If you got the money, she’s got the Monet

London, England-based Canadian art adviser Tania Buckrell Pos (BFA ’93) bewildered what she describes as her “family of bankers” by studying fine art at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 16. She has a master’s degree from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, and is certified by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – a rare qualification – speaks some French and Italian, and has “lived internationally” for more than a decade, spending time in France, Austria and elsewhere. Her expertise in the modern British period is backed by a broad knowledge of painting and sculpture.

It’s Pos’ job to find the unfindable work. "I know where to go to find the best, I use other contacts – even other art advisers, collectors, experts – and I find what my client needs," she says.

This emerging trend makes advisers like Pos invaluable repositories of knowledge on the whereabouts of works that disappear across borders and out of the public eye, and virtually everyone involved with Pos signs a confidentiality agreement to keep the buyer obscure.

Pos thinks the Monet selling in London was significant. The previous owners have their roots in Columbus, Ind., and Pos says that a few years ago it would almost certainly have appeared at auction in New York. The shift across the Atlantic shows a desire to be at the doorstep of emerging markets flush with new wealth, Pos says.

Pos also suggests that the eastward explosion of wealth has created an interesting new dynamic in the art world. As economies sputter and people everywhere rethink their spending, art-auction records continue to be broken. Pos’ Monet purchase virtually doubled the previous record price for a Monet painting – $41.4 million – set only a month earlier.

Evolution of women’s sports has been a rocky one, writes York prof

Perhaps it was the dawning of the new century, the diminishing of Victorian influences, or the new “militancy” of the “fairer sex,” but the 1900s opened the door of Olympic sports to women, wrote Frank Cosentino, professor emeritus and a senior scholar at York University, in a story for the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 18.

Amsterdam’s 1928 Olympics included track and field as a discipline for women. But not without objection. Two of the fiercest opponents of the move were Pope Pius XI, as well as Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games. He was opposed to women being allowed to enter the Games, period. If they must participate, he said, “let them not exhibit themselves in doing so.”

Interesting, however, is another decision that the International Olympic Committee made for the Sydney Games of 2000. Was it another message for women and their place in sport and society? In the sport of beach volleyball, there is a men’s and a women’s event. The IOC has mandated that there be an official uniform for the female competitors: the bikini. Hmmm.

What’s next you might ask? Well, the president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, proposed in 2004 that women soccer players should wear tighter shorts, referred to by some as “hot pants” in order to reveal, he said, “a more female aesthetic.” According to a report in the Jan. 16, 2004 edition of The Guardian, soccer head Sepp Blatter stated that women should have skimpier outfits to increase the popularity of the game; “let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball.” It has yet to be mandated; but can it be far off? 

Why we ignore bicycle theft

Bikes are stolen every day on streets busy with passing pedestrians and cars, but it’s rare if anyone bothers to stop a thief. Why is that? Research has shown that the more bystanders at the scene of a crime, the greater the chances are no one will help, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 17.

People have to notice what’s going on, says Myriam Mongrain, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health. If other passersby appear unconcerned about something out of the ordinary – a man lying on the street may be drunk or asleep, not in need of medical help – you are more likely to think there’s no problem. Call it bystander apathy.

Even if you do feel something is amiss, since there are lots of people around, you may think someone else will help. It’s “diffusion of responsibility” – an attitude of what can I do anyway? This calls for a mechanic or someone who knows first aid or someone physically stronger, wrote the Star.

Middleton rates newest crop of Olympic commercials

Alan Middleton, marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University and a regular contributor to the Financial Post’s Ad Missions panel, rates the efforts of four sponsors with ads in heavy Games rotation, wrote the National Post Aug. 16.

Royal Bank of Canada has embarked on a very different, animated campaign, taking its cute “Arbie” character into the Olympics milieu as a participant in a variety of sporting-themed spots such as hurdles and diving, wrote Middleton. Whether the whole campaign approach works remains to be seen, but I do like the understated, wry humour of these three Olympic spots. Far away from the usual “brag and boast” of corporate advertising, it elicits a smile and a sense of warmth about RBC’s involvement in the Games. A courageous and, I think, effective move for RBC. Rating: 9/10

McDonalds “Micky D’s” has a couple of spots. While the solid brand communication will serve McDonald’s well, neither stands out as great work. Nothing special. Rating: 7/10

Rona Canada’s…spots are solid and in keeping with the down-to-earth practical persona that their new ad agency is probably seeking for the brand. They are dull, though. Rating: 6/10

Having abandoned the beavers, Bell’s Olympic spot shows a variety of athletes performing and passing a baton around what turns out to be their logo, and ends with copy indicating the range of communications methods that can be sourced through Bell. This spot is really low in strategy, imagination and selling power: pretty but predictable cinematography, and using a list as a message achieves neither a positive association with the Olympics nor a coherent selling message. Rating: 4/10

Documents show propane plant cited for other violations

The propane plant that exploded in northwest Toronto last Sunday was cited for many more infractions than have been reported, wrote CBC News online Aug. 15. CBC News has also learned that the government was warned more than five years ago of problems with the TSSA.

Research done for the Walkerton Inquiry raised questions about the agency’s accountability. Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, who made the finding, says if the government had listened, Sunday’s accident might not have happened.

Winfield said a previous government’s decision to hand safety inspection to an independent agency meant ministers and government bureaucrats were no longer aware of what was going on in the field.

“Getting the details of inspections and approvals and these sorts of things are crucially important to protecting public safety. That’s what we learned through Walkerton. That’s what we’re learning again here,” he told CBC News.

Winfield says the TSSA is also not subject to the usual oversight by the auditor general or the ombudsman. “Clearly there has been a major failure. The regulator system exists precisely to prevent this sort of thing happening,” he said.

Fuel proximity has been a win-lose proposition for Toronto

A fuel terminal on the northeast corner of Finch Avenue West and Keele Street [near York’s Keele campus] is one of the most prominent storage facilities in the GTA, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 18. But after a while, people in the area almost forget it’s there. But occasionally – like when the Sunrise Propane facility blew up forcing the evacuation of homes where 12,000 people live – the danger lurking within the gleaming white tanks surfaces in the minds of those around the storage terminal.

Built in the 1940s, the facility is home to Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil and Shell Oil and it’s used primarily to store gasoline before trucks transport the fuel to local filling stations. Development encroached closer to the terminal as the city grew over the years. What was once strictly an industrial area on a CN rail line is now surrounded by commercial neighbours, housing subdivisions and York University.

Family stayed at Tait McKenzie for days after explosion

When I arrived at York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre late Sunday morning, the ambulance buses were on their way, wrote columnist Robyn Doolittle in the Toronto Star Aug. 16, in a story about the Downsview propane explosion Aug. 10. Soon, hundreds of evacuees from the propane plant blast site would be filtering into the gym. They’d be met with food, water, blankets and rows of plastic bleachers.

The next day, I was back at the blast site. There was a press conference; the 100 or so remaining evacuees were being let back into their homes. The Bittles were one of dozens of families to gather at the end of Murray Road. But only after arriving did they get the full story – only a portion of residents were being let back in. None of those who had gathered were on the list. They were told asbestos had been found in the area and others would have to wait until it was cleaned up. The Bittles got in their SUV and drove off, back to York University to wait. As of yesterday [Aug. 15], they were still waiting.

Union rules were designed to protect wages and quality of work

Giving priority to union members who live closest to a job is common practice in trade unions but the increased demand for quality labour in southern New Brunswick has some employers calling the practice into question, wrote the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Aug. 16.

Stephanie Ross, professor of labour studies in York’s Faculty of Arts, said such regulations emerged as an attempt to preserve workers’ level compensation and quality of labour. “If you have too many people competing for jobs, you’re bidding down the wage rates,” said Ross. “But in a certain sense there should be solidarity between the different locals,” Ross said in response to criticisms that some union halls were refusing to hire workers from out-of-area halls.

Dedication drives dynamic pianist

He is a project manager for a software company who decided, only three years ago, that he needed more music in his life, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 16 in a story about pianist and York alumnus Ricker Choi (BBA ’97, MBA ’06). His instructors, Boris Zarankin and Marietta Orlov, in separate conversations, shake their heads in appreciation at Choi’s determination and application. “If only professional artists had that kind of dedication,” says Orlov with a wry smile.

Unlike most pianists, who start to play at kindergarten age, Choi didn’t have his first piano lesson until he was 13. The next five years were arduous: “I practised for hours every day after school and, in the summers, I would go to the Conservatory for music theory and history and spend the rest of the day practising.”

He quit piano after graduating from high school. He wanted to focus on university studies (business at York University) and getting his career established, and there was no room for distractions. But once he had dealt with the practicalities of his adult life, “I felt there was something missing,” he recalls.

York student competes in tennis tournament

Lions Tennis player Mikhail Lew, who hails from Venezuela but now lives in Toronto, is studying psychology at York University, wrote the Welland Tribune Aug. 18 in a story about the results of the Rose City Open tennis tournament.

Nursing students ride in heart & stroke cycling fundraiser

Brooke Butler and Alicja Gwiazda travelled from Barrie to participate in the Pedal 100 cycling event, held to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, wrote the Welland Tribune Aug. 18. The newcomers to the sport chose to ride the 100-km route. Both are studying at York University to become registered nurses and they’re well aware of how important it is to raise funds for medical research, while staying physically fit.

Movement Arts Festival was created by York dance alumna

A step in the right direction will get you wanting to shake your booty on Tuesday evening in Lamoureux Park, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Aug. 18 in a story about the Movement Arts Festival, brainchild of local dancer and York alumna Amanda Marini (BFA ’03, BEd ’06). “The festival is really a celebration of movement for movement’s sake,” explained Marini. “I wanted to expose people to different styles of movement, not necessarily all dance, even though there will be a lot of dancing.

“I think it’s a stepping stone for appreciation of arts in the community.”

Marini’s mother encouraged her love of the arts and ensured her daughter studied dance as a youngster. She later studied it at Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School, before completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) and a Bachelor of Education (Dance).

“I think what drew me to dance is its intangibility,” figured Marini. “It’s ephemeral, you take it for what it is, and I believe there’s a real beauty in that. People get so wrapped up in the future, they lose the moment. It’s hard to embody that in your life, it’s not an easy task.”

Youth factor dominates Canadian chess teams headed for Dresden Olympics

Youth will be well represented on the Canadian teams at the Dresden Chess Olympics in November, wrote the London Free Press Aug. 18. Of the 10 players, six are students. York University has placed two players on the team: Grandmaster Mark Bluvshtein from the Faculty of Science & Engineering and Dina Kagramanov from the Faculty of Health.

Ready to take on the world

Katie Starke, of Goodwood, Ont., is poised to be crowned Miss Teen World at an upcoming competition in Texas, wrote Durham Region online news Aug. 16. But Starke, 18, a 5-foot-10 blonde beauty, also a veteran hockey player, is a newcomer to the beauty pageant scene.

Starke recently graduated from Uxbridge Secondary School with an academic scholarship to York University to study business and play on the York Lions women’s hockey team, she said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was eight,” she said, adding she is a left-winger on the Durham Jr. Lightning squad of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.

She said when she is called on to speak at the international competition, she will take the opportunity to boost the profile of women’s hockey. “You can be athletic and feminine,” she said. And while she hasn’t ruled out taking her hockey career further, noting she’d “love” to be part of the women’s Olympic team someday, her real passion is modelling. “I love modelling. It’s (even) more exciting than hockey,” she said.

Edmonton football coaches head for York

Beau Mirau and John Belmont, who worked with head coach Mike McLean to bring two national junior football titles to the Edmonton Huskies, will help McLean, now head coach of the York Lions football team, build a solid program at York University in Ontario, wrote The Edmonton Sun Aug. 17. Mirau, who was fired by the Huskies brass last year, is McLean’s offensive co-ordinator. Belmont leaves tomorrow to work with Mirau on the York passing attack.

Fire was lit long ago in Hazelton

The biographies on the Canadian Olympic team Web site can make for some interesting reading, wrote the Vancouver Province Aug. 17. Here, for instance, are some of the tidbits from trampolinist Karen Cockburn:

– Studied at Toronto’s York University.

– Married Olympian and former training partner Mathieu Turgeon (BA ’03), [a graduate of York’s Faculty of Health] on Dec. 22, 2007.

– Her biography, Karen Cockburn: Soaring High, was published last November.

Diminutive kick boxer coming to York

Mckenzie Wright, a boxer as well as a kick boxer, will head to York University in the fall, wrote the Burlington Post Aug. 16 in a story about local kick boxers who headed for a competition in South Africa Aug. 19. At 48 kilograms, she’s the lightest kickboxer on the Canadian team.

Alumna returns to her local theatre roots

York theatre alumna Sarah Martyn (MFA ’97) stills feels her Sparta roots, wrote Ontario’s St. Thomas Times-Journal Aug. 15. Martyn is on the boards in Port Stanley appearing in the world premiere of her own play Running Mates.

Raised in Sparta and now living in Toronto’s Little Portugal community, this accomplished actor/playwright is genuinely glad to come home. She keeps herself occupied with writing, acting and teaching drama. “I love writing. You can do it on your own time. But I also love the feeling of connecting with an audience as an actor. There is nothing like it.”

After graduating from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts in the acting program, Martyn began working in summer theatres and writing. Her play Sparta pulled from characters and situations she grew up with and observed in Sparta and area. It was this deep and abiding honesty to her work that had many critics speak highly of the play when it was work-shopped in Toronto. Running Mates draws on her knowledge and experience of many of her family who have been and continue to be involved in local politics. The play is meant to poke gentle fun at municipal politicians and municipal elections and there are some references to the Port Stanley area that will give many in the audiences an additional chuckle.

Fine Arts grad’s alter ego takes centre stage in Vancouver

Thanks to numerous projects and years of entertaining, performing artist and York alumna Angela Brown (BFA ’80) is running out of storage space, wrote BC’s Delta Optimist Aug. 16. “My biggest problem is finding a place to store all my props, puppets and costumes. I could probably rent a garage and it wouldn’t be big enough,” she says.

Brown will bring her act to South Delta when she performs as the Ta Daa Lady at the Tsawwassen Arts Centre next Saturday. The lighthearted and interactive show will include singing, dancing and puppets, says Brown, who’s been performing as the Ta Daa Lady for 20 years.

She’s also involved in a number of other endeavours, including musical theatre and teaching. Brown is working with Metro Vancouver on a musical called Fraser River Review that’ll be in Ladner as part of the Rivermania event. This year she’ll be working with Learning Through the Arts where she’ll visit schools and work with students on activities like puppetry and song writing.

Brown has a degree in dance and theatre from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She produces, writes, directs and performs as well as exhibits artwork around Greater Vancouver.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the fifth anniversary of the power blackout of 2003, on CBC Radio (Toronto) Aug. 14.