News from the art world

BC SPCA receives hate mail in wake of VAG controversy
The BC SPCA says it has received hate mail from the public following the closure of a Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit that used live animals. Theater of the World, an installation by avant-garde Chinese-French artist Huang Yong Ping featured toads, lizards, millipedes, scorpions, tarantulas, cockroaches, and snakes in an enclosure. When the BC SPCA ordered modifications to the installation that included the removal of scorpions and tarantulas, the artist and gallery chose to dismantle the work rather than comply or face charges of animal cruelty.

Lorie Chortyck, spokesperson for the BC SPCA, told the Straight the society had received about six "pretty vicious" e-mails in reaction to its investigation into Huang's artwork. "There was a lot of profanity, a lot of adjectives and streams of adjectives that are not printable," she said.

One e-mail, made available to the Straight, reads in part: "Do you think that the cheers of your supporters mean anything? Millions cheered Hitler but he couldn't have been more wrong. Abuse of the power that was given to you will not help the animals in your charge!"

Chortyck said that none of the messages contained violent threats and that the society had not felt the need to alert the police.


Business Property tax freeze a relief for downtown galleries
Vancouver's downtown art galleries are heaving a collective sigh of relief following the April 18 decision by city council to freeze business property taxes for the year and shift the burden to homeowners, who will see an eight-percent tax hike this year.

"Although it's a far cry from where it needs to be, it's at least a step in the right direction," Deanna Geisheimer, owner of Art Works Gallery (225 Smithe Street) and an executive board member of the Vancouver Fair Tax Coalition, told the Straight. "Had they not done anything in regards to the mill rate or made any adjustments for business at all, I was looking at over a $40,000 increase in taxes [this year]."

The city's tax freeze came too late for some downtown art galleries. Onepointsix closed its doors this past January, and both Helen Pitt and Centre A moved out of Yaletown in the summer of 2005.


Emily carr students dominate New Media Awards
Emily Carr Institute students have shut out the competition in the Emerging Innovator of the Year category of the 2007 Canadian New Media Awards. Media artist Sean Arden, animator Keeley Bunting, and filmmaker Jason DaSilva beat out 48 applicants from across the country to make it to the finals.

"In terms of the category, where there were submissions from right across the country, and it being a national selection committee...the fact that three Emily Carr students rose to the top is a great story. It's a great story for Emily Carr," Adam Froman, founder and executive producer of the awards, told the Straight.

The winner of the innovator award will receive a full $8,500 scholarship to attend the spring 2008 five-month TELUS interactive art and entertainment program at the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab in Toronto. The awards will be presented on May 28 in Toronto.


City strikes up conversation on art
Local politicians, artists, academics, business people, and cultural leaders addressed the public on April 23 at the City of Vancouver's all-day forum on the future of arts and culture. The Creative City Conversation, which took place at the Vancouver Playhouse, was part of the city's ongoing Creative City public consultation into developing a 10-year arts strategy for the city. Close to 500 artists, arts administrators, creative-sector workers, and members of the general public registered to attend the free event, which featured 21 presenters. Vancouver is also conducting an on-line survey to assess public opinion about the role of arts in the city. To take part, visit

It's been a heady rise to stardom for former Vancouverite Terra C. MacLeod, who returns to play murderess Velma Kelly in a touring production of Chicago at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, May 1 to 8. Before her Jessie-winning performance as Anita in the Arts Club's 2002 mounting of West Side Story, she'd had only one professional gig in Canada. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Montreal company of Chicago, playing Velma there and in Paris. She moved to Broadway for six months and has been touring ever since.

"I miss a kitchen, I miss having my own bed," MacLeod admits, reached on the road in Florida. "The show's been to Taiwan, Tokyo, and Dubai."

How does she keep going? "So many people want this that you'd better make sure that when you get it, you give it all you've got."