Volunteer arts organizations. For anyone who has ever been involved in running one, those words probably bring on panic attacks and uncontrollable sobbing fits. Copious grant applications, promotions, bookings, fundraising, and an ever-changing roster of volunteers can easily result in many, many skull-clutching all-nighters.
So it’s no surprise that when the contract for the A1C Gallery Coordinator ran out, the once-again-volunteer-run organization missed a deadline.
“We were a bit late getting the financial report in with our application for a sustaining grant with the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council,” explains Mark Bennett, Chair of the A1C Board of Directors.
“Without an employee,” he continues, “it was hard for us to maintain the gallery and stay on top of things. The board of directors were all volunteers, and the high turnover in board members meant that every experience was a new one.”
The NLAC’s Sustaining Grant would have provided the A1C Gallery with a minimum commitment of $15,000 each year, for three years. Without it, the organization can no longer afford the rent at their gallery on Clift’s-Baird’s Cove. So they’re doing some organizational re-imagining.
“There is a potential to reinvent A1C, which is pretty exciting, you know?” says Bennett. “The gallery can change to whatever the board wants it to be, so we want to encourage people who have ideas to get involved. Personally, if I am to stay involved, I would like to see pop-up shows in different locations and do some fun things like that to keep it going.”
Bennett believes that it is critically important to keep the A1C going.
“[An artist-run gallery like the A1C] provides an interesting alternative for the public,” he says. “They’re usually free, and it’s not usually about selling the work, even though there’s nothing wrong with that. It opens up the opportunity to introduce different kinds of contemporary art to people. Our mandate specifically aims to exhibit emerging and established artists. There’s a real need for that in this city.”
Every year, international affairs magazine The Economist uses their Big Mac Index to compare the buying power of currencies in different countries. Unlike normal exchange rates, the premise of the Big Mac Index is that the same products in two different countries should cost the same when converted to the same currency. Using a Big Mac—a product that is pretty much the same no matter where you are—they calculate the actual purchasing power of a given currency. The results gives an indication of whether or not a particular currency is over or undervalued. According to the last index released last fall, Canada’s dollar was being exchanged for about 15 per cent more than it was actually worth.
When McDonald’s milkshakes were chosen as the best in our Best of Food & Drink Readers’ Survey, we called around to find the cost of large vanilla Triple Thick Milkshakes around the province and discovered the price fluctuated quite a bit. Which is weird, because they’re pretty much the same no matter where you are.
Because the currency is the same, we decided to use the term “Food Dollars” instead. These Food Dollars are based on the regional costs of a Nutritious Food Basket (a week’s worth of food for a family of four) according to the Department of Health and Community Services, the NL Statistics Agency, and regional dietitians and nutritionists (More info from the Food Security Network of NL).
So what does this all mean? The Big Mac Index, using national currency exchange rates that are determined by market forces, tries to give an indication of the real value of a dollar, dinar, drachma, or deutsche mark. Our Milkshake Index, on the other hand, is trying to give an indication of the value of a dollar’s worth of food in different areas.
The results tell us that it is probably best to spend your Food Dollars on foods other than a milkshake everywhere other than Carbonear and Labrador City, where it seems to make the most economic sense to have a milkshake for supper, because it’s relatively cheaper than other food.
After years of planning, multiple public forums, a bit of public protest, and a change in engineering firms, it’s finally happening; St. John’s is getting bike lanes. Seriously, like, right now.
“It has gone to tender at this point and they are going to start putting the lanes in,” says Jennifer Mills, Communications Officer for the City of St. John’s. “There will be bike lanes in some parts of the city and, in other parts, there will be arrows, or ‘sharrows,’ painted on the road. They’re looking at mid-summer for completion, about the middle of July.”
You can check out where all this bike laning and sharrowing will take place on this handy map prepared by the city.
To all the kids and grown-ups out there on two wheels, we offer our most enthusiastic “Wheeeee!”
Rent is on the loose while the province’s economy booms.
April 1st was a lousy day for Jess Huber. She had been living in her downtown-area two-bedroom apartment since December of 2009 and, despite its few problems, she had no plans to move.
Then she and her partner got a letter from her landlord saying that, as of July 1st, their rent would be $750 instead of $650 — a 15.4% increase.
“We were pretty surprised, given the problems that we’d been experiencing — mold, leaking ceiling in the bathroom and so on,” she says. “The landlord didn’t offer to fix those things in lieu of the rent increase. We were good tenants, we paid our rent early, we were clean, and we never asked to sublet.”
She was even more surprised, after calling government services, to learn that the 15.4 per cent rent hike was within the landlord’s right. According to Newfoundland’s Residential Tenancies Act, landlords can’t raise the rent in the first 12 months of an occupancy agreement and, after those 12 months are up, they can’t raise the rent more than once a year.
But they can raise the rent by however much they please.
Lorraine Michael, leader of the provincial NDP, thinks the province should be looking at more rent control. She says she hears from a lot of people in Huber’s position. Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and P.E.I. have all introduced fixed amounts by which landlords can raise their rents each year and Michael thinks Newfoundland could learn a lot from their programs.
“I think it’s important because the demand for rental space is so high in our cities,” she says. “We have extremely low vacancy rates in St. John’s, Corner Brook and Labrador West and, because of that, rates are going up by exorbitant rates. You obviously are going to have a law that’s going to take care of both the tenant and the landlord. For example, if a landlord has to put extra money into the property for a major repair, then they can put in an application to raise the rent more than the set standard would allow.”
That, she says, would require the establishment of a separate provincial division to deal with rental housing policy, since one doesn’t presently exist: the Residency Tenancies Board was disbanded in the late 1990s.
Shannie Duff, City of St. John’s Deputy Mayor, sits on the mayor’s advisory committee on affordable housing. Duff says the city’s skyrocketing rents have contributed to longer waiting lists for both of the city’s affordable housing programs. But she’s not convinced that rent control is the answer for the people on those waiting lists, or for people like Huber who are just looking for housing affordability.
“The jury is out on that. There are a lot of people who seem to think that is a good idea, but there are two downsides it,” she says. “One is that it tends to discourage any new market housing, and we haven’t had any new rental construction in over 20 years. The second is that landlords under rent control do not maintain their properties.”
Instead, she’d like to see tax incentives and interest rate breaks for developers who build units for low-to-mid range rentals.
To an extent, Brad Stone agrees with her. He’s a realtor who also owns properties which he rents out.
“If you made the stipulations too strict, it could dissuade further investment,” Stone says. “If you had a vacant property, for example, or someone just purchased an investment property, and they couldn’t set the rent themselves and had to apply to the government to set the rent — well, I can’t see that working. And from working in real estate I’ve been in a lot of houses, and I know that some don’t do anything to their properties at all — no maintenance, these places are falling apart — and they’re increasing the rents anyways.”
All in all, he thinks that rent control legislation could work, as long as the rights and needs of both landlords and tenants are worked into it.
As for Jess Huber, who has since left her apartment for cheaper rent elsewhere, the solution is a no-brainer.
“Rent control, or even a standardization of rental increases across the province would have been a huge help.”
The proposed facility, which will consist of a retail store and a subterranean skatepark of roughly 5000 square feet, rankled several local residents and business owners in the Mundy Pond area, who cited noise, vandalism, and loitering as their primary concerns.
Entrepreneur Rob Yetman, who operates Turndown BMX, an existing indoor park on Waterford Bridge Road, met with six of these concerned neighbours on May 10 to discuss the issues.
Yetman says the meeting digressed from the residents’ noise, vandalism, and loitering concerns to complaints and arguments about how there aren’t enough street lights in their neighbourhood and similar unrelated gripes.
At the St. John’s City Council Meeting on May 16, city councilors discussed the proposal, ultimately approving it unanimously.
Yetman estimates the new facility, which will be constructed at 77 Blackmarsh Road, will take about six weeks to build, the main hurdle having been getting the go-ahead from city council. His original hope was to have the facility up and running by late June, but he’s since revised this goal to a mid-July opening.
Julia Bloomquist adores food, and cooking has been a major part her life for as long as she can remember—from helping her mother prepare meals as a young child to her later work in about ten different kitchens and cooking for groups of up to 80 people in tree planting camps. When the co-owner of The Sprout Restaurant on Duckworth Street talks about food, her passion is obvious. Ryan Davis met up with Julia in her kitchen to get a taste of her soup and her passion for food and cooking.
Why are you so into food and cooking?
My family has always been interested in good food and long meals. That’s probably where it started. I remember being a kid and sitting down at the table for three hours at a time. And certainly watching my mom cook as a child was influential. As the oldest child I was naturally the one to help out. There were four kids in my family and we were raised as vegetarians, so that forced my mom to be creative with our meals. Growing up in Spain for five years gave me a bit more perspective on the importance of visual cooking and of being able to cook with very fragrant spices… onions… garlic. Things that really sizzle. I lived there until I was six but my earliest memory of seeing serious food production was when I was around three or four. I was allowed to walk with my little sister, on our own, down to the bakery. It was a tiny bakery with a wood-fired oven where they handled the bread with a long paddle. Mom and Dad would give us some money and we would go down and buy a loaf for the evening meal, and that was a big outing for us, especially going on our own. That left a pretty big mark on me.
How did you learn to cook?
I definitely learned through Mom. But then I lived on my own with some family friends when I was 16 and then I really began experimenting with cooking. I also worked as a prep cook when I was that age, at a Mexican restaurant. So that was a big influence as well. It took one really awesome employer who was well trained as a chef and who put full faith in me. Even though I was young he just gave me full responsibility and taught me how to make a lot of the sauces.
What sense do you rely on most when you’re cooking?
I use my sense of smell more than anything, definitely. When I know onions or celery are soft enough, it’s partly vision, but mainly you can smell them becoming really fragrant. And it’s easier to know what fragrant means if you have a glass of wine in your hand. Even when I write down recipes, I’ll write, “sauté until fragrant.” As soon as it gets to the top part of your nose, you know. When you can taste it through your nose. That’s usually how I think when I’m cooking.
How do you like to cook?
When you’re cooking at home, it’s important to feel really comfortable and not rushed. Even having something to nibble on or a glass of wine really helps. Also, if you cook at a low temperature, you don’t have to worry about timing as much. Put your burner on low and five extra minutes isn’t going to make a huge difference. Relax and enjoy the process!
Adam Clarke talks to Jordan Canning about directing, writing the Come Thou Tortoise screenplay, and whether stop-motion eggs are sometimes food.
“That’s a good grape. It’d be really satisfying to squish it,” are the first words I hear from filmmaker Jordan Canning. I’ve set up a game of Grape Escape at Snakes & Lattes, a board game cafe in Toronto, and we’ve made Play Doh grape avatars. It seemed a natural lead-in to her short film about sentient food, Not Over Easy.
Not Over Easy sees Karen (Republic Of Doyle‘s Rachel Wilson), having just kicked out her ex-boyfriend (Aaron Poole), with two eggs: each resembling one half in the relationship. From there, the film offers a glimpse of their relationship as enacted by stop-motion eggs with drawn faces and wiggly arms.
Not Over Easy has the emotional quality of the director’s earlier work, though it is still in the comedic vein of the award-winning Countdown or Canning’s video for “Best Served” by The Pathological Lovers. “Even though they’re all comedies and they’re out there, you’re supposed to relate to them,” she said. “Even the eggs. I think the circumstances are so common that you should be able to relate to them. You got to have real, honest emotion grounding a story, otherwise you’ll forget about it.”
Jordan Canning’s success with shorts and music videos brought her to the Canadian Film Centre to complete another short, Oliver Bump’s Birthday. After its completion, Canning began writing the first draft of her first feature-length film Oddly Flowers, an adaptation of Jessica Grant’s Come Thou Tortoise. “I love shorts, but they take as much energy and brainpower as a feature film,” she said. “I started writing the script for Come Thou Tortoise three days ago,” Canning added, “and I felt like this was the story that I’ve been looking for forever. It’s got so many amazing characters and moments in it.” The director is eager to capture both the universality of the story and the unique voice of its main character, Audrey, whom Canning likens to the titular character of 2001’s Amelie.
In an earlier conversation, Canning described herself as having a “sponge brain” that constantly feeds on influences from cinema, life and music. “Doing the CFC Lab was great for that,” Canning said. “There were 19 of us. 5 writers, 5 producers, 5 directors and 4 editors. It was sponge city. It’s rare when you have the chance to watch other directors work because when you’re directing your own film, you’re the one in charge”.
“I’ll be lucky to keep my sponge brain,” she said with Play Doh grape in hand.
Are there creative architectural solutions to our downtown parking problems?
I probably don’t have to tell you this, but public parking is a major problem downtown. For people like myself, who live and work beyond the downtown, it’s often difficult to find a place to park when trying to go for lunch, run errands, or even go shopping on weekends and holidays.
Many cities are now coping with the problems caused by car-oriented planning and infrastructure, and some of them are coping well. There’s a lot we can do to make parking more convenient and aesthetically pleasing.
City hall tries its best to encourage new buildings to include sufficient parking to help alleviate some of the congestion in the downtown. They have a formula for determining the amount of parking required for new buildings: one space for every 75 square meters of gross floor area. Also, City Hall has recently moved to rezone the recently up-for-sale Atlantic Place Parking Garage into a new “parking only” zone. This will protect this prime parking stock from a buyer who may wish to convert the garage into something else.
While it’s great that the city wants to encourage new parking spaces, it is difficult to include interior parking in new buildings downtown. The logistics of making room for cars is difficult: developers and their designers often struggle to squeeze ample parking into buildings, whose small downtown footprints might not allow enough room for turning radii, ramps, wheelchair accessible spots near entrances, and easy street access. And for many urban citizens, parking spaces may be seen as undesirable–otherwise empty space that could be used for something else.
There are also questions about the future of transportation that we must ask: what happens if cars become obsolete? Can we adapt and re-use the structures we have built for parking? Does the addition of more parking actually inhibit the growth of better quality public transit?
But unless something revolutionizes transportation in our city in the immediate future, it looks like we are stuck with the problem of where to park all of those cars. The best we might hope for is that in the meantime we can make parking structures that actually add value to our environment. Can we become good at hiding our cars?
Cities like New York and Tokyo build automatic parking machines—parking machines that robotically sort and stack cars. They require small areas to build on, and can make large numbers of cars disappear into the streetscape. It’s an aesthetically pleasing solution that also appeals to our childhood fascination with robots. (See last issue.)
It’s a neat idea, but it may not be appropriate for St. John’s. Robots that sort and stack cars are certainly not cheap, and building costs escalate for locations that are far from manufacturers. As well, there’s the logistical problem of traffic flow: queuing cars waiting to park, and also finding a location that will ensure profitability.
Without the help of robots, some designers have re-imagined the design of the parking garage to obscure the parking garage’s usual tedious mass. Swiss Architects Herzog and DeMeuron’s new parking garage in Miami called 1111 Lincoln Road is a stand-out example of this. This parking garage sits in the context of an art deco-heavy Miami street. Its massive concrete structure with sharp angles and open edges fit this context. Here, parking is a personal journey, where ramps frame views of the city, and contemplative spaces connect the driver with the ceremonial act of parking. The garage also houses galleries, high end retail, and cafés at street level. This artful approach to designing parking spaces could no doubt be used here. The only obvious drawback here is a potentially high cost.
More parking downtown would allow for more people to enjoy shopping, restaurants, and nightlife, which is a good thing. And while the problem of where to find more parking spaces is a difficult one, some places have found creative solutions to the problem of parking that actually contribute positively to the experience of a city. There’s no reason why St. John’s can’t do the same.
I’m 14 and Hate the World: A young girl’s privileged life takes a surreal twist when she’s suddenly orphaned. Enter creepy old people that would make David Lynch proud. Kenneth J Harvey, the author of the novel Blackstrap Hawco, directs. (Drama)
A River in the Woods: When a band of forest children adopt a monster into their clan things get weird. Well shot and disturbing. (Drama)
The Battle of the Bruised Peach: A sensuous music video with writing on skin and fully-clothed bathing. (Music video)
Watching Emily: Young Emily and her feeble grandfather get in some trouble when mom steps out. (Drama)
Snarbuckled: A cook washes up in a cauldron on a grey Newfoundlandesque island inhabited by a half-crazed lighthouse clown and masked restaurant patrons with voracious appetites. (Drama)
Hope is Fleeting: Painterly, fluid, and colourful Patrick Canning creates a video to accompany his song. (Music video)
Swallowed: This ballad tells the story of a sailor lost at sea and the lifelong suffering of the woman he leaves behind. (Drama)
Fishbowl: Parallels are drawn between life in a fishbowl and life in the CBS suburbs. (Drama)
The Last Cottage Hospital: A young woman who’s had too much to drink ends up in a sketchy haunted hospital in the sticks. (Horror)
Living Inside the Box: A corporate office comes to life in song. (Music video)
The Fourth Minute: Insecurity in love. Sometimes a simple idea works best. Here is proof. (Drama)
Not Over Easy: A couple of eggs are the stars in this break up story. (Animation)
The Wake: A young guy at a wake doesn’t realise the tangle he’s gotten himself into until it’s too late. (Drama)
The Gagalon: Painting, sets, costumes and make up converge in this creepy music video. (Music video)
Liam Blades: Local rollerbladers make iconic spots around town their own, including Arts & Culture Centre hallways. (Documentary)
War & Fleece: A nerdy ram invents a machine that suddenly makes him cool. (Animation)
Four Sisters: Family ties prove stronger than hate and jealousy for these very different women.
Cardboard Junction: An innocent girl deals with the bleak adult world of her mother.
The Auditions: A mature actor and an inexperienced videographer negotiate what it means to be an artist.
The Nickel Film Festival runs from June 21 to June 25. See www.nickelfestival.com