Picture this (in your pyjamas)

Can the world of high-end art fairs thrive without champagne lounges and air-kissing, not to mention the elbowing and Darwinian competition for favoured positions seen at the beginning of a traditional event? asked Don Thompson, professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in story in the National Post Jan. 22 about the launch of the VIP (Viewing In Private) Art Fair.

Art lovers are increasingly able to shop many of the world’s top galleries, offering work by artists from Damien Hirst to Louise Bourgeois, in their pyjamas, wrote Thompson. The question is whether people who otherwise do not visit dealers or art fairs will buy art online during a morning coffee. More importantly, will wealthy collectors spend significant money for art they have not seen and experienced in person?

Practical considerations drive VIP. Art aficionados and collectors from Dallas to Dubai are not always able to travel to fairs, or are daunted by the mobs at Art Basel Miami. Dealers want to reach new collectors, especially from the emerging markets of China, Russia and the Middle East, without the cost of packing and shipping the art there. And renting booths at conventional art fairs is expensive: At Art Basel Miami Beach, galleries pay up to US$65,000. VIP’s virtual booths, meanwhile, cost US$3,000 to US$20,000.

Top art dealers had good reason to boycott an online venture that threatened to disrupt their own business model. Amazingly, they embraced it. VIP’s 10 founding galleries are the heavyweights of their world, and include Gagosian, White Cube in London, David Zwirner in New York and Gallery Toyanagi in Tokyo. Of the 138 invited galleries participating, the only Canadian one is Jane Corkin Gallery of Toronto, which has a digital booth in the most prestigious section.

The question remains whether a fair can be successful if it offers exclusivity to the clients of branded galleries while also welcoming novices and tire-kickers. And can art fairs function without the social tension of art advisers, curators and collectors vying for the best work?

The Rainmaker’s last reunion

They gathered Friday, the Liberal lions in winter, to grieve their legendary Rainmaker, to relive the glory days that [former senator] Keith Davey helped create and to lament the passing of what might have been the greatest Grit generation of all, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 22.

David Collenette, former Liberal cabinet minister [and Distinguished Fellow at  Glendon], was five years out of York University and working for the Liberal Party of Ontario when the candidate in his home riding – York East – withdrew, putting the Liberals in a tight spot. “Keith calls me up and says ‘Look, you’re on the payroll, you have to run.’’’

Collenette was hesitant. He was about to get married. He was only 28. He was worried about money. “Keith said ‘Don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about anything.’’’

That night, he sent Collenette and his bride-to-be to a hockey game. “He said ‘Here’s a couple of reds, think it over,’” Collenette remembers. Collenette ran, won and served in Ottawa for more than 20 years.

Filmmaker draws inspiration from work of Global Suburbanisms team

A United Way report last week highlighted a problem in Toronto: our city’s poor are increasingly concentrated in crumbling highrise towers, mostly in the inner suburbs, wrote Edward Keenan in EYE Weekly Jan. 20. The report addresses a subject that National Film Board filmmaker-in-residence Katerina Cizek has been studying for two years, while making films on a digital, interactive project called Highrise. Her films allow viewers to click in and around apartment towers in Toronto and around the world to hear the stories of residents.

I got really inspired by this phenomenal world-class research that’s happening in our city – [including] York University’s Global Suburbanisms research team – not only to engage in the city I live in but to start rethinking how we understand the city all over the world, wrote Keenan. Highrise is, quite simply, a multi-year, multimedia documentary exploring the human experience in “vertical suburbs” around the world.

I find it interesting that in the past two years, some really substantial research has come out about the nearly 2,000 towers across the Golden Horseshoe…. In Toronto, we’re only just at the very beginning of understanding the vastness of these resources and assets that we have in built form.

York prof’s study showed benefits of First Nations’ self-government

Old Crow, Yukon Terriitory, was compared to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, by Gabrielle Slowey, a political science professor from York University, wrote the Yukon News Jan. 21, in a story about International Polar Year (IPY) research in Canada’s Arctic. The goal was to examine the differences between a northern community engulfed by the oil and gas industry to one that has largely refused exploration.

However the result turned into a comparison of the well-being of the people of a self-governing First Nation versus a non self-governing First Nation in the North.  Self-government is necessary for a healthy North, her findings show. Going even further, Ottawa needs to change its priority of Arctic sovereignty to human security which, she argues, goes hand-in-hand with self governance.

As an abrupt end of a discussion…at a conference down south, Slowey was invited to visit Yukon’s northernmost community to “see for herself,” she says. Those visits changed the project’s focus, she says.

She presented her findings at an IPY workshop in Whitehorse on Tuesday.

What I learned from a year in yoga pants

Homeless people have taught me many tricks of the street-nursing trade, such as the patching qualities of duct tape and how to dress for the job. I have a wardrobe of yoga pants that I wear under rain pants and over long underwear, wrote Catherine Crowe (Hon. LLD ’10), in a column about her work and experiences for The Globe and Mail Jan. 24.

I wore my yoga pants everywhere. I wore them while giving speeches and to appointments with my dentist, doctor, even lawyer. Naturally, I wore them to the gym. I only set them aside once to dress up to receive an honorary doctorate from York University to honour my career.

TDSB officials call for Jane-Finch schools to stay open

A year-long review that prompted outcry over feared school closings in the Jane and Finch area is set to wind down peacefully, with Toronto District School Board officials calling for all schools to remain open, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 24.

At a public meeting Jan. 18 at Brookview Middle School, the board’s strategy and planning director, Daryl Sage, told residents that future development near York University, where a subway line will soon reach, means the area’s five elementary schools could be needed to accommodate growth.

Trustees on the board’s planning and priorities committee will consider Sage’s recommendation Wednesday, and the full board will vote on it Feb. 9.

  • After a year of raucous public consultations, Toronto District School Board staff is recommending that no schools close in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood – especially with a new subdivision on the horizon, wrote the Toronto Star blog ParentsCentral.ca Jan. 23.

Staff will propose Wednesday to the board’s planning and priorities committee that all five elementary schools in the neighbourhood remain open, even though one, Shoreham Public School, is almost half-empty. Between all five – including Blacksmith Public School, Brookview Middle School, Driftwood Public School and Gosford Public School – they have seen enrolment decline by nearly 500 students in six years.

A new development approved by Toronto last fall, however, could bring 10,000 new units to the nearby York University area, according to Daryl Sage, the board’s director of strategy and planning.

“If these turn out to be low-cost housing with two or three bedrooms, we actually might have to build two new schools in the area, and as they get built, we would be looking to Jane-Finch to help accommodate new students,” said Sage.

York prof signs letter in support of Nobel winner and his micro-credit bank

We write to express our gratitude and support for the enormous contributions made by micro-credit, by you and by the Grameen Bank to the task of poverty alleviation in Bangladesh and worldwide, said a letter co-signed by Mahmudul Anam, professor of economics, York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the online News From Bangladesh, Jan. 24. [Anam was among a group of signatories to an open letter in support of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, which is being investigated by Bangladesh authorities for an alleged diversion of charity money.]

We must not allow any minor administrative lapses to cause the nation to lose sight of the enormous good that has been achieved through micro-credit; nor should we float a political balloon on the issue in order to enable naysayers to deny Bangladesh’s most innovative solutions in the struggle against poverty. The world is watching to see how we treat one of our finest institutions, and its founding leader.

We are happy to see that you have welcomed an inquiry, and have responded publicly and frankly to questions from the media…. The work of the Grameen Bank and the micro-credit model you pioneered has stood the test of time, culture and geography. There has been a silent revolution uplifting millions of poor, and the status quo has been upended for the better.

Pianist known for elegant playing taught at York

Canadian classical pianist Antonin Kubalek, who was a contract instructor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts from 1994 to 2001, died in Prague on Wednesday from complications following surgery to remove a brain tumour. He was 75, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 22.

Kubalek toured and was heard regularly on CBC Radio. He also taught, primarily at the Royal Conservatory of Music, while also attracting students at York University and the University of Toronto.

  • Antonin Kubalek, a Canadian classical pianist who made more than two dozen recordings and toured regularly, has died at the age of 75, wrote CBC News Jan. 23.

Kubalek would teach regularly at the Royal Conservatory of Music as well as York University while touring and making recordings, two of which were nominated for Junos in the 1990s. Kubalek was also featured frequently on CBC Radio.

York prof edits final volume of the collected works of George Grant

Starting early in this century, the University of Toronto Press has now issued all of George Clarkson Grant writings, spanning his earliest jottings from the1930s up to his last books, interviews, book reviews, articles and lectures, which are compiled in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, 1970-1988, wrote Halifax’s The Chronicle-Herald Jan. 23.

Edited and introduced finely by Arthur Davis, professor emeritus in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Henry Roper (once of the University of King’s College), this 1,110-page, final volume in the series is a magnificent tribute to Grant’s protean thought.

Canadian banks look at increasing US operations

Tim Hortons, the doughnut and coffee shop chain, dominates Canada’s fast-food market to a degree without a parallel in the United States, and successfully opens new stores rapidly, wrote Massachusetts’ Masslive.com in a story from The New York Times News Service Jan. 24. But continuing struggles with its American expansion forced the closing of 54 outlets in New England last month.

Regardless, James Darroch, director of the financial services program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said that the current revamping of the American financial sector would most likely force Canadian banks to increase their investments in the United States. “Either you’ve got to expand in the US to become profitable or you’ve got to exit,” he said. “If you want to stay in that market, now’s the opportunity to shape it. The question is: ‘Can you do it right?’”

Resolutions for retirement-savers in 2011

You might invest more in stocks if you have a job with steady income and great benefits, according to Moshe Milevsky, author of Are You a Stock or a Bond? and a professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s The Sun News Jan. 23, in an article about finance for retirement.

From Toronto mother to hero in Guatemala

It was an act of desperation: Five years ago, Adrienne Rosen (BA Hons. ’92) travelled to Guatemala guided by nothing more than the name of a woman and a town, determined to track down the birth mother of her daughter, Alana, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 22.

Alana was adopted as an eight-month-old from a Guatemalan foster home. Now a Canadian teenager, she was going through a rough patch. Counselling hadn’t helped. Maybe biology would. “Alana is the brown daughter of a couple of lesbians and she’s Jewish,” explains Rosen, 56. “She wanted to know where she’s from.”

What she discovered on that three-day journey, which began in a slum and ended in a shack at the end of a muddy road, was more than a family. She found a calling.

Recently, 260 children returned to school after holidays in the Guatemalan town of La Union because of Rosen. Sixty of them started Grade 7 in the town’s first middle school, opened this week by Rosen and built by the small charity she started in her Annex home after that fateful trip. “After I found them, I was crying my heart out on the phone to (my partner) Myra,” Rosen says. “We were poised to make a difference.”

Since then, Rosen’s charity, called Access Education Guatemalan Children’s Fund, has raised $60,000. That’s pennies in non-profit circles. But pennies go a long way in Guatemala. When Rosen discovered there was no middle school in La Union, she decided to build one – sending enough money for four classrooms, two bathrooms and a stage. By the time the 60 students now starting Grade 7 are ready for high school, she will have built that, too, she says.

Church to help coach national women’s hockey team

Ryan Walter will lead the national women’s team into the 2011 world championship, after the former NHLer was named Friday as the head coach of the Canadian entry for the tournament, wrote Postmedia News Jan. 22…. The 52-year-old New Westminster, BC, native will be joined by a pair of Canadian Interuniversity Sport coaches, Dan Church of York University and Lisa Jordan of St. Mary’s University. The world showdown is slated for April 16-25 in Switzerland.

El Anatsui brings his metal tapestries to ROM

Toronto’s show is a homecoming for this sculptor, whose first trip outside of Africa was to attend a sculpture conference at York University in 1978, wrote Rabble.ca Jan. 24, in a review of the Royal Ontario Museum exhibit When I Last Wrote to You About Africa by Ghanaian sculptor Brahim El Anatsui. The exhibit was originally scheduled to debut in the new Museum for African Art in Manhattan, but construction woes there forced the museum to offer their slot to the ROM. The exhibit is comprised of 60 pieces ranging from hangings to sculptures and paintings.

Abbotsford police officer awarded scholarship

The Abbotsford police sergeant behind the Operation Tarnish, Impact, Veritas and Lodestar programs is the recipient of a memorial scholarship, wrote the Abbotsford News Jan. 22.

Sgt. Mike Novakowski was honoured in a formal presentation at the monthly police board meeting on Jan. 18. He received the 2010 Paul N. Tinsley Scholarship, totalling $2,000, for the second year in a row.

Novakowski is currently pursuing his master’s degree in law from Osgood Hall Law School at York University. His area of research for his thesis is “investigative detention”.

On air

  • Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy &  Management in the Faculty of Health, spoke about a proposed update of Canada’s Food & Drug Act, on CTV News Jan. 23 and CBC Radio Jan. 21.
  • Allan Hutchinson, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about his new book, Is Eating People Wrong? Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World, on Toronto’s CFRB Radio Jan. 23.