

A final thank you to the woman who made it possible for the CTV/Culture Days Student interns to be a part of such an incredible opportunity, Culture Days’ Communications Manager & Content Producer, Elvira Truglia.

All photos by Paul Thurlin, Edge Photography.

– See more at: http://culturedays.ca/blog/2015/06/05/art-flourishes-congress-2015/#sthash.ZY3S6ZUQ.dpuf

“Gays are safe in 2014 Olympics” says Putin, activists disagree

A bill in Russia was passed banning “propaganda of non traditional sexual relations” can be a potential act of censorship for the LGBT community. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that gays are welcome in the Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi as long as they don’t spread “gay propaganda” and “leave the children in peace.”

The law prohibits the spread of propaganda among minors; this means the law prohibits speaking to anyone under the age of 18 about homosexuality.

“We have the ban on homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to stress this: propaganda among minors.” Said Putin.  The spread of propaganda among minors and the ban on certain relations are not the same thing according to Putin.

Some activists disagree.

Zach Ruiter, a gay rights activist in Toronto, disagrees with Putin’s claim and says that this is his way of deflecting from the issue and condoning homophobia towards the rest of the community.

“It sends a message to people that they are allowed to do whatever they want, that the state will not protect their rights. “It‘s a lot like Nazism.” Said Ruiter.

The rally that surrounded the State Duma hours before the bill was passed called for much resistance by Orthodox-Christian activists and pro-kremlin youth groups. The young men threw eggs at the activists while shouting homophobic slurs.

According to Ruiter, the fight for gay rights should not be limited to people in Russia. He says that to reach and address the problem we must make changes in our own community.

“Now that we’ve won gay marriage, its almost like the struggle is over. This simulation of queer liberation struggle in gay marriage has weakened our capacity to respond in solidarity.” Said Ruiter.

He says that the LGBT community in Toronto can fight back with persuading large companies to boycott the Olympics thus reaching out to the LGBT community in Russia.

Aeryn Pfaff, a Humber Journalism student says that the real victims are Russian gay youth in the sense that if they come out to their peers, they can be prosecuted for speaking about homosexuality. Pfaff explained that this bill could be seen as an act of censorship.

“As a kid I knew I was gay. Many Russian LGBT youth are the same. All these laws are doing is barring them from being able to find like minded people so that they can be happy.” Said Pfaff.

The absence of some world leaders in the winter Olympics this year will not have an impact on the games according to Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Alexander Zhukov.

Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande and Stephen Harper announced their absence in the winter Olympics this year.

Brad Fraser, a Canadian Journalist, says that Obama’s absence is not a boycott of the Olympics, It is rather related to other issues the western parts of the world are having with Russia, according to him.

He says that the best way to send a message to Russia about their law is to remove our participation and support in the games.

“Why are we sending people to compete at all? Why does the world not turn their back on Russia?” Said Fraser.

Animal Welfare of performing animals has become a concern to pet trainer, Yvette Van Veen.

“Entertainment to me is one of the places you’d say is just for fun there shouldn’t be a downside but it’s an industry where there might be evil to true entertainment,” says Yvette Van Veen, a Certified Dog Behavior consultant.

Van Veen has spent 14 years training pets, she is known for training dogs who perform at dog shows. She is also a pets’ reporter for the Toronto Star mainly about animal behaviors and ways to improve relationships between pet owners and their pets.

In a recent article titled ‘Animals used for entertainment should also enjoy the show’  Van Veen mentioned an investigation in Marineland  by the OSPCA that called for accusations about Marineland, a themed amusement and exhibition park. It involved poor water conditions that caused aquatic mammals to suffer from blindness, redness in eyes, and damage to fins and body parts.

Performing animals and mammals struggle to stay alive due to the poor living conditions which results in force used by the trainer.

According to Veen, orders were made by the OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)  to examine several marine animals, build better shelters for deer and elk, and install a good water filtration system.

“In Ontario, there’s no where else you can go to see animals like that, but the fact that they treat them poorly compared to their natural habitat is  unacceptable.”  said Julia Vitale, a four year employee at Canada’s Wonderland.

She explained that the mistreatment of performing animals is now on a larger scale and people won’t turn a blind eye on these issues now.

OSPCA Agent Brad Deward, says that animal welfare laws Ontario currently has in place for wildlife such as raccoons, and coyotes.

He discourages citizens from causing any harm to the wildlife and emphasizes that we must learn to live with them.

“We also offer ways  for people to minimize the damage that wildlife might cause to their property.” He said.

The SPCA is an organization dedicated towards animal welfare from sheltering point of view as well as education and enforcement.

They investigate zoos and circuses that come into the city. An officer will be there to inspect how the animals are transported, how they are being kept, and that they are being provided for as required by law.

“It’s heart wrenching to see stories about neglect and no animal should ever have to suffer or be without the necessities of life. its rewarding to be able to help them.” said Deward

Marineland was issued six orders in 2012 by the OSPCA and the investigation is still on going.

CBC tour: October 25, 2012.

On Thursday, October 25th, My Production Techniques class went on a tour of the CBC studios with John Northcott. We got a chance to see how everything works, where the morning show is filmed, the radio shows and see everyone at work!

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As an introduction to the studios, this picture seemed appropriate. Seeing this sign made it sink in as to how real the experience was.  Continue reading →

Update: Journalism School

Hello folks,

It has been a while since I have updated my page about school. Well, it’s officially week 12 of Journalism school and we have about a week left! I remember the first day of J-school, walking into class and not knowing at all what to expect. Is it crazy that although I’ve learned a TON by the end of the semester, I still dont know what to expect! However, keeping in mind that there is another semester left of year 1.

I’ve learned everything from CP style in print Journalism to Production techniques where we also had the amazing experience of touring the CBC as well as getting up close and personal with production cameras and tripods! As well as online Journalism with twitter, google maps, and creating our own website.

I didn’t think that the semester would fly by so fast, i guess time flies when you’re having fun haha. Of course there has been those mornings where I could feel like getting up for school was the last thing I wanted to do but looking forward to my classes kept me getting up every morning excited for them.

I’m excited for next semester though too, I heard we were learning law which really makes me look forward to it. I’ve wanted to learn about Canadian law for a while, it’s always been an interest of mine to see how everything works in the justice system and even for life experience. The thing I’m excited for the most about that is getting a chance to sit in on a court session. i’ve never been to a court room and it would be an interesting experience to see how it works.

Until next time!

-Avi