August 17, 2011 • In web :: Features
Feminist Art Gallery
Finally, an art gallery that celebrates feminist art and artists.
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While government funding sources like the Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, and provincial arts councils provide an important infrastructure for many artists and institutions, they don’t exist in a vacuum, and artists will likely face the same obstacles applying for grants as elsewhere. Formal education, access to resources, and institutional support often determine who is funded. Many feminist artists feel equally disempowered by the grants system and the commercial arts system. The FAG seems to offer a third way whereby support is provided directly in trust, without corporate or government purse strings.
So what makes art feminist? This is a question probably most loathed by artists who work with feminist ideas or identify as feminist. There had long been a resistance to being pigeonholed as a feminist artist, but the tide seems to be changing. Mitchell recommends that you should always put that you are a feminist artist on your CV. FAG doesn’t take any hardline definition of feminist art. "We hope to create and build a context for artists whose work speaks to contemporary feminist ideas and challenges dominant forms of representation. There is no single response to the question, 'What makes a work feminist' -- feminism can encompass a variety of different ideas including gender, race, class, ability and sexuality." Kobayashi feels comfortable with being a feminist who is making artwork, "I have tried not to be super didactic in what I’m doing."
Kobayashi started making art work when she began attending York University is 2003. She had been a drama kid in high school, and she plays many characters in her videos. She is often the performer and director in short films, and remarks that this just sort of happened naturally. "It’s a lot easier than organizing a bunch of friends to come act for you." At a showing of her works in the FAG courtyard, she thanks her parents for driving her around to make videos, and accepting her "doing weird things in the [Mississauga] neighbourhood where they lived." Her advice to young artists is consistent with this style. "Have a sense of play and pleasure in what you are doing." Part of what makes her work so funny and relatable is that she just makes what pleases her and worries about the why questions later. She also says it’s a good idea to have a few projects on the go at a time, and to "Go out and see a lot of art!"
Logue and Mitchell offer aspiring artists advice along the same lines. The pair mentions you need to be fearless, especially for female, queer, and trans youth, and you also need allies. "Look for the people who are doing the kind of things that you are interested in-, whether it is graffiti writing or public demonstrations or performance art or puppetry or script writing. Also look for the people who are engaging in the issues that you are interested in." They recommend finding meaningful volunteer experiences. While they recognize that working without wages is not ideal, often the pay-off in mentorship, future opportunities, and even jobs is well worth it.
If you are in or visiting Toronto, you can find the Feminist Art Gallery on Facebook and at 25 Seaforth ave. (Be sure to check what gallery hours are, they're usually open on weekends). No opening date is yet posted for the fall exhibition, which will feature the Community Action Project of AK Burns and AL Steiner.
On the next page are some recommendations from FAG for interesting things you can find online.