A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Arts Coverage Versus Yoga On A Bed Of Daisies
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today I went to my second GVPTA Advocacy Committee meeting. I am not a member of the GVPTA (Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance) but I was an interested observer. All the different branches of the arts community in Vancouver, be they theatre, dance, music, opera and the visual arts are suffering from the combined blows of the economic downturn and the retreat of conventional media to the lifestyle topics of food, health and style. The GVPTA Advocacy Committee is attempting to address the problem and to find a solution.

A well known news anchor at the Corporation told me that arts coverage is below their indicated spectrum of activity. My gracious and keen friend of the arts, Paul Grant will be history by the end of July at the CBC. The taking of the package at the Corporation precludes a de facto disappearance of the position held by the person retiring. Until the folks at that Corporation can figure out a new name for arts coverage or in a method to circumvent the prohibition of bringing it back, we will not have any.

It was three months ago that I went to see a brilliant play at a well known theatre company’s venue. It was a Thursday opening. I noticed that our city newspaper’s critic was not there. I later found out that the critic had broken a leg. There was no review on the Saturday paper and this, I suspect, adversely affected attendance and the company must have lost money. A Wednesday review was too late to save the day.

I pondered on how the fortunes of a theatre company depended on that one review. To be fair, a competing weekly paper, while being published on a Thursday (too late to review a play for the Saturday), does post reviews, as they are written, on its web page. But as I see it, with the fading of radio arts coverage (can Jian Ghomeshi be the one-size-fits-all arts reporter?) and the consideration that the making of tofu burritos and doing yoga while gardening on a bed of daisies is covering the arts in a newspaper, our local arts organizations have to find another way of making what they do known to the public.

I called a local and very importan marketing manager of a Vancouver arts organizaton and I pressed to him my idea of something that I would call (in a most preliminary manner) a Vancouver Arts Web Hub. He was enthusiastic and immediately suggested that the key for its success would lie in a central core with a paid and independent editor, who would hire writers to write credible criticism, previews and essays on the arts.

To make a very long story short we had a preliminary meeting and a steering committee is being put together. So far we have (I am the independent observer) Charles Campbell (former editor of the Georgia Straight, books editor of the Tyee, arts editor and opinion page editor for the Vancouver Sun), Amir Ali Alibhai (artist and Executive Director of the Alliance For Arts And Culture) and Nini Baird (as far as I know the only American woman to have received the Order of Canada and a powerful promoter of the arts). There are a few others who will join. The first mandate is to obtain funding as the complexity of a web site that would also incorporate all the participating web sites of Lower Mainland arts organization) will require money. The plan is to launch the site (a soft launch seems a realistic one) in the spring.

Charles Campbell will probably be the independent editor suggested by the marketing manager I cited above. Max Wyman has informed me that he would be a keen contributor in writing for the Vancouver Arts Web Hub. I have in mind essays that would attempt to lure classical ballet enthusiasts to try modern dance or essays that would explain the importance of acting in opera or, why baroque music is not that much different from new music of the 21st century. It is my feeling that arts coverage should include more than previews and reviews.

As an example I made the conscious choice of taking my 11 year old granddaughter to see the Playhouse presentation of the Electric Theatre Company’s Studies in Motion- The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge. It had full nudity which didn’t bother Rebecca in the least. She is now enthusiastic about theatre. I exposed her to her first Shakespeare play, The Comedy of Errors. She now wants to go to more Shakespeare. It will probably not be Othello but All’s Well That Ends Well.

I have always felt that the media had the obligation in helping us become aware of the benefits of living a life surrounded by all the arts of which we have so many in Vancouver. And they rarely show us ways of inducing our younger ones to accompany us.

Simon Ogden at today’s GVPTA Advocacy Committeee Meeting astounded us by telling us that in the Canadian theatrical community Vancouver is seen as cutting edge! Who would have known? We who live here do not understand the richness of our art scene. I read in the NY Times the constant reviews of classical ballet danced by imported dancers from Russia. I compare that to the variety of dance we have in Vancouver and I do believe we have the richer one.

Charles Campbell published our proposed mandate in the blog of the Alliance for Arts and Culture here. I am quite excited at the prospect of having what in reality will be a Vancouver on line arts magazine that will incorporate also the finest arts blogs in town like Plank Magazine and Simon Ogden’s The Next Stage.

The boy with the violin in the picture above is one of the first pictures I took of violinist Corey Cerovsek when he was 14.


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