Public Venues For Art
The creation of most art of all types is a very private activity, but its appreciation depends on it becoming public. One way visual artists do this is through exhibitions. Writers primarily make their work public by publishing, but they sometimes try to draw attention to their publications by leaving their desks to do public readings and book signings.
We’re social animals and gathering together for artistic events seem to enhance our experience of them. We may love to listen to music on our personal stereo systems, peruse our art books, watch movies on our the high-definition video displays, or curl up with books in the comfort of our own homes, but our memories of attending live concerts, gallery openings, film festivals, and book signings and readings are almost always more intense and vivid.
This is probably partially because of what is also the downside of such events: limited access. Opportunities are less limited in large urban areas that elsewhere, but to the credit of small cities and towns, such public venues do exist—because of a few individuals’ serious commitment to the idea.
In my hometown of North Bay, with a population of about 55,000, we have a fairly impressive number of artistic venues.
For the literary arts, we have an independent bookstore, Gulliver’s, which has for decades hosted readings and book signings. We have a writers’ and readers’ group that has been holding monthly literary readings for three decades. It’s called the Conspiracy of Three, and each meeting has three sets: two featured readers and an open set.
On the art scene, we have a great public gallery in the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in the Capitol Arts Centre, plus two notable artist-run centres: The White Water Gallery and Art On Main. We also have several privately run galleries: The Line Gallery and The The Ferneyhough Gallery. All of them have new exhibitions each month. All of them show new, interesting work by serious artists.
Recently I attended am excellent reading by Ric deMeulles from his new book, Hickey’s Dead, hosted by the Conspiracy of Three and held at the White Water Gallery. I also attended the opening for a really fabulous exhibition of the work of Allan Hirsch at the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery. We don’t have to live in Toronto or New York to have an opportunity for meeting art and artists in public. We just have to live where there are enough people who really care about the arts to make those opportunities available for us.