How are we doing at the Art Gallery of Mississauga?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Toronto (Star) looks toward the 905 for culture

Brampton throws an artsy bash

Feb 13, 2007 Erin Kobayashi Life Writer

It is becoming a tired cliché for the word "boring" to promptly follow the word "suburbs."

"Yes, we already know that `all culture dies in the suburbs' but what else?" says 29-year-old Richard Marsella, the founder and director of the seventh annual Brampton Indie Arts Festival, which kicks off tomorrow.

"If you are shallow enough to judge a place for its face value, which is just the way it looks, which is just a Wal-Mart (and) a bunch of homes, then the suburbs may appear boring. But if you look into every one of those homes, there is something unique happening."

A crusader for the arts in Brampton, Marsella has built a remarkably unique suburb-based arts festival that is dispelling the myth that culture doesn't exist in the 905. For four days, Brampton's Rose Theatre will revel in art by the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh and house live shows that include Final Fantasy and Andy Kim.

The festival, hosted by a puppet named Curtains and includes audio art set up in the washrooms, forces Toronto concertgoers to grudgingly make a reverse commute to the suburbs and accommodates those already there.

"I think the suburbs is rich in culture and this goes with any city," Marsella says. "You just have to look a little harder in the suburbs to find it. The suburbs is just short on venues to showcase the interesting and unique work it has but there is so much going on."

Although the arts festival will last only four days, Marsella knows the art, music and audience won't disappear once it wraps up because much to skeptics' astonishment: art lives and thrives in the suburbs. Surprise.

In fact, Marsella thinks that the infinite creativity from the suburbs has caused the emergence of independent suburb-based festivals. He mentions last summer's Beating Heart Festival, a concert series held on the concrete square of the Mississauga Central Library that staged acts like Magneta Lane and dd/mm/yyyy.

There is also Mississauga's A Month in Photography Festival, curated and run independently by Fausta Facciponte for the last two years. Her reason for creating the festival was her growing frustration with being an artist outside of Toronto and wanting to showcase regional talent.

"I thought Mississauga was lacking the support for photographic arts for emerging talent," says Facciponte. "There needs to be something more for up-and-coming artists, a place, event, spotlight to promote young talent."

Su-Ying Lee of the Art Gallery of Mississauga agrees with Facciponte and has seen a lot of DIY festivals popping up in the least likely places.

"There is a lot of effort from young people," says Lee. "We have heard of quite a few people wanting to begin a film or video festival."

However, Lee stresses that although there is plenty of talent to showcase, the festivals need more support from the corporate sector and municipal governments or they won't be able to survive. "It can get off the ground but can only continue for a certain number of years," she says.
Facciponte, who does not make a profit from the A Month of Photography Festival, relies heavily on local businesses to help support the event.

But perhaps the greatest breakthrough in the last 10 years has been festival organizers' reliance on the Internet to network with artists and connect with audiences. The suburbs, with a reputation for being sprawling spaces full of single-family homes and a car-heavy landscape, are also seen as intensely private. The Web allows those situated outside of the artistic hub of Toronto to inexpensively reach out to neighbours.

"A lot of the communication between me and the artists happens through email," says Facciponte. "The Internet has been a really important tool in all of this."

Similarly, The Beating Heart Festival's website is just a MySpace page, which keeps costs down but still allows organizers to post concert listings, publicity and spread the word to other users.

Shawn Micallef, co-founder of [murmur], a successful archival audio project curated in Toronto, is planning to set up another [murmur] project in Mississauga later this year. "I think [murmur] might help the spotlight shift from downtown," says Micallef who thinks that the suburbs are largely ignored.

He cites last fall's Nuit Blanche as a Toronto-centric event, hogged by downtown venues leaving the rest of the GTA notably absent from the festivities. "Maybe if the next Nuit Blanche is out in the suburbs, it would get people to put it on the mental radar of where art exists," Micallef says.

"The suburbs are not boring," he says. "Their stories just haven't been told as much."
This article from the Toronto Star at

Will you be going to the Brampton Indie Arts Festival?
The 905er has blogged thoughts about Nuit Blanche before. Do you agree with Micallef?

What do you think?


Zan Barrage said...

Got this one a bit late to make it there. What else is happening around Missy Miss?

I have taken a liking to Norval and have been doing some plein air (from my car of course) there on Saturdays.

How about a post on hidden treasurs to paint around Mississauga? That would save me a lot of time and gas :)

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