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Oh The Places You Will Go

By Humboldt Magnussen

At Xpace Cultural Centre there is a large bookshelf that contains hundreds of issues of art magazines collected over the years. This afternoon while trying to figure out what I was going to write about I cracked open a Canadian Art from 1984 and began looking at the advertisements for shows that included work by Henry Moore, and Betty Goodwin. It was very interesting to see how many familiar names jumped out of the pages defined as emerging and creating cutting edge work where now, 30 year later, they are now established big names, such as Wanda Koop.

The most interesting article in my opinion was called “Saskatoon – an isolated bastion of modernism or a community in which art and artist thrive?” The article was about the art community in Saskatoon, and being a prairie boy I could relate when the article spoke of the small but very supportive community.  Now that I’ve finished my MFA degree the big question is whether I am moving back to Saskatchewan or not? It makes me question where the best place I should be is so I can “thrive” like in the article. Its difficult because where you live plays a major role in your career and living in a city like Toronto where there are more artists living here then anywhere else in Canada means that while the community can be great the competition can also be cutthroat.

This reminds me of an episode of Fat Actress where Kristie Allie is trying a new crazy diet called the Koi effect which works on the idea that if she wants to be smaller she has to surround herself with smaller things like tiny chairs, small people, and tiny houses.  The concept here is that things grow in relation to their surroundings, like how a koi fish will grow in accordance to the size of the pond it lives in.  So a small pond = small koi fish.  Big pond = big koi fish.  Of course Kristie realizes a bit too late that things are not so simple and your surrounding do not have complete control over you.  We can see this in art too, where there is a tendency for artists to flock to the big metropolitan centers that have large art communities to try to get their foot in the door. These artists are hoping that they will grow and become established in this large pond of an art world. At the same time, the fear is that if you head to a smaller center you may never grow and be known outside of your smaller community.

Of course there is a bit of truth to this, and artists need to be aware of how to grow a public outside of their own neighborhood, which can easily be done using the internet and using word of mouth. There are artists that have the best of both worlds, living in a small center often means cheaper rent for both your home and studio space, and the money saved could be put towards flights a few times a year to bigger cities. I think it is good to question where you will find an appropriate place and audience for your work, and not assume that every city will benefit all artists in the same way, you might find that the best place for you is to be in big cities like Berlin or New York, or maybe to find yourself in a small village in Northern Sweden. A friend of mine just finished his Masters in music, specializing in playing the violin, and today on his facebook he posted that he is moving to northern Sweden to become a Reindeer Farmer for two years. This is a big life change and perhaps not the best place to be a professional violin player, however it could possibly be the best decision he’ll make in his life, and I bet Reindeers love the violin.

Basically what I’m getting at is that the artworld has changed rapidly because of the internet, social media, and art fairs which has opened up the possibility to be successful and well-known regardless of where you live.  Don’t be afraid to find the spaces where you feel most productive and supported because if you have the support you need, it is also likely that that will help you to make the best work. Just being in the larger art centre is not a guarantee of success, so it is important to find the place that is right for you.