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Supporting Canadian artists and diversity advocacy

Global Affairs Canada Visual Art Collection acquires new artworks in collaboration with the National accessArts Centre

The Global Affairs Canada Visual Art Collection (VAC) is responsible for managing and curating fine art at Canada’s embassies, high commissions, consulates and official residences in over 100 cities around the world. Its purpose is to exhibit and promote contemporary Canadian artists outside Canada, convey an inclusive, diverse and contemporary image of Canada, and foster Canada’s cultural diplomacy efforts abroad.

In December 2020, the VAC marked a milestone in its work toward inclusion and representation of artists from across Canada; the collection acquired 13 works by 12 artists who are members of the National accessArts Centre (NaAC). The NaAC is Canada’s oldest and largest disability arts organization, supporting more than 300 artists living with developmental and/or physical disabilities through on-site studio supports and workshops, and exhibition opportunities.

These newly acquired works will circulate to Canada’s missions as part of the collection’s curated fine art program. Many of the acquired artists have represented Canada internationally, exhibiting their artwork and advocating for the inclusion of artists with disabilities in the contemporary international arts community.

On May 10, 2021, a celebration was hosted by the British High Commission and the National accessArts Centre, with attendance and commentary by MP Sven Spengemann on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney and the CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, Simon Brault. The event provided an opportunity to highlight the importance of inclusion and strengthen connections between British and Canadian arts communities.


Transcript and English translation of Global Affairs Canada Visual Art Collection collaboration with the National accessArts Centre

Length of video: 00:02:39

Transcript: Supporting Canadian artists and diversity advocacy

Karly: The acquisition of artworks by Global Affairs Canada represents a monumental shift in the attitudes that we have about artwork by artists with disabilities. The National accessArts Centre has been busy raising its international profile with projects in places like Seoul, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Guadalajara. These projects have often been funded by Global Affairs as there are natural synergies between our exhibition strategy and their cultural diplomacy strategy.

Global Affairs has an incredible collection of important Canadian artworks. These are used in Canadian cultural centres and diplomats' homes across the world to tell the story about Canadians and the Canadian experience.

There were 13 works acquired by 12 artists that came out of the studio in various programs. They tell all kinds of different stories, and really expand on the Canadian experience. Amber Harriman's "On Point" reflect on her experience competing for Canada at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019, where she brought home seven medals for Canada.

Nicole: Amber, how do you feel about the news that your work is now going to be a part of the Global Affairs' permanent collection?

Amber: It's pretty neat. It's really exciting to have your art being shown by a lot of people. It's pretty cool.

Karly: David Oppong's work was part of a commissioning program where we asked our artists to send messages to the public at the beginning of the pandemic. His piece "Resiliency and Coronavirus" is a message that he wants to share with people about how we get through the pandemic.

Nicole: How do you feel about this news that your work is now part of the permanent collection?

David: I feel overjoyed, and feel like bringing people around me to support me, that’s what I feel.

Karly: Gwyn Howell's "Caribou" and Mark Brickman and Mack Wigham's "C-Jam Blues" came out of a program with the National Music Centre where our artists visualized important Canadian music. Kathy Austin, Shaun Johnson, and Brian Ehnis' work reflect on the beauty of living in the Canadian landscape. And for Robert Panich, he reflects on living through the BC forest fires. Rhonda Kottusch, Susie Meredith, and Jennifer Parker's work reflect on the joy of social interactions and feeling a sense of belonging.

We're incredibly proud of our artists - that their artwork will go onto tell the story of Canadians and the Canadian experience around the world.

Karly Mortimer, Director or Artist & Program Development, NaAC

Nicole Kackowski, Coordinator, Projects, NaAC

Amber Harriman, NaAC Artist

David Oppong, NaAC Artist

* Global Affairs Canada publishes this video and transcript with permission from the National accessArts Centre.


New acquisitions from the National accessArts Centre

Kathy M. Austin

b. 1961, Alma, Michigan, USA
Flower Garden (2016), liquid acrylic and ink on paper, 54.6 cm x 71.7 cm, Cat. no. 2020.20.1

Kathy M. Austin is a legally blind artist with a multifaceted practice. She has been participating in Canada’s rich artistic scene since moving from Michigan in 1996 and is a strong advocate for the inclusion of artists with disabilities in contemporary art spaces.

Flower Garden is a work inspired by imagining what it might look like if every flower bloomed simultaneously, creating an eruption of various plants and colours. By showcasing a flower garden as a community of different flowers, Austin hopes to inspire others to see the beauty and diversity in all living things.

*This work will be installed in Canada’s official residence in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Mark Brickman and MacKenzie Wigham

b. 1988, Winnipeg, Manitoba and 1989, Calgary, Alberta
C-Jam Blues (2019), acrylic on canvas, 76.2 cm x 91.4 cm, Cat. no. 2020.21.1

Mark Brickman and MacKenzie Wigham are visual artists whose work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally. Brickman has as an eye for matching hues and has been playing with colours since he was a young boy. His distinctive style includes a pattern of round shapes, which he describes as the shape of himself or as his signature.

Wigham is an intuitive artist who enjoys drawing forms and figures often inspired by specific colour choice, expressive movement and his favourite characters in popular culture. Working both figuratively and abstractly, Wigham’s artworks often involves layering felt marker, coloured pencils and pastels that capture unmediated movements.

C-Jam Blues is a collaboration by Brickman and Wigham created as part of an arts visualization program. The artists selected the Oscar Peterson Trio’s recording of jazz standard “C-Jam Blues” (1942) first popularized by Duke Ellington. This resulting painting responds to the jazz piece in forms and colours.

*This work will be exhibited in Canada’s official residence in Tunis, Tunisia.

Brian Ehnis

b. 1951, Saskatchewan
Alberta Prairie Farmhouse (2019), oil pastel on paper, 66.7 cm x 88.2 cm, Cat. no. 2020.24.1

Brian Ehnis has always loved art and works in a diverse range of mediums, often working them to their edge. He is a prolific maker and enjoys working at a vigorous pace. Ehnis created works for the City of Calgary’s Public Art Program in 2018 and exhibited in “Connections” at the Dubai International Airport in 2019.

Alberta Prairie Farmhouse was inspired by an old farmhouse that brought him a lot of happiness. Much of Ehnis’s work is inspired by places, reflecting the joy of spending time in natural settings in Canada and South Africa.

Amber Harriman

b. 1989, Calgary, Alberta
On Point (2019), freestyle embroidery, 65 cm x 51.4 cm, Cat. no. 2020.28.1

Amber Harriman is a multidisciplinary artist who draws inspiration from observing the recurring forms found in nature. Harriman’s love for dance informs her visual vocabulary and forms the basis for her abstract imagery.

Harriman has exhibited her visual art throughout Canada and around the world, including in Kilkenny, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Seoul and Dubai. She also participates in the Special Olympics and represented Canada at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, winning 7 gold medals for gymnastics.

Harriman’s On Point was inspired by the grace and shapeshifting movements of dance. As someone who likes to explore creativity through new challenges, Harriman chose to translate the piece through the unfamiliar and novel medium of stitching. The silhouetted figure melds organically with the barren branches surfacing through the reflection of the sun’s setting rays across a mirrored lake.

Gwyn Howell

b. 1958, Clifton, England
Caribou (2019), acrylic on canvas, 95 cm x 104.5 cm, Cat. no. 2020.29.1

Gwyn Howell creates narrative-based compositions that are responsive to both popular culture and historical events. Born in Clifton, England, Gwyn spent the majority of her life in Canada after immigrating in 1966. Her main practice consists of drawing, painting and fibre-artwork that achieve richness through the gradual layering of color, either stroke by stroke or thread by thread. As a result, Howell’s sensibility is characteristically vibrant and whimsical, echoing her joyful personality and unique sense of humour. Howell has showcased her artwork in various exhibitions throughout the years, including the recent “Drawing Power” exhibition in Zapopan, Mexico (2019).

Caribou was produced from a special collaboration between the National Music Centre and the National accessArts Centre in Calgary, Alberta. The participating artists were asked to select and artistically “visualize” 1 of the 5 Canadian-produced songs supplied by the National Music Centre. After selecting and reflecting on Tanya Tagaq’s cover of the Pixies’ “Caribou,” Howell recreated a childhood memory of being snowed-in by a blizzard in her family’s cabin.

Shaun Johnson

b. 1972, Calgary, Alberta
Waterfalls and Mountains (2018), acrylic on canvas, 64 cm x 79.4 cm, Cat. no. 2020.30.1

Shaun Johnson is an artist constantly inspired by his surroundings, whether in the city, at the Special Olympics, at car shows or with family and friends. In 2018, he participated as an artist-in-residence at the Leighton Art Centre in Millarville, Alberta. This important institution honours the deep tradition of art-making inspired by the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Waterfalls and Mountains incorporates Johnson’s unique interpretation of those spaces and histories into his painting.

Rhonda Kottusch

b. 1966, Calgary, Alberta
Colours (2016), liquid acrylic, marker on paper, 50.8 cm x 58.4 cm, Cat. no. 2020.33.1

Rhonda Kottusch is an artist who uses colour and line work to create joyful depictions of her environment. Her process involves blocking out colour fields and later responding with lines and contours. Kottusch’s works feature careful consideration of balance and composition while retaining a sense of ease and play. Her joy and energy are immediately present in her artwork.

Kottusch has worked for a local energy company for over a decade and is an avid fan of wrestling, drumming and music. Her work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally, including in Washington, D.C. (2010), Hong Kong (2018) and Dubai (2019).

Susie Meredith

b. 1996, Redhill, England
King Queen Princess Royalty (2018), felt marker on paper, 78 cm x 62.8 cm, Cat. no. 2020.37.1

Susie Meredith is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes visual arts and movement. Through painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, choreographing and improvisational movements, Meredith depicts moments of connection, power and possibility in her work. She often renders structural forms that point to fantasy and the unfolding of grand narratives. King Queen Princess Royalty depicts Meredith’s understanding of power, not only in the structures depicted but also through the sun and what is revealed by its light.

Meredith joined the National accessArts Centre in 2016 after settling in Calgary with her family. She has exhibited in Canada and internationally, including at artsPlace (Canmore, AB), the Dubai International Airport and the Centro Cultural Constitución (Zapopan, Mexico).

David A. Oppong

b. 1997, Accra, Ghana
Resiliency & Coronavirus (2020), digital print, 107.9 cm x 86.3cm, Cat no. 2020.39.1

David A. Oppong is a multidisciplinary artist whose works capture emotional scenarios through photography and drawing. Framing is an important element in Oppong’s work; angles, perspective, posture and facial expressions share and convey his insights on global issues, personal experiences and approaches to life. He also loves the lines and designs of sports cars, which is a passion he shares with his father.

Oppong created Resiliency & Coronavirus in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The artwork depicts Oppong’s two emotional realities during this time: sadness and hope. He sought to convey that although the pandemic has been very hard to deal with, we will get through this and future days will bring happiness.

Robert Panich

b. 1953, Thorhild, Alberta
Forest Fire (2019), fluid acrylic and pencil crayon on paper, 56.5 cm x 66.7 cm, Cat. no. 2020.40.1

Calgary-based artist Robert Panich has always had a love for the arts and prefers to be in the studio constantly. Panich draws the inspiration for his works from current events. Forest Fire was created during the summer of 2018, when the forest fires in British Columbia filled the Alberta skies with smoke and vibrant sunsets. Carefully rendering each tree in the forest, Panich then filled the page with smoke and flames of all colours until he replicated his experience of vast forest fires that burned in the neighbouring province.

*This work will be exhibited in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 2021 in Dubai.

Jennifer Parker

b. 1977, Terrace Bay, Ontario
Beautiful, Water, Wildwind (2019), acrylic on canvas, 24.7 cm x 32.3 cm each, Cat. no. 2020.41.1, 2020.41.2, 2020.41.3

Jennifer Parker works across multiple mediums, including painting and drawing, seeking practices that bring her joy. Beautiful, Water and Wildwind were inspired by the artist’s love for bright, swirling colours associated with feelings of happiness. Parker’s works have been exhibited internationally, including at “Connections” in Dubai (2019) and “Fantasy Landscapes” in Canmore, Alberta (2018).

*These works will be exhibited in the Embassy of Canada in Vienna.

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