Friday, 17 September 2010

Creating for a living: Artists reflect on the challenges of a visual arts career

Who Makes Art?
Aurora Arts Society – First Annual Symposium
Saturday & Sunday September 18 –19, 2010
Webcast URL

Creating for a living
Artists reflect on the challenges of a visual arts career

Daron Letts
(c) 2010 Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 16, 2010
Online at:

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A representative from a national artist advocacy organization is visiting Yellowknife this weekend as part of a symposium for the seventh annual ArtsWeek.

NNSL photo/graphic

A guest receives a cleansing foot massage from a volunteer at the Salvation Army in this still taken from a new short film by director France Benoit and videographer Gary Milligan. The film, titled Hand to Toe: an Exploration on the Art of Giving, is scheduled to premiere at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. The screening will open the ArtsWeek panel discussion about the struggles professional artists face in the North. - photo courtesy of France Benoit

Patrick Close, president of the Saskatchewan chapter of Canadian Artists Representation Le Front des Artistes Canadiens (CARFAC), will participate in a panel discussion at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The discussion, titled Who Makes Art?: People Who Have Money, will explore the question: is it possible to survive as an artist?

A longtime prairie painter and photographer whose work is displayed in the National Gallery of Canada, Close organizes professional artists to strengthen their collective voice across the country.

"In Yellowknife I hope to engage in a dialogue about what are workable strategies for the community and for artists," Close said. "We will look at the community's needs and discuss strategies based on those needs. To me the most important thing is to meet the artists and to share whatever stories and knowledge I have. The best solutions are made locally – those that artists come up with themselves, drawing upon their own resources."

Close's organization is a non-profit association established by artists in 1968 to encourage a social and economic climate that supports the production of visual arts, which includes advocacy, government lobbying, research, and public education on behalf of professional artists.

There are four CARFAC members living in the NWT, including Yellowknife photographer George Lessard. Lessard is leading a presentation on Internet presence training for artists at 1 p.m. Sunday at the museum as part of the ArtsWeek symposium.

"I'm a member to support the work artists are doing and to boost my income," Lessard said. "CARFAC helps artists manage their rights – they act as agents, in a sense. They will collect income that is owed an artist from exhibition fees from public galleries. They are intermediaries for that. They help the process go easily."

Close will introduce different approaches to making a living as an artist during Saturday's panel discussion.

Topics on the table will include copyright law, exhibition rights, funding opportunities, and the need to respect traditional knowledge.

"We will touch a little bit on how artists have organized into CARFAC and what the benefits of that have been over the years," Close said. "We simply have organized ourselves to be able to pull together some of the resources and the voice we need to survive."

Close will frame several ongoing CARFAC campaigns, such as the initiative to establish resale right legislation for visual artists, a concept whereby an artist would receive a residual benefit when an artwork is re-sold beyond a certain threshold.

"If this particular measure was put into the copyright act it would allow a visual artist to receive a similar benefit an author or an actor receives when a book is reprinted or a TV show is syndicated," Close said, adding that jurisdictions such as New Zealand, California, and the European Union have enacted resale rights.

Members of the panel will discuss the issue of NWT artists selling work in the North only to see it resold at a much higher mark-up in the south.

Other participants on the panel include artist Aidan Cartwright, and filmmaker France Benoit. Photographer Bill Braden will moderate the discussion.

The event will begin with the screening of an eight-and-a-half-minute short film directed by Benoit and shot by videographer Gary Milligan.

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