Nathaniel Dett Chorale

Fans of quality choral and gospel music are doubtlessly pumped for tomorrow's appearance by this 21-voice Toronto-based classically-trained choir at First Baptist Church (2241 Victoria Ave.) at 8 p.m.

Under the direction of Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, they are the first professionally-trained Canadian choir to specialize in Afrocentric music. Last year at around this time, they'd just returned from a 10-day visit to Washington, D.C. where they participated in several events held to commemorate Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, including a Jan. 19 performance at the Smithsonian on Martin Luther King Day, and a Jan. 20 gig at a Canadian Embassy-hosted "tailgate party".

Here's video of the choir performing "Ave Maria"

Library Voices with the help of EMI

They're moving on up in the world.

Local label Young Soul Records will now be aided by EMI in releasing records, including Library Voices' next album.

Tatiana Maslany Conquers The Universe!

Zow! Regina-born actress and General Fools alumnus Tatiana Maslany has won a special jury prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival for her work in Grown Up Movie Star (CBC). Prairie dog readers might remember Maslany's appearance on our cover five or six years ago, when she starred in the Globe Theatre's holiday production The Secret Garden. We'll try to dig up the image for Dog Blog. For a few years now, Tatiana's been a busy and successful working actress with stints on shows and films like Being Erica, Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, Renegadepress.com and George Romero's Diary Of The Dead. I'm a fan of her entertaining (and starring!) role in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, where she played a uniquely troubled child fascinated by werewolves. Here's her resume on the Internet Movie Database.

Congratulations and a happy prairie dog bark to Tatiana!

Pick of the Day: Selling Out

I reviewed this show at the Dunlop Art Gallery in the Jan. 14 prairie dog. It's by Ottawa-based, Montreal-born artist Michele Provost. The mother of four, Provost is intimately familiar with the explosion in marketing that's occurred in the last two decades tied to big-budget Hollywood movies like Stars Wars and all the super-hero flicks.

If you're a habitue of modern comix shops you'll know what I mean. In addition to the expected comix you'll find action figures, video and board games, trading cards, posters, T-shirts and other merch. For this show, what Provost has done is replicate the look of a modern comix store. Only instead of superheroes and the like, she's created a product line focusing on well-known visual artists throughout history (that's one of her embroidered comix covers, pictured above. Action figures, trading cards and sliding puzzles are also on display).

The action figures either depict the artist, or more commonly, one of their master works. In some instances, Provost's clearly targeting the artist in question for, as the title of her show confirms, selling out. That's a touchy subject in the art community. The arts, in the past century or so, unfortunately, have been significantly eclipsed in our society by sports and more popular forms of entertainment. Artists generally operate on the margins of society now. When one does become successful, attracting a lot of friendly media attention and big-dollar sales, their integrity is almost always called into question.
Not every artist who achieves mainstream popularity is a whore, obviously. But many do push the envelope pretty far.

As I noted in my review, art institutions, due to stagnant government funding over the last 20 years, have also been forced to become more entrepreneurial to sustain themselves. Again, that's a touchy subject, with critics discomforted by the proliferation of corporate partnerships and sponsorships, swank fund-raising galas and gift shops with occassionally tacky merchandise. Other things that museums and galleries have done to heighten their profile, like enhanced outreach and education programs, have been more warmly received.

Ultimately, in my review, I concluded that the biggest middle finger that Provost was extending was to "politicians like Stephen Harper and the dickhead constituency that they represent" -- namely, people who cannot conceive of anything having value unless you can attach a price tag to it.
If given their druthers, I'm sure most artists would just as soon not put a price on their work. But to survive in our consumer culture, they must. And I doubt there's a profession in our society that has been more misrepresented. According to Toronto-based Hill Strategies Research, the typical income of an artist in Canada is under $15,000 a year. That's income from all sources, by the way, not just their art production. Yet in the 2008 federal election, Harpo was able to shield his government from criticism (in most of Canada anyway outside of Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver) about killing culture via draconian funding cuts by dismissing the arts as a niche area characterized by snooty elitists hobknobbing at rich galas.
I know that describes my life to a T, Steve. You prick.
Selling Out closes March 7. Check it out if you get a chance.