December, 1982, No. 89

Danny Cockerline

p. 13.

Metro committee to monitor "acceptability" of art

TORONTO -- After hearing York borough Mayor Gayle Christie's report on "offensiveness" in the contemporary art scene, Metro council approved the creation of a "watchdog" committee to monitor the acceptability of art work produced by groups receiving public funding. Council also voted 18-17 to refuse grants to three experimental art groups, Arts Sake, A Space and Trinity Square Video.

These groups, frequently listed in TBP's Out in the City, sponsor many gay artists and gay positive exhibits, including the recent "Photographs of Wilhelm von Gloeden" at A Space.

Metro's cultural affairs officer, David Silcox, had recommended the grants back in June, but at Christie's request the decision was delayed until she could investigate "public complaints" about performances sponsored by A Space, Bill Beatty, a local citizen popular in the gay community for his efforts to stop Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in Grange Park (TBP, June) is one voice behind these complaints.

During her investigation, Christie found that A Space had screened San Francisco artist Howard Fried's videotape of a man using foul language. She also unearthed an exhibit of excrement and urine with the title "The Museum of Man About War." And she determined that an exhibit entitled "Equal Time Equal Space" dealt with incest. She was not pleased.

Trinity Square Video was implicated when Christie revealed that the woman who urinated in a pail during a recent cultural performance at The Art Gallery of Ontario was a director of Trinity. However Ric Amis, also from Trinity, told TBP Christie was "totally mistaken. This is totally untrue."

Christie also neglected to contact any of the groups she was supposedly inves- tigating. Amis says the groups attempted to arrange a meeting with Christie several times over the summer but were unsuccessful.

"At no point did any of the groups get to speak for themselves," explains Amis. "That's the problem. Metro council has the power of a lower court without the accountability. Politicians are free to carry out personal vendettas, as did Christie, without regard for democratic process."

The Globe and Mail recently editorialized that a council which subsidizes artistic expression "should accept that the expression will on occasion be disturbing, even offensive.... Metro council wants a committee to advocate the doling out of money, exhibit by exhibit, to activities which satisfy the personal taste of the members.... That is not subsidizing the arts; it is censoring the arts." A recently formed group, Citizens for the Arts, has secured legal counsel to carry out its own investigations into Metro council's October IS proceedings and the possibility of a slander suit against Christie. The group is also developing a long range strategy to combat "increasing political interference" in the arts.

At a public forum November 1, Citizens for the Arts endorsed a proposal from Arthur Gelber, past chairman of the Ontario Arts Council, that Metro council consider formation of a citizens' group to set standards for applicants seeking civic grants.

Meanwhile, Christie, who had threatened further "investigations" into the subsidized art world, suffered an unfortunate upset; she lost the York mayoral race November 8 by 105 votes to Alan Tonks. Rumour has it she was defeated by the pro-art vote.

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Created: January 12, 1997
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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