A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #138 - WEEK OF JUNE 5-11, 2017

O, Kanata!

Reconciliation and recognition are the themes for Harbourfront Centre’s summer festival line-up starting June 27.

Arts Feature

Like any other arts institution in the year of Canada’s sesquicentennial, Harbourfront Centre makes the point very clear in recognizing the founding First Nations with their summer music line-up beginning on the eve of Canada Day Long Weekend June 27th and throughout the month of July of Canadian artists of all stripes and colours, as well as mixing in our multicultural stew of annual standbys until September, as recently pointed out at their May 23rd media conference held at the Bill Boyle Artsport’s Lakeside Terrace.

“We’ve arrived at the seminal celebration called Sounds of Home, which is tribute to the strength and diversity found across Canada,” said Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye in her opening remarks. “And the initial questions we asked ourselves as we began to discuss what does 2017 primarily looks like, how does a country celebrates colonialization and where is the Indigenous voice in that conversation?

Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye introduces the lakeshore arts centre summer events at the May 23 media conference at Lakeside Terrace.

“In response, we invited Rhéanne Chartrand to curate on what became Our Home on Native Land (Festival of June 30 to July 3). In our mandate, it is the responsibility of cultural organizations such as ours to take a lead role in helping to realize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. And it is our hope that Harbourfront Centre will provide the space where creative exploration will lead to increased awareness in individual and collective responsibility that will lead the path to reconciliation.”

“As we prepare to launch our summer festival season at Harbourfront,” added their Chief Programming Officer Iris Nemani, “we look across the city and across the country for inspiration. Visit the contemporary sound of Canada, where music and dance, literature [and] photography are perfectly teamed led by Norma McCloud, Director of Cultural Engagement, have gone out and found the most contemporary and diverse sounds of our country and have brought them to what we call Sounds of Home.”

“This is the year where we are certainly, being the one hundredth-and-fiftieth anniversary of Canadian Confederation, but we are always cognizant to the fact that for many, many people on this land, the history of this land is much, much longer that just one hundred-and-fifty years and its dates [countless] millennia,” concurred the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani standing in lieu for Mélanie Joly, the minister in charge.

“And it is important to recognize that fact, to recognize the Huron-Wendat, the Mississaugas, the Huron Credit, the Métis, the Anishinaabe and many other (First Nations) communities that have call this land home for a long, long time and whose struggles have been pronounced and in cognizant to the past one hundred-and-fifty years has been a lot more about colonialization than celebration...we’re working toward learning of what the past has shown us and also creating one hundred and fifty years going forward that will be much more positive and much more inclusive, in celebrating truly all aspects of this country and the people who have enriched it.”

Here in the 6ix is the official celebration of Multiculturalism Day on June 27 in a full-day free event of a special dance in the Natrel Pond by local aboriginal dance company Red Sky Performance following a morning yoga stretch and community breakfast, multimedia performances by Six String Nation with Jowi Taylor and The Dream Catchers, children’s activities and artistic workshops, closing out with a evening concert by Torontonian hip-hop star Kardinal Offishall and special guests.

Our Home on Native Land on the Canada Day Long Weekend will have the creative mosaic contributions of aboriginal and new Canadians and performances by Kinnie Starr, the genre-bending Afrobeat Haitian reggae band Vox Sambou and Mob Bounce followed by a fireworks display set to music inspired by the festival. Then the month-long celebration of the regions in the following fests range from Prairies to Pacific (July 7-9) of the West of the traditional potlatch and powwow to country, folk and pop featuring R&B singer Tanika Charles, world music artisans Delhi 2 Dublin, Afro-Cuban jazzman Alex Cuba, prairie blues-gospel queen Dione Taylor & The Backsliderz and a live-stage version of the award-winning comedy show Stop Podcasting Yourself; Shield to Shore (July 14-16) heads down east with the Franco-Ontarian sister folk group Ariko, The Sadies, Montréal Latin hip-hop group Boogat and Canadian indie supergroup headman trio TUNS featuring The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill, Sloan’s Chris Murphy and The Super Friendz’s Matt Murphy, before heading beyond the 49th Parallel with Northern Passages (July 21-23) with Ojibwe singer-songwriter Nick Sherman, Québécois folk group Le Vent du Nord and rising Inuit alt-country band The Jerry Cans.

Juno-winning R&B/soul singer Tanika Charles does a sample performance as part of the Harbourfront Centre with her own appearance coming July 7.

“This is really the confessional starting point for our home on Native Land,” said Chartrand, who has worked on the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games’ Aboriginal Pavillion of First Nations arts/cultural/sports festival and currently the Aboriginal Curatorial Resident at McMaster Museum of Art. “I thought it was apropos that we begin it on Canada Day (July 1) and that we start taking these conversations and to directly challenge in a constructive and inclusive way, on what it means to be Canadian and how the social fabric of Canada and the bureaucratic structure of this country have actually limited the expression of diverse understanding and belonging. For aboriginal and non-aboriginal people that now share this land, we look as how do we more forward as a country, [and] as a people, recognizing and supporting that we are on Indigenous land and how we share our simple principals of belonging together in positive ways.”

Guest curator Rhéanne Chartrand speaks at the May 23 media conference at Lakeside Terrace.

The remaining are the biennial Persian culture fête Tirgan Festival (July 27-30) and perennial favourites Island Soul (August 4-7), Habari Africa Festival (August 11-13), a made-in-Canada Breaks Beats and Culture (August 18-20) of hip-hop culture, TAIWANfest (August 25-27) is turning Japanese with their look at the Land of the Rising Sun and closing out with the twentieth anniversary of Hot & Spicy Food Festival (September 1-4) and the Vegetarian Food Festival (September 9-11).

***

Most events for Harbourfront Centre’s Summer Festival season are FREE. For information, call 416-973-4000 or visit harbourfrontcentre.com.

Crushes and blushes

Invisible Emmie

by Terri Libenson

185 pp., Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins Canada

Softcover, $13.50

Comics and Graphic Novels/Juvenile Fiction

Book Review

For her first graphic novel, illustrator and Reuben Award-winning cartoonist Terri Libenson of the internationally-syndicated and acclaimed family comic strip The Pajama Diaries focuses on the drama that is junior high romance with Invisible Emmie which takes on a fresh approach that tweens and younger teens will easily digest and relate to on many levels.

Thirteen-year old Emmie Douglass is a quiet, shy but artistically talented girl who barely gets noticed by anyone at Lakewood Middle School, other than her more outgoing and gifted best friend Brianna Davis; to the point of near non-existence by her fellow schoolmates. Then there’s Katie, who seems to be the envy of Emmie because she’s so ultra-popular, athletic and very pretty that everything seems to go her perfectly own way from a winter jasmine-scented locker to getting fast-tracked into girls’ bathrooms.

Entering all this is one Tyler Ross, whom Emmie has had a (semi-) secret crush on since the fourth grade and the cutest guy in school, however he’s mostly got his eye on Katie. As the two girls go about their day, Emmie and Brianna write gushy love letters to their secret crushes just for kicks during lunchtime period until the note meant for Tyler gets into the wrong hands and it turns into the biggest disaster ever for all parties involved. Or...does it?

Libenson taps into those insecurities of growing up in Invisible Emmie which resonates to all of those who’ve ever had to guide themselves through the emotional rollercoaster ride of adolescence with humour, as she’s done so with The Pajama Diaries’ resident (and real-life) teenaged daughters; in a clear and intelligent tone and surprisingly does away with any of the expected outcome of events for her characters.

Her artistry takes an unconventional style of presentation with the Emmie chapters done in a mix of illustration and text like in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, while the Katie chapters go for the regular-style cartoon panels to provide a balance and unique perspective in writing graphic novels for children that parents would approve.

Bittersweet and funny with a sense of triumph, Invisible Emmie is a bright start for Libenson who actually gets what growing up is all about, learning to find your own voice and how to make of a situation of what would seem like it’s the end of your world as you know it, but you’ll feel fine.

Smokeless Guns

Left-right: Tracy Hiner invokes “liquid” gunsmoke in the gun violence-themed travelling exhibit Raise the Calibre – Art Creates Change.

Raise the Calibre – Art Creates Change

Venue: Only One Gallery, 5 Brock Avenue (corners of Queen Street West and Brock)

Dates/Times: Through June 15; Wednesday-Friday 3-7 p.m. and Saturday 12-5 p.m.

Admission/Information: FREE. Call 416-964-1162 or visit onlyonegallery.com or calibercollection.com

Gallery Review

The impact and presence of gun violence is problematic in any major or minor city the world, even when crime levels are at its lowest despite what some politicians and pro-gun lobbyists would like to embellish. While it’s not as epidemic unlike the United States, Canada (and Toronto) is just as susceptible to it and flare-ups do occur on occasion (about 355 firearm-related injures a year occurred for Canadian youth under 25 from 2008-2012, compared to 13,235 firearm deaths for Americans under 19 from 2011-2015).

A group of artists bring these issues to life with Raise the Calibre, an New York-based organization dedicated to the advocacy of gun control and reducing gun violence, in a travelling exhibit making its Canadian debut at Only One Gallery in the Queen Street West area. Turning decommissioned guns and bullets collected at gun buybacks and police gun amnesties into harmless duds and later artwork, Raise the Calibre mainly consisting of two artists, photographer Tracy Hiner and sculptor Doug Schwartz, who make the most out of their material – and materiel – into some interesting and thought-provoking pieces.

Hiner, whose close-up camera lens captures of guns submerged in aquariums and bombarded with coloured inks to create cloudbursts almost like gun smoke into a thing of beauty and not deathly. Some of the photos take on a Warholian aspect in their composition, especially with a enlarged wall installation of greys, whites and blacks is more effective in that manner.

Schwartz takes on an approach akin to Damien Hurst by permanently encasing the former lethal weapons in clear, grey and some coloured moulds of Lucite, including impacted bullet casings into coasters in example that probably would make some gun enthusiast ironically happy, considering that the theme of this work is more about anti-gun than pro-gun in that respect.

Left-right: Entombed in Lucite, Doug Schwartz literally silences lethal weapons for his Raise the Calibre – Art Creates Change works .

What’s more is that twenty percent of the proceeds from the exhibit, including the gallery pop-up store (through June 7) selling artwork and accessories by Carey Lowell and Jessica Mindich also made from shell casings and gun-metals; will go into Raise the Calibre to continue their awareness program in reducing urban violence and fully promoting gun control measures. Taking in the saying of turning swords into ploughshares, Raise the Calibre leads by this fine example in bringing this topic to the forefront and committing the artists to do the same.