FROM THE EDITOR
I'm sitting at my desk on Canada Day, proofreading this issue and thinking about what to say in this note. By the time you read these words, July 1 will have come and gone, 150 years marked, and our American neighbours will be celebrating their national holiday.
While our biweekly publishing schedule means there's no sesquicentennial issue per se, stories about various commemorative projects have been a recurring theme since Galleries West Digital launched last November. This issue notes yet another: a voyage through the Northwest Passage by a rotating roster of artists, a project duly covered by veteran Ottawa arts writer Paul Gessell. At the same time, we have also considered how artists are interrogating this anniversary. Our June 20 issue, for instance, featured a cover story on Kent Monkman and his critique of colonial history, work now showing at the Glenbow in Calgary. This issue's cover story is about Anishinaabe artist Maria Hupfield. Her work considers identity, community and how, as Murray Whyte, of the Toronto Star, has written, "meaning can change, sometimes radically, when the context shifts."
Whyte can turn an elegant phrase, and it's always a privilege to edit his writing. His story on Hupfield demonstrates again why he is one of the finest (and, let's face it, few remaining) visual arts writers in the Canadian newspaper industry. It's often said that teachers learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, and I think the same holds true of editors and writers. I know my writing has improved by editing other writers, mulling over things like clarity, brevity and (sigh) grammar, while trying to preserve voice and a depth of insight. Editing is an inexact art, a balancing act in which perfection, as with most things in life, is a frustrating chimera. But, of course, that's also what makes it interesting.
That said, I have spent some time working with a new writer from Calgary, Catherine Carlyle, who considers Adrian Stimson's fascinating project about Indigenous soldiers in the First World War. Poking through an array of websites as I fact-checked her review reminded me again how much I love the varied journeys that artists take, and also how important it is to encourage and develop new writers.
A good arts writer is much more than someone who knows the arts: Along with a sensitivity to language, it also takes curiosity and attentiveness, a willingness to dig for interesting details, as well as a clarity of vision to describe a piece of art so readers can visualize it. And, of course, let's not forget the courage it takes to set out one's honest response to the work. It can be a vulnerable place. Editors are a safety net, not just to catch spelling mistakes and other blunders, but to challenge assumptions and push for excellence.
We're in an interesting time, here in the chasm of the great analog and digital divide, watching lumbering old publications die, or transform into flimsy spectres of their storied past. Sure it's easy to set up a blog these days, and come and go they do, sometimes useful, sometimes not, but largely functioning beneath the tide of public awareness. It's often difficult for emerging writers to get the kind of attention they need to develop craft skills and critical vision. Gigs for arts writers are increasingly few and far between.
Galleries West has taken the leap into digital, asking writers, new and old, to produce stories under tighter deadlines and provide substantive and varied coverage that is accessible without sliding into triviality. Our writers track what's happening in Western Canadian art communities, large and small, helping to create a magazine that's fresh and timely. If you have already signed up for the email reminder that we send out when we publish a new issue each second Tuesday, we thank you. If not, this is a chance to support artists – and arts writers – as Canada embarks on its next 150 years.
Until next time,