The Winnipeg Effect: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
The Winnipeg Art Gallery, November 3-5, 2016
Bill Lobchuk, Grand Western Canadian Screenshop & CARFAC Manitoba
Leona Herzog & Ted Howorth
Leona Herzog: Grand Western Canadian Screenshop
From 1968, when it started, until it stopped operating in 1987, the Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop the brain child of Bill Lobchuk had a profound influence on the art scene in Winnipeg. It made itself felt throughout Western Canada, and through to Europe as early as 1977 when it circumvented the Eastern-based establishment and went directly to London and Paris.
Through its founder, Bill Lobchuk, partner and printmaker Leonard Anthony, and later Chris Finn, Ted Howorth, Dianne Wilt and other printers, the Screen Shop became a catalyst for experimentation, artistic excellence and political voice.
I will spend a few minutes on the artistic legacy of the Screen Shop itself, and Ted will talk about the founding of CARFAC, born within this intellectually rich and politically aware environment.
Artists who worked there include Pierre Ayot, Gord Bonnell, Kelly Clark, General Idea, Ivan Eyre, Gord Lebredt, Tony Tascona, Judith Allsopp, Jack Butler, David Thauberger, Robert Archambeau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray; and many other artists who made up the "Who's Who" of the western Canadian visual arts scene. This primarily Western focused communal process was aided by the Canada Council Exchange program which allowed many artists to travel to Winnipeg to work at the Screen Shop.
Technological developments, using the inherent qualities of the medium, as well as pushing its boundaries, became a hallmark of work created during those years. The broad flat surfaces that silk screening provided was used to full advantage in Bill's work, Jackson Beardy's work, and many others. Technical achievements blossomed, incorporating photographic methods, drawing directly on the screen and exquisite stencil cutting which was used in Alex Janvier's and Winston Leather's work. The best materials and innovative thinking lead to new and original means of working. Suspending materials, such as graphite, in printing medium for work done by Don Proch and Joe Fafard. Louis Bako's work incorporated flocking. And pure gold and silver powders, mixed with varnish were used in printing Winston Leather's Cosmic Variations series.
Although it closed in 1987, its influence artistically and politically did not end there. The Screen Shop's work led to increased interest in screen printing and in the development of new studios. Jan Boning opened a studio in Winnipeg; Leonard Anthony opened Atelier Ladywood, north of Beausejour, and set up screen printing at Sanavik Coop in Baker Lake which operated successfully for several years. Moosehead Press and North Nassau Printmakers for Intaglio were established. The University of Manitoba added screen printing to their classroom options; and Martha Street Studio still uses some of the equipment from the original shop on Princess Street.
The Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop's artistic legacy is all around us. Ted will now tell you about the political legacy.
Ted Howorth: CARFAC in the 70s
The birth of CARFAC was a game changer for artists in Canada. It started in 1968 in London Ontario by a group of artists. Jack Chambers, Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje organizing CAR as a collective to demand the recognition of artists' copyrights.
To quote Jack Chambers, "No one is more qualified to speak on behalf of artists than artists themselves."
In 1970 Bill Lobchuk and Ken Lochhead held the first meeting of CAR Manitoba at the Screen Shop. Winston Leathers, Ivan Eyre and even Ferdinand Ekhardt, the Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery were there.
In September, 1971 CARFAC held its first national conference in Winnipeg. This timing coincided with the opening of the new Winnipeg Art Gallery on its present site.
The 1970s was also a time of much fun and community for local artists. Most of us were members of CARFAC.
The Screen Shop was the center of much art activity and the meeting place for CARFAC. With no money, we could not rent a space or even mail a letter. We had to raise cash to operate.
The Mini Show that you see projected was held at the original Fleet Gallery. With the money raised, we were able to rent office space in the Bate Building.
In February 1976 we held the first Mini Show at PlugIn. Everyone was asked to make a piece of art that was 4" x 4". We would then buy each others' pieces for $20.00. Hundreds of other people wanted to see and buy. So we made one piece to trade and one piece for sale. When we arrived at the opening, there was already chaos of hungry people waiting to get in and buy. We were going to put the artist's names in a hat and draw for our own art exchange. So Tony Tascona came up with the idea of other buyers drawing numbers from a hat and then taking their turn at picking a piece. We ended up making money to operate for the year.
CARFAC spoke for the rights of all artists, not just their members. We spoke for the interests of the individual artist when negotiating with institutions such as public art galleries and governments.
CARFAC fought for artists to be paid for hanging work in an exhibition (now known as artist exhibition fees). Up until then, everyone involved in an exhibition at a public gallery was paid except the artists who created the art. The Director, the curator, even the security guard who told you not to touch the art were all paid but not the artist.
To quote Bob Dylan, "when you ain't got nothing, you've got nothing to lose".
So in 1975 Canada became the first country to pay exhibition fees to artists, after fierce lobbying by CARFAC. Based on CARFAC's minimum copyright fee schedule, the Canada Council made the payment of fees to living Canadian artists a requirement for eligibility for Program Assistance Grants to Public Art Galleries.
In the 1970s CARFAC was the only game in town to help artists develop a professional career. We produced standard contracts for artists, held workshops and created an artists' manual for the many business practices involved in being a professional artist. We were a thorn in the side of local and federal governments. Locally CARFAC was run at various times by people such as Bill Lobchuk, Dale Amundson, Linda Freed, Sarah Yates, Chris Finn and myself.
Winnipeg became the location for the CARFAC National and the CARFAC Provincial offices with Bill Lobchuk as the National director. At that time, the Exchange District was just the old warehouse area where artists could find cheap studio space. The Bate Building was the location for many artists' studios and for CARFAC. There, we also produced an artists' newspaper, edited by Sarah Yates, CARFAC's writer of all things and designed by Kelly Clark our graphic designer.
Nationally CARFAC has continued to fight for artists' rights and in 2014 Canadian artists overwhelmingly approved Canada's first labour agreement with the National Gallery.
CARFAC Manitoba is once again taking up the ongoing fight for the rights of artists. If you want to get in touch, they are in Artspace at 100 Arthur St., with a new board and a new director, Alexis Kinloch.