Patricia Bovey

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Canada needs a Visual Artist Laureate

The visual arts community is concerned that  Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate), died on the Order Paper in the House of Commons in November.

The bill intended to create a two-year position of a parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate, similar to the Poet Laureate position. The purpose of the position is to “promote the arts in Canada, through Parliament, including by fostering knowledge, enjoyment, awareness and development of the arts…[through] drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, videography and filmmaking.”

It was proposed that a Visual Artist Laureate would be appointed through a competitive process by both the House and Senate speakers, from a list of three artists recommended by a committee chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian, and composed by the Director of the National Gallery of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the Chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the President of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, or their designates.

The Poet Laureate position was created in 2001, and in 2015 visual artist Peter Gough began to question why there wasn’t a comparable position for visual artists. “Artist contribute so much to the spirit of this country and therefore should have a platform for articulating the issues that face our country and all Canadian,” he said.

Mr. Gough worked with Senator Wilfred Moore to introduce a bill to the Senate, and Senator Patricia Bovey became the bill’s sponsor when Sen. Moore retired. “Creating this position will demonstrate Parliament’s leadership in underlining the importance of the arts and the significant contributions they make to Canada’s overall economy. We as parliamentarians obviously have a strong societal responsibility, so too do artists,” Bovey said.

The bill was passed in the Senate last May, but it did not secure a sponsor in the House of Commons. MP Dan Vandal intended to be the sponsor, but he was unable to do this after becoming parliamentary secretary. Before a sponsor could be confirmed, MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet proposed a unanimous consent motion to pass the bill at all stages, in an effort to fast-track what she believed to be an uncontroversial bill. Unfortunately, the bill did not reach unanimous consent, and the whole approval process must now start over again.

Members of the Visual Arts Alliance, a consortium of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations comprised of artists, curators, art museums, artist-run centres, and art dealers, are deeply disappointed by this latest development. The visual and media arts contribute to the public understanding of our national culture and heritage, and the creation of this position would put us on an equal footing with our colleagues in the literary arts. Toronto and Victoria have municipal visual artist laureates, and the federal government could similarly take the opportunity to spotlight Canada’s finest professional artists through this appointment.

 We are hopeful that there still remains the collective will to enact meaningful change in this regard; as indeed, this initiative would benefit the lives of many Canadians, and we urge the government to implement this action as soon as is functionally convenient.

CSARN 2018 : Entering the “mystical age of ageism”

Addressing challenges that face senior artists

Earl Miller recently attended the CSARN 2018 Annual Conference in Toronto on behlf of the VAAAAV. Here’s his report.

CSARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network) is a non-profit organization established to help professional artists “keep active and creative as they age”. It held its 2018 annual conference Maintaining Creativity 3: Relevance on April 19th at Toronto’s Metro Reference Library. The 2018 conference was divided into three sections: a panel titled Relevance, a talk on the effect of the arts on memory by the neurologist Luis Fornazzari, and a panel on “housing options.”

Read the rest of this page »

VAA Meeting at RAAV, Montréal, December 13, 2013

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met on Friday, December 13, 2013, in Montreal. With the addition of two new members — the University and College Art Galleries Association (UCAGAC) and the Canadian Society for Education through Art (CSEA) —the Visual Arts Alliance now groups fourteen national arts service organizations in the visual and media arts, and in fine crafts. We welcome these two associations toward working for a better understanding and recognition of the arts in our society.

During this meeting, members of the Visual Arts Alliance had the pleasure to exchange with Sylvie Gilbert, Head of the Visual Arts Section at the Canada Council for the Arts. Ms. Gilbert informed us of issues at Council that are of interest to our membership, such as “Leading the Change Agenda”. The VAA members were able to express the concerns of the visual arts milieu around these issues, while offering their collaboration. It was the second meeting with Ms. Gilbert since her nomination last spring, and the VAA looks forward to an ongoing, mutually beneficial dialogue.

Also on the meeting agenda were discussions on a study we hope to initiate next spring on the art economy, in response to a series of meetings that took place in various cities on this topic in the last year and questions raised by Bellavance in a survey of recent research commissioned by the Alliance, and published in 2011. Since the Visual Arts Alliance wants to work toward a better recognition of the visual arts in the long term, we are also discussing an education campaign to raise the awareness of the visual arts in Canadian society.

This meeting also marked the end of the mandate of Maegen Black, Director of the Canadian Craft Federation as co-chair, who was warmly thanked for her involvement over the last year. Lise Leblanc, Director of the Association des groupes en arts visuels francophones, and Anne Bertrand, Director of the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference, will share the responsibility for the coming year. The Alliance also wishes to thank Christian Bédard and the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec, for hosting the meeting in Montreal.

In closing, the members of the Visual Arts Alliance wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy new year.

VAA meeting at the Textile Museum, Toronto, June 14, 2013

The Visual Arts Alliance members met on June 14 at the Textile Museum, located in Toronto and started working on the shared research agenda by examining a preliminary proposal for an art market study submitted by the Research Committee.

Leading up to this, the VAA had organized a series of informal discussions about the Art Economy as a means to collect knowledge from those who have a stake in the visual arts sector’s economic development. Discussions have taken place in Calgary, Kingston and Toronto. The next research planning phase will pursue this further, as per one of the recommendations of the Bellavance report published in 2011. Bellavance recommended that the Alliance promote research in a number of under-examined areas including the art market “a multiplayer system in the era of globalization” [Chapter 4 – The Art Market, of The Visual Arts in Canada by Dr. Guy Bellance] [Read the entire report]). His recommendation reads as follows:

“Initiate the updating of information on private-sector involvement in the visual arts. This step consists of gathering available documentation on the main private stakeholders: art galleries, private collectors (individuals and corporations), private foundations and any other individual or organization involved on a private basis in the valuation of artworks or artists (through a prize, for instance, or some honorary distinction)…This step would in fact be a crucial first gesture towards a more involved study of the contemporary Canadian art market (as outlined in the second approach) by a prospective inter-university consortium.”(p. 133)

In parallel, Alliance members have reached out to the Canadian Public Arts Funders (CPAF) members requesting that they support the Alliance’s research agenda by identifying researchers in the various provinces and territories in order to establish a consortium that could underwrite such an Art Market study, as part of a larger examination of the sector’s economy, including harmonizing relevant data across provinces and territories.


The Visual Arts Alliance thanks the Textile Museum for hosting our day-long face-to-face meeting and, more specifically, art educator Susan Fohr for taking members in attendance on a guided tour of the museum and its collection.

The VAA is a consortium of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations comprised of artists, curators, art museums, artist-run centres and art dealers, brought together by the Visual Arts Summit in November, 2007. The Alliance’s objective is for many voices to speak simultaneously with a common message around a collective agenda which includes communicating the sector’s needs with a united voice.

Alliance Member Updates

Like many other alliances, conferences, federations and associations, the Visual Arts Alliance (VAAAV) wishes to communicate its accomplishments as well as those of its members. The Alliance is made up of national service associations in the visual arts (NASOs) who, in advance of each meeting, produce and share a brief update to bring everyone up to speed. These insightful briefs allow us to identify shared concerns and better understand our respective missions and challenges. Informative and demystifying, posting them to the new VAAAV website is a first step in introducing the Alliance to anyone who has a stake in empowering the visual arts through greater synergy. The updates provide a quick overview of the field, in English and in French, with handy links to other online content for further reading.

Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, 2013

On Tuesday March 12th, the Canada Council for the Arts announced the winners of the 2013 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal.

The winners are:

  • Marcel Barbeau, Painter and sculptor, Montreal
  • Rebecca Belmore, Visual artist, Winnipeg (featured photo : Martin Lipman)
  • William D. MacGillivray, Filmmaker and director, Rose Bay, N.SGordon
  • Monahan, Sound artist, composer and media artist, Meaford, Ont.
  • Greg Payce, Artist-potter (Saidye Bronfman Award), Calgary
  • Chantal Pontbriand, Exhibitions and events curator, art critic (Outstanding contribution), Montreal/Paris
  • Colette Whiten, Sculpture installation artist, Toronto/Haliburton, Ont.

For more information, visit the Canada Council for the arts website.

Of special note:

For the first time this year, Alliance member IMAA has partnered with the Canada Council for the Arts to create artist video portraits of the laureates. Media artists and media artist-run centres were matched with each recipient in order to produce short videos to resonate with the laureates and their work. The videos are available on the Canada Council for the arts website, and will be screened at the National Gallery of Canada in the context of the exhibition featuring this year’s laureates. The exhibition can be seen from March 22nd to June 23rd 2013.

The Visual Arts Alliance applauds this initiative as it provides a glimpse of the Governor General laureates and their work, as well as recognizing the value of the artists and artist-run organisations who produced the videos as artworks in and of themselves.

First of its kind “research map” charts the strengths and weaknesses in our understanding of the visual arts sector in Canada.

Ottawa, June 15, 2011 – The Visual Arts Alliance is pleased to announce the release of a new research study: “The Visual Arts in Canada: A Synthesis and Critical Analysis of Recent Research”.

Commissioned by the Visual Arts Alliance, the study was conducted by Professor Guy Bellavance of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Centre – Urbanisation Culture Société, Montréal. It documents over 550 Canadian studies and a further 315 studies done abroad, identifying the biggest shortcomings in the available research on the visual arts , and proposing strategies to fill those gaps.

Among the study’s important findings are that the value to Canadian culture of this sector is underestimated economically because of a lack of study of the arts education systems, that research is thin in many areas because universities give precedence to the study of art history over study of visual arts policies, that much more needs to be done on the provincial level to address regional specificity, and that of five sub-sectors studied, the most poorly understood is the art market – how art reaches its audiences.

The study was made possible by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The report and an executive summary are available in English and French, on the VAA website:

The Visual Arts Alliance is an umbrella organization of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations that represent artists, art museums, artist-run centres, arts professionals and art dealers in Canada that came together during the Visual Arts Summit held in November, 2007.

More about the study and a link to the final report on our Resources page.

Event: Visual Arts Gala, Montreal 2012

The Visual Arts Gala is an annual event held in Montreal. This year it was held on Wedenesday, December 12th at Théâtre Outremont.  The Gala is designed to raise the visibility of the visual arts, to show the richness and diversity of contemporary art in order to encourage public awareness and participation.

The Gala recognizes the exceptional work of all those involved in the Quebec art scene, while creating and strengthening ties within the visual arts community. This celebratory  evening brings together key stakeholders in order to honor the talent and effort of all those serving their common cause: the development of the visual arts.

Visit the website to view the prize categories and other information.

Visit the 2012 Gala website.


Press Release: Re-visioning the Visual Arts, September 16-18, 2011, Kingston (Ontario)

Ottawa, August 18, 2011- The Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) will hold a colloquium “Revisioning the Visual Arts” September 16-18th, 2011 in Kingston, Ontario, bringing together 60 invited participants from varied disciplines and sectors to investigate the long term future of the visual arts in Canada. The colloquium, which commemorates the spirit of the Conference of Canadian Artists held in Kingston in 1941, will examine the visual arts today in terms of “public engagement” and explore how the visual arts can be better integrated into both the Canadian economy and society as a whole.

The colloquium will begin with a keynote presentation on “The Evolving Role of the Arts in Canada” by Jeff Melanson, Executive Director and Co-CEO, Canada’s National Ballet School and soon to be President and CEO of The Banff Centre. Panels and discussions will take place throughout the event covering topics such as “What Drives the Visual Arts?” and “Repositioning the Visual Arts: How do we move forward”. The outcome of the colloquium will be to establish a set of common objectives and priorities and a working process to achieve them. A joint statement of conclusions and resolutions will
be disseminated to the public at large.

“Since the Visual Arts Summit of 2007, the VAA has been actively examining the state of the visual arts in Canada. We feel confident that the provocative mix of participants attending Revisioning the Visual Arts will produce visionary strategies for the sector’s future,” says Pat Sullivan, Co-Chair, VAA.

2011 will mark the 70th Anniversary of the Conference of Canadian Artists held in Kingston, Ontario under the auspices of the National Gallery and Queen’s University, and supported by the Carnegie Corporation. The Conference had far-ranging impact leading to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences popularly known as the Massey Commission and to the eventual founding of the Canada Council for the Arts.

In the seventy years since then, great strides have been made yet certain issues persist. Issues such as the social status and wellbeing of artists, the role of public institutions, the place of art in the education system, how the public understands and engages with art, the impact of new technology and new media and the place of Canadian artists on the international stage.

The Visual Arts Alliance, through this invitational colloquium, will revisit the primary themes of Kingston 1941 and bring into the present its remarkable vision of a more robust, rewarding and sustainable place for artists and the visual arts in Canadian society.

More about the Colloquium and link to report on our Resources page