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Visual Art Summit, November 25-27 2007

Visual Arts Summit

In November 2007, Canadian artists, collectors, gallery owners, arts writers, publishers, art historians, teachers, critics, curators, corporate leaders, arts service organizations, and public sector funderswill gather for an unprecedented milestone in Canadian culture – the Visual Arts Summit.

The goal is to shape five conversations, each building on the next, and each contributing to an analysis of the development of the Canadian visual arts sector from the 1950s to the present. The Summit is intended not as an end in itself, but as a point of departure for transformative change in the visual arts. It represents an opportunity for all stakeholders in the visual arts to interact – a unique occurrence in a milieu where the norm is for each professional group to meet separately. This potent mix of viewpoints is expected have the catalytic force to engender a rich, nuanced and forward-looking discussion of the central issues for the visual arts.

Discussion 1: Setting the context
The events behind the rapid growth of the Canadian visual arts sector over the last 50 years set the context for the Summit. Connected to this intense period of growth and expansion are a set of issues, some of which are unique to the Canadian context, while others are common to contemporary visual arts practice worldwide. This discussion will examine the key developmental events to shed light on how artists learn, practice and earn a living, how the art market functions, how the public connects with contemporary art, and the overall policy context for the visual arts.

Diana Nemiroff, Clive Robertson (moderator), David Silcox, R.M. Vaughan

Discussion 2: Education and Access, Interpretation and Audiences
Recent statistics show that Canadians are more interested than ever in attending galleries and arts events and art consumption is rising steadily. However, growth projections are complex because parts some segments of the population remain outside the museum-going public. By examining the current status of visual arts education in secondary and post-secondary institutions we can draw conclusions about how audiences are developed and how artists educate themselves for future practice. Education in visual culture is the best way to foster future artists, audiences, and collectors. Closely connected to this is arts discourse, led by art writers, critics, curators, teachers, and the media. This discussion will assess the issues surrounding education and audience development.

Robin Metcalfe (moderator), Dale Sheppard

Discussion 3: Treasures and Treasuries – Collecting and Exhibiting Canadian Art
The bricks and mortar of the visual arts sector – the public galleries that build and house collections – are in a period of physical expansion. This discussion will address the future of public galleries and attempt to identify areas that are – or are not – poised for growth. Donations made to public collections today will have a profound impact on the art seen by Canadians of future generations. Custodians of public and private collections can shed light on what current trends reveal about the donation and acquisition of artworks, how those choices will be reflected in the public collections in the future, and how public policy is keeping pace with the changes in collecting patterns. A complex system of grants and tax measures has evolved to support public galleries and museums, artist-run centres, and commercial enterprises. It is an auspicious time to ponder how government funding in support of galleries and museums is apportioned to the visual arts sector, and to assess whether programs and the public policy they reflect are properly attuned to the current context.

Louise Déry, Vera Frenkel, Joe Friday, Steve Loft, Shauna McCabe, Shirley Thomson (moderator)

Discussion 4:The Force of Markets
The 2006 census established that consumer spending on art increased by 131% from 1997 to 2005. This spending increase can be examined from several perspectives: its effect on art dealers and their livelihoods, collectors’ acquisition patterns, public interest in collecting, and its effect on the livelihood of artists. Developing an overall picture of how artists piece together their incomes and related factors such as public policy, contractual agreements, and the collection of exhibition and re-sale fees will ultimately lead to improving the financial viability of artists whose incomes generally fall below national averages. Aboriginal artists, whose work is often regarded as representative of Canadian art outside Canada, face particular challenges. Private galleries play a significant role in establishing the value of contemporary art. The interaction between dealers and collectors is a nexus for the valuation of works of art. Policy issues common to both groups can contribute to the sustained growth of markets. The policy objectives of programs like Trade Routes and International Cultural Relations and their provincial equivalents may need adjustment to properly serve the rapid growth of markets for Canadian work nationally and internationally.

Patricia Feheley (moderator), Bernard Lévy, Teresie Tungilik, others

Discussion 5: Sculpting the Future
The Summit’s final discussion session will build from the most significant issues identified over the course of the conference: those that surface in the formal discussions. It is clear that partnerships among visual arts organizations will be key to finding creative ways to move forward. The Summit will generate a set of ideas and establish a consensus on the key developmental issues for the visual arts so that the organizing partners can establish an national strategy for the visual arts and begin to give voice to the issues over the coming year.

Gerald Beaulieu, Hank Bull, Shawna Dempsey, Guy Sioui Durand, Susan Gibson Garvey (moderator)

For information on the program, contact:

Megan Williams
Email, (902) 401-6606

For all other information, contact:
John McAvity, Canadian Museums Association

Email , (613) 567-0099