4th Grade Lesson 1 NON-OBJECTIVE ART
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4th Grade Lesson 1 NON-OBJECTIVE ART

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  • cours - matière potentielle : objective
  • cours - matière potentielle : script
4th Grade Lesson 1 NON-OBJECTIVE ART Page 1 of 7 Lesson Objective: To teach the children that art doesn't have to look like anything familiar or real. Art can be completely abstract and made up. Vocabulary: (If the vocabulary words have been provided on poster boards, refer to them here. Otherwise, write the words on the board before you start the discussion on vocabulary) Abstract art: A piece of art that does not represent real or natural forms.
  • interesting thing about a collage
  • additional background material
  • canvas with a liquid
  • soft edge
  • canvas
  • paint
  • colors
  • things
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Nombre de lectures 14
Langue English

Artists,Society,andActivism:TheFederationofCanadian
ArtistsandtheSocialOrganizationofCanadianArt

AndrewNurse
MountAllisonUniversity

Dr.AndrewNurse,Coordinator,CanadianStudies,MountAllisonUniversity,MountAllison,
NewBrunswickE4L1G9anurse@mta.ca

AbstractTheFederationofCanadianArtists(FCA),establishedinthewakeofthe1941Kingston
Conference,becameacentralinstitutionthroughwhichCanadianartistsattemptedtore-
organizetheirrelationshiptosociety.Inparticular,membersoftheFCAbuiltonaseriesofmore
long-standingconcernsabouttheproblematicrelationshipbetweenartandsocietyunder
conditionsofmodernity.TheFCA’sgoalwastobridgethegapbetweentheartsandlifeand,as
such,itservedasafocalpointthroughwhichtheartistsdebatedthecharacterthisnew
relationshipshouldtake.LookingfirsttocontributetoCanada’swareffortandthenpost-war
reconstruction,theFCAultimatelyinstitutedaseriesofpoliciesthatleaditawayfromits
originalobjectivesevenwhileitmaintainedadiscoursecriticalofthefracturedandalienating
natureofmodernlifeandculture.



follow Bieler’s lead and establish the
Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA), In late June 1941, over 140 artists,
Canada’s first national artists organization
educators, critics, gallery officials and civil
that brought artists together as artists.
servants converged on Kingston, Ontario,
for the first national Canadian artists The 1941 Kingston Conference
conference. Expectations among conference occupies a prominent position in Canadian
organizers ran high. “I have no doubt in my cultural historiography. A variety of
mind,” Queen’s Artist-in-Residence André different studies argue that the Kingston
Bieler wrote National Gallery director H.O.
Conference constituted a key stepping stone
McCurry, “that this Conference, if to the realization of a professionalized, state-
successful, will be the sign post of supported Canadian cultural infrastructure.
importance on the long road of Canadian As early 1951, for example, key conference 1art.” In Bieler’s view, the conference organizer André Bieler, suggested that the
needed to address two pressing issues: Kingston Conference began the process
recent technical developments in artistic leading to the Royal Commission on
production and the role and place of the National Development in Arts, Letters, and 2artist is society. As the Kingston 3Sciences. In Making Culture, Maria Tippett
Conference unfolded, the second of these supported this assessment, arguing that the
issues took precedence as artists voiced their Kingston Conference stood at a key dividing
disaffection with the current state of
line in the institutional history of Canadian
Canadian culture and, in particular, what art. It served to draw out the idea that the
they viewed as the problematic relationship arts merited state financial support and
between the artist and society. This 4should not be left on a laissez-faire basis.
disaffection led the assembled artists to More recently, Jeffrey Brison has argued
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 1
that the Kingston Conference should be seen articulated their concerns with the state of
as part of an elite driven process of cultural Canadian culture and devised responses to
nation-building that culminated in the post- what they viewed as their marginalized
World War II expansion of state support for social position. Initially, Canadian artists
scholarship, medicine, education, and the saw World War II as a key opportunity to
5arts. contribute to society and illustrate the
importance of the arts. Increasingly,
The approach taken in this essay is however, their attention was devoted to
different. The extensive archival records left post-War cultural planning and the
by the FCA and its key officials allow us to construction of a new artistic order. Exactly
explore the historical dynamics of artistic what this order would entail was the issue
activism in Canada under conditions of that stood at the core of FCA activism.
modernity. What factors conditioned artistic
activism in modern Canada? What role
should the arts play in society? And, how
did this group of artists address the problems Modernity and the Problem of
they confronted? The modern age, Canadian Art
artists and intellectuals recognized, carried
with it a series of interrelated cultural In her study of the Kingston
processes that proved intensely problematic
Conference, Hélène Sicotte argues that the
for the arts. These included: the rise of
Depression and the beginning of the Second
consumerism linked to mass media, the World War forced artists to reconsider the
intensive and extensive commodification of 7role they played in society. In important
the arts, the economic instability of art ways, however, the issues raised at the
markets, and an increased social detachment
Kingston Conference reflected a specific
of the arts. Combined, these diverse
conception of modern culture that
processes produced rising artistic social transcended the press of immediate
alienation. In both Europe and post-World
circumstances. At the Kingston Conference
War II Canada, social and cultural alienation
and within the FCA, Canadian artists
propelled the growth of the avant-garde. As mobilized discourses that dated from the
both Peter Burger and Renato Poggioli note
early 1930s. Canadian artists and allied
in their classic studies of the European
intellectuals began to articulate a discourse
avant-garde, the modern age problematized that challenged the economic and cultural
the social, economic, cultural, and political
processes of modernity that refashioned
status of the artist. The avant-garde
long-standing concerns about the economic
constituted a reaction against socio- stability of the arts. They aimed to articulate
economic, cultural, and political alienation.
a position that addressed two inter-related
Its objective was to fashion a cultural praxis
but different issues: the economic status of
that animated a new fusion of art and the artist and the cultural problems of 6society.
modernity. Leo Smith, for example, argued
that the problems confronted by musicians
Beginning in the 1930s, shifting
in modern Canada were not directly related
aesthetic styles, the generalized economic
to the Depression. “Music,” he wrote, “has
crisis of the Depression, and new political
at the moment some new problems quite
issues forced Canadian artists to directly
other than those associated with the state of
confront the social detachment of the arts. In 8trade […] .” Musicians, Smith argued,
this sense, the Kingston Conference, and
confronted an ironic situation: there was, he
then the FCA, represented the culmination
believed, a greater demand for music then
of artistic, intellectual, and organization
ever before, yet less demand for the services
initiatives that began much earlier. The FCA
of musicians. Musicians faced new forms of
served as the vehicle through which artists
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 2
cultural competition from cinema and radio wealth but to the way in which societies
along with a listening public that could not approached art. Using the “ancient” artistic
differentiate good music from bad. “The traditions of colonial new France as an
trend of social legislation,” he wrote, “the example, Barbeau argued that even
growth of democracy, the development of relatively poor societies could create the
mechanical instruments, scientific circumstances for the evolution of great art
inventions, etc., have combined […] to if they were committed to it and understood
increase uncritical listening.” The result, he its value:
argued, was dramatic expansion of “cheap
9music” at the expense of the musical arts.
They [the colonial population of In his various writings on the arts,
New France] mortgaged the future Group of Seven member and future FCA
activist Arthur Lismer argued that a series of to pay the craftsmen on the
installment plan and often in kind, broader historical processes had dislodged
but always met their obligations. Art the arts from a place of importance in
culture. Historically, Lismer suggested, art was essential, as in mediaeval times,
not a mere luxury, as it has become had played an important and creative social
in modern life. Hence its vitality, at role. In the modern age its cultural
prominence had been dislodged by science, a time when most of America was
13still a wilderness. mass media, and religion. The modern
productive process, he argued, created goods
“The collaboration among common that had little artistic merit, but won popular
people, the craftsmen, and the diocesan acceptance because industry used "high-
authorities,” he concluded, “is what made pressure salesmanship" to delude
the growth of architecture in Quebec consumers. Artists, Lismer claimed, were
14possible.” being forced out of their traditional
occupations and into commercial pursuits
For A.M. Stephens, the issue was that allowed no freedom for creativity. He
systemic. The current economic system, characterized commercial art as the
Stephens noted in an essay on the subject, handmaid of industry: it debased and
10 was widely held to impede the flourishing of dehumanized the nature of art. "We are
the arts. And, while he believed that artists concerned about Art," Lismer wrote as early
needed to find inspiration within as 1929, "because Art is separating itself
15themselves, he acknowledged the from life, and we are forced to contemplate
difficulties of the contemporary context. Part Art as a separate and distinct department of
11 of the problem the arts confronted, Stephens human affairs."
argued, was that their social utility was not
evident. The value of art, he believed, was In his writings, the noted folklorist
spiritual, relating to the “inner man.” A Marius Barbeau implicitly supported
larger part of the arts’ problems related to Lismer’s arguments by drawing a stark
social changes. In Europe, these changes did distinction between modern culture and the
not have as great an impact because of the past. The modern age, Barbeau believed,
legacy of an aristocratic tradition: “[t]he ushered in a new relationship between the
scholar, the artist, the man of leisure and artist and society. Barbeau never explained
culture still receives a meed of respect in a precisely what he believed triggered the
society which does not measure men by development of this new relationship but its
16monetary and utilitarian standards.” He consequences, he said, were evident: the
12 faulted a series of other factors – from evolution of art had stalled. The issue of
industrialization to scientific education – for artistic vitality, Barbeau explained in the
the low state in which he believed art was midst of the Depression, did not relate to
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 3
mired. The result was a decline in the hoped that better education might allow
quality of art and a threat to the spiritual Canadians to understand the differences
23aspects of humanity: “[u]ndoubtedly there between “cheap” and real music. For still
will be a crying need for the message of art others, the real problem with Canadian art
to leaven the materialism of an age in which lay in the attitude of artists themselves. For
economics will speak with the authority of H.S.M. Carver, the real problem of the arts
17the law […].” Other critics agreed. In lay in artists unwillingness to engage social
1939 Graham McInnes noted a “widespread life: “a work of art which does not have
opinion” that “the development of reference to the materials, the manners, and
Canadian” was “languishing in the the problems amongst which we live, is
18 24doldrums.” meaningless.” It followed that if artists
wanted their work recognized as socially
Acadia University art professor and meaningful, they had to take the lead and
critic Walter Abell, and later FCA member, produce such work.
provided what was perhaps the most blunt
discussion of the subject. Building on ideas For an increasing number of
he began to articulate in the 1930s, Abell Canadian artists, the solution to their
wondered about the consumption priorities problems lay in some form of self-
of modern culture. The problem, he said, on organization. In 1941, when André Bieler
a collective level, lay in popular urged the Kingston Conference to create the
consumption patterns. “After all,” he wrote FCA, the idea of an artists organization was
in one essay on the subject, “nations like the not new. In different forms, artists’
United States and Canada spend millions organizations had existed in Canada since
[…] annually on movies, automobiles, -- the mid-nineteenth century. By the late-
even on such trivial satisfactions as chewing nineteenth century permanent organizations
gum.” Was it unreasonable to believe that such as the Royal Canadian Academy and
with the proper stimulus “people could be the Ontario Society of Artists had been
25inspired to spend a million or two on established. By the inter-war era, a variety
19contemporary art.” of medium-based groups, local art clubs,
amateur groups, and exhibition societies –
In the 1930s, exactly how the the most famous of which was the Group of
problem of art was to be addressed was a Seven -- had come into existence. These
matter of considerable debate. Following organizations functioned in a variety of
Barbeau, Hilda Ridley argued that Canadian capacities: they served to promote the
artists needed to return to their traditional interests of the arts, recognize excellence,
roots and base their work in Canadian organize exhibitions, and address the
20popular traditions. By grounding artistic interests of amateurs and local communities.
production in popular traditions Ridley and In the 1930s, the focus and objectives of arts
Barbeau believed that the arts could bridge organizations began to change as artists and
the disjuncture between themselves and other arts professionals created new bodies
society. Stephens suggested that the problem that were intended to meet what they viewed
was not easily resolved. Despite what he as the pressing needs of their time. In 1935,
saw as a “crying need” for the arts, few for example, Walter Abell helped found the
solutions to their problems were Maritime Art Association (MAA). The
immediately evident. Ultimately, he MAA’s objective was to link established
believed that artists might have to learn to amateur and professional arts organizations
accept their lot – poverty and isolation – and in Maritime Canada together in order to co-
21rely on their internal spiritual strength. ordinate arts activities on a regional level,
Audrey Alexandra Burr argued in The maintain connections with the National
Dalhousie Review that Canadians needed to Gallery, increase the diffusion of art through
22re-orient their values, while Leo Smith traveling exhibitions, and promote arts
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 4
education. In addition, the MAA established interdependence of the several arts
a magazine – Maritime Art – to broaden arts and their roots in human experience.
discourse. In these ways, the MAA linked Its activities will include efforts to
artists with interested amateurs in an bridge the gap between the artist and
educational project designed to broaden the public, to develop more
knowledge of the arts on a regional level and successful methods of marketing art,
maintain connections to a national artistic and to promote more effective art
26 30community. Almost as soon as it was education.
created, the MAA and its programme
27attracted national attention. The formation of these societies
marked a new stage in the institutional
The Toronto Picture Loan Society history of Canadian art. In the 1920s, the
(TPLS) had similar objectives. The TPLS institutional history of Canadian art had
was a non-profit organization that included been built around the Group of Seven’s
31both artists and non-artists. Its members nationalist project. The new artistic
paid a small annual fee that allowed them to societies of the 1930s tended to ignore
rent original artwork on a per month basis. aesthetic distinctions and looked to promote
“It is hoped,” the art critic Graham McInnes a broader unity among artists. Where the
wrote of the Society, “...to make it easier for Group of Seven looked to promote a
the public to become acquainted with the particular conception of art and educate the
work of contemporary artists and for artists public into the merits of a specific aesthetic,
to have their work more widely known.” the new societies abandoned this distinction
Such a venture, McInnes noted, was in the face of common problems. In one way
designed “to promote a greater or another, artists and intellectuals linked the
understanding between the artist and the problems of the arts to the cultural processes
28public.” Toronto’s Allied Arts Council of modernity and viewed self-organization
(AAC) and Montreal’s Seven Arts Club as a key strategy in a new form of activism.
worked with similar goals. The AAC was The specific tactics that flowed from this
intended to draw together artists who strategy included public education, dialogue,
worked in different media in order to marketing, and publicity. The new societies
facilitate dialogue on common problems and looked not simply to unify artists but to
to promote a more generalized policy for the make art more accessible through picture
support of the arts in Canada. One of the loans, educational exhibitions and public
AAC’s foundational principles was that both lectures. Such tactics, they clearly hoped,
the arts and society suffered because of would establish new links between the arts
artistic social detachment. “[M]uch good and society. The FCA mobilized a similar
creative work is being produced in the discourse and used similar tactics. As a more
Dominion; Canada has eleven million widely-based organization, however, it also
people; how can the artist and his public be looked to provide more encompassing
brought together in such a way that the solutions to the cultural problems of
artists may support himself and the public modernity.
secure the cultural amenities to which it is
29entitled?” According to Walter Abell, the Organizing the Arts
Seven Arts Club employed the same
discourse. “Its main concern,” he reported in The Kingston Conference’s
Maritime Art, functional objectives were evident in the
speakers chosen to address the assembled
is the problem of the relation artists. In design, the conference built from
between the arts [and] society. It initial tributes to the importance and grandeur
32desires to promote an understanding of the arts, to blunt assessments of the poor
of the arts by stressing the economic state of the arts in Canada to
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 5
philosophical discussion of the relationship support that interested Bieler most was the
between art and society, to practical policy American New Deal arts progammes which
ideas taken from the American state support both directly funded artistic work and
programmes designed during the reserved a percentage of construction costs
33 37Depression. For commentators, such as associated with new public buildings for art.
Walter Abell, who had been recruited to
In the course of the Conference, an speak at the Conference, the issue that lay
before artists was significant. Cultural alternative conception of an artists
organization was articulated by a number of reform, he argued, was needed to realize the
different people. One artist, for example, potential of a truly democratic order in which
34the arts played a vibrant social role. In this urged the body to consider a more union-
oriented format. In so doing, she articulated way, the Conference linked a series of ideas
a perspective in which artists would carry together into a single discourse: there was a
nobility and grandeur to art which was their self-organization into something akin
to a professionalized form of self-regulation currently suffering under contemporary
that had real power in civil society: economic conditions that were, themselves,
symptomatic of broader problems. The
If we consider that the doctors and solution lay in self-organization designed to
the lawyers and even the engineers stimulate pragmatic policy options. The best
had the sense long ago to organize means to realize the potential of socially
themselves in order to obtain fair meaningful art was through a national artistic
treatment and to earn a living, surely organization. On all these points, there was
we should not have to consider general agreement among the assembled
ourselves on the same level as the artists. Consensus broke down in
agricultural worker who is consideration of the type of organization
unorganized, and is suffering the artists should create.
consequences. If we do not organize
ourselves, nobody else can do it for Bieler made little secret of his views.
38In his opening comments to the Conference, us.
he urged the assembled body to create an
As Vancouver painter Jack artists’ federation. This new federation, he
Shadbolt, Chair of the Conference’s argued, should not attempt to mould a
Resolutions Committee, explained, this common aesthetic among its members. The
format appeared more radical but looked to best course of action was a federation that
accomplish many of the same objectives worked through local bodies that came
Bieler had defined as the proper work of his together at the federal level. As a federation,
proposed federation. The difference is that it the united body would serve, largely, as a
would have a more interventionist mandate, lobby group whose attention would be
particularly with regard to the art market. directed to securing state support for the arts.
The new organization would work for the State support, he said, would lead to a
35 “general welfare of practicing artists” by Canadian artistic renaissance. As he
helping to organize the art market, staging envisioned it, the new federation would
exhibitions, and through “general embrace existing local arts societies and
propaganda and educational work.” Its chief would “provide facilities for the exchange of
objective, however, would still be to “go to ideas [and] for national exhibitions.” Bieler’s
the government with [solutions] practical model for the FCA, then, was that it would
problems, or something similar to the serve as a federated umbrella organization
P.W.A. or the W.P.A. in the United co-ordinating and supporting the work of
39States.” local art societies while lobbying the state for
a new cultural policy that provides support
36 To resolve the issue, and create an for the arts in Canada. The model of state
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 6
42organizational structure for the new body, Canadian culture.”
the assembled artists struck a continuing
In terms of structure, the FCA was committee that included some of the leading
Canadian artists and critics of the time: to be a national organization. To ensure its
standing across the country, all regions of Maritime Art editor and Acadian University
Canada were to have representation on its art professor Walter Abell, former members
executive. The executive consisted of a of the Group of Seven Lawren Harris
(elected in absentia), A.Y. Jackson, and the president, vice-president, executive
secretary, editor of publications, and the sculptor Frances Loring. Conference
chairs of seven different working groups that organizer André Bieler was to serve as
40president. The continuing committee was were to formulate and guide FCA policy.
There were two different orders of working also to address a number of other resolutions
groups. On the one hand, the organization’s passed at the Conference, including those
that called for an artistic war records constitution called for the FCA to create
medium-based working groups in the areas programme (similar to that which had been
of painting and graphic arts, sculpture, developed during World War I) an
industrial arts and crafts, and architecture expansion of university-based art
programmes, national touring exhibitions, and community planning. The other groups
addressed different aspects of the and improved arts education in the public
41 relationship between the arts and society: schools.
education, exhibitions, and public relations.
The continuing committee framed a In addition, the constitution set out a plan
constitution that attempted to find a middle for the FCA to organize a series of regional
ground between these different positions. committees that would serve to integrate
The body was to be called the Federation of local societies into the broader national
Canadian Artists with a membership federation, but there purpose was, at that
43consisting of all artists “and related point in time, not clearly specified. In May,
professional workers.” Non-artists could 1942, Canadian artists reassembled on a
join if they were actively interested in the smaller scale in Toronto, to approve this
arts and supported the FCA’s aims. The new new constitution and structure, with Bieler
44constitution stated that the FCA’s mandate elected as the organization’s first president.
was to unite “all Canadian artists, critics,
The artists assembled in Toronto and related professional workers for
also believed that their newly-formed fellowship, mutual effort in promoting
federation needed to begin publicly charting common aims, and for the expression of the
artists’ point of view as a creative factor in a new course for the arts in Canada and
address the more immediate task of national life.” The FCA would be
establishing a policy with regard to an specifically dedicated to improving “the
economic status of the artist by promoting artistic war effort. Kingston Conference
resolutions had urged the federal markets for his work and by raising his
government to establish a war records professional standing […].” It was to
encourage arts education with the aim of programme but, one year later, nothing had
been done on the part of either the federal fostering “an increased appreciation,
state or Canadian artists, whose new enjoyment, and use of art on the part of the
organization had been in a state of flux until public.” This also included support for the
National Gallery of Canada. Finally, the its constitution was ratified. To address
these issues, delegates to the Toronto FCA would issue a national arts magazine,
meeting made use of the regional sub-help co-ordinate the activities and support
the efforts of other groups interested in the committee structure established by the
constitution. Regional committees were same matters, and help research “the
established in Montreal, Toronto, and problems affecting the development of
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 7
Vancouver. The Vancouver committee was situation seemed equally bleak. Following a
not given much work and the Toronto resolution at the Kingston Conference, the
committee was vested with responsibility to executive had issued a war policy statement
examine technical questions about the legal that urged the government to make use of
status of the arts and artistic standards. Most artists but no effort had been made to
of the work for the immediate direction of indicate what this meant in practice. This
FCA policy fell to the Quebec committee, was particularly true with regard to French-
chaired by Frederick B. Taylor, a painter, Canadian artists who, it seems, had paid
49etcher, and drawing instructor at McGill little attention to the statement. The
University’s architecture school. The executive had also failed to take any steps to
Quebec committee was responsible for establish the national publication called for
several key policy areas, including an in the FCA’s constitution, the constitution
artistic war effort, the place of the arts in itself was unwieldy and potentially
post-war reconstruction policy, and unworkable, and no effort had been made to
constitutional revisions, if any were begin the process of establishing a post-war
45needed. policy for the arts in Canada. As an
organization, Taylor complained, the FCA
Taylor was an early and vigorous seemed to lack both cohesion and
50FCA supporter. The position of authority he direction. Measured against its ideals,
occupied in the FCA illustrates the degree to Taylor told Walter Abell as early the Spring
which Canadian artists were willing to work of 1942, the state of the FCA was
51across political boundaries and to consider “disappointing and sickening.”
potentially radical solutions to the problems
they confronted. The brother of noted Abell shared Taylor’s views. While
business magnate E.P. Taylor, Frederick had the FCA continuing committee presented a
followed a different course out of his upper united front in public, what transpired
middle-class family. He had been raised in a behind the scenes was another matter. Like
conservative family but the Depression had Taylor, Abell tended to look to capitalist
radicalized his social views and, like a range political-economy as the root cause of
52of other young Canadian artists, turned to artistic problems. He had, Abell told
46Marxism in the 1930s. Taylor originally Taylor, had wanted to shape the FCA into a
trained as an architect, and taught himself more vibrant body but his position was a
etching and a variety of other media minority view: “other members of the
47including painting and drawing. committee […] felt it was better to let the
thing grow up by the ideas of various
53Taylor looked on the FCA, and his regional groups.” The result was that they
work within it, as a key opportunity to were unwilling to provide central direction.
address the problems of contemporary Abell did not criticize any specific executive
culture and, in particular, the social and members and that may not have been his
political marginalization of the arts. He was, point. Like Taylor, what concerned him was
however, uncertain about the course Bieler the seeming inability of the new
and others were charting. The FCA seemed organization to fulfill the objectives for
beset with its own problems that impeded its which it had been established. Arthur
ability to provide an activist centre for the Lismer, who also served on the Quebec
arts in Canada. Membership was low; in regional sub-committee shared this view. In
Ontario the organization was finding a long letter to Bieler in mid-1942, he
opposition from already established art outlined what he viewed as a series of key
groups. In other parts of the country, it was problems, including the executive’s failure
completely unorganized to the point where to communicate with members, what he saw
the FCA had virtually no presence in at least as the new organization’s complete lack of
48one entire province. In terms of policy, the social consciousness, poor policy design,
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 8
and a failure to make use of artists who were One of Canada’s main contributions to the
interested in contributing to the Federation war, he argued, was industrial production.
54and its policies. For his part, Taylor was By using industrial production as a source of
most frustrated with Bieler in whom he artistic inspiration, artists could help
seems to have initially placed considerable workers gain a greater sense of their
confidence. He believed the general lack of significance and the contribution they were
making. In effect, Taylor seemed to believe policy and direction discredited the FCA.
The FCA, Taylor told Bieler, could be the that the social importance of industrial work
strong voice Canadian artists needed. It held could be elevated by making it the subject of
artistic interpretation. The artistic immense potential to serve as a catalyst for
wider changes in cultural policy. Its current interpretation of work, he believed, was
status, however, made it impossible for the different from propaganda, of which he was
55 not in favour because, in his view, organization to play this role.
propaganda did not recognize the
importance of work but instead looked to Art, Society, and War
manipulate the worker. In this, he believed it
was of little effect. By contrast, the use of No where were the FCA’s problems
art indicated the importance of workers to more evident than in its efforts to organize
57cultural development. an artistic war effort. This was one of the
areas for which Taylor’s Quebec sub-
Over a period of years, Taylor tried committee had assumed responsibility at
to interest the federal government in May 1942 Toronto meeting that elected
establishing an industrial war arts Bieler president and ratified the
58programme, with little effect. What was organization’s constitution. The Quebec
important from the point of view of Taylor’s section had organized a petition urging the
interaction with the FCA, however, was that federal government to use the capacities of
the organization took no public stand on artists in the war effort and secured over
industrial war art and few other artists nine hundred signatures. In Taylor’s view,
59followed his example. In fact, exactly what the war effort was one of the opportunities
constituted an artistic war effort proved that the FCA was missing because it
much less clear in the minds of other artists provided a perfect opportunity for the arts in
and the FCA executive then it did for Canada to use creative activity in a socially
Taylor. The petition Taylor’s sub-committee meaningful way. By demonstrating the
organized made significant claims on behalf socially meaningful work the arts could do
of the arts. The use of art in the war effort, in time of war, Taylor believed, the arts
the petition explained, would promote could illustrate the merits of artistic social
national unity, contribute to the war’s re-integration and begin the process of
success, encourage a “healthy spirit” among bridging the gap between the arts and
56 workers, help reduce industrial accidents, society.
and could even stimulate attention to diet.
To accomplish these aims, the petition Taylor had taken this objective
recommended that artists be used in some seriously on a personal level; his own
official capacity in factories and on military actions illustrate one potential way he felt
bases, “in accordance with special talents the arts could bridge the gap between
they may have.” It did not explain these themselves and society. He spent the latter
special talents and specific half of the war painting industrial production
recommendations were vague. The FCA scenes and workers in war industries.
believed that artists could be used to Industrial war art, he argued, served as a
decorate union halls and nurseries and used model of socially engaged and productive
to carry out unspecified “educational work” art. He believed it could make an immediate
among unions. Its key proposal was that the contribution to Canada’s war production.
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 9
government create a commission consisting January of 1943, the PMO rejected the idea
of government officials and FCA members of a meeting with the Prime Minister but
to determine the precise details of an artists suggested that it might be possible for artists
war effort. In effect, the FCA was to meet with the defense minister. Taylor
recommending that the government create a originally accepted this idea on behalf of the
commission to figure out what the members FCA but soon came to the opinion that even
of the FCA should actually be doing. What this alternative was not viable. The FCA’s
was more significant, and was perhaps the entire approach, Bieler came to realize, had
FCA’s real objective, was that this been naïve. In place of a face-to-face
commission would not expire at war’s end. meeting, or even a presentation of the
Instead, it would be reconstituted as a petition, he suggested that the FCA mail it to
60federal ministry of fine arts. the PMO or the Wartime Information Board,
try to garner some publicity from it, and
The petition -- and, as a result, what then let the matter rest while they moved on
64was really the sum total of the FCA’s war to other things.
programme – met with little success. The
FCA executive tied the success of its Taylor viewed the FCA’s first
petition and artists war effort policy to interaction with government as a serious
obtaining a personal interview with Prime defeat for artists, but others members of the
Minister Mackenzie King. Their plan was executive were less certain. It was clear that
for Bieler to lead a small delegation of the FCA had met with little success but,
artists to meet King, discuss their ideas and National Secretary Rik Kettle argued even
proposals, and explain the philosophy before the PMO finally rejected the idea of
61behind them. Neither King nor his staff, meeting the Prime Minister, this might have
however, had much interest in meeting with been for the best. What would have
a group of artists and even less in discussing happened, Kettle wondered, if the FCA
the philosophy of art. Brooke Claxton, petition had been accepted and met with a
Member of Parliament for the Montreal positive response? The truth of the matter
riding where Taylor lived, and one of the was that the FCA had no way to organize an
key advocates of the arts in the federal artistic war effort in Canada. The provincial
government, conveyed the FCA’s messages organizations in British Columbia and
62to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Ontario had expressed disinterest in the
Claxton told Taylor directly that the FCA’s project while other artists’ organizations,
proposals were too vague for the PMO. He such as the MAA, had started their own
urged the Federation to revise their petition programmes on a regional level. In addition,
into a concrete proposal that isolated Kettle also wondered out loud about the
specific problems, indicated how these degree to which Canadian artists were
problems could be addressed, and provided willing to participate in whatever
a plan for the implementation of change. programme was ultimately established.
FCA proposals, he said, should also cite “[T]he whole position,” Kettle told Bieler,
specific examples to illustrate their points. If “is not so simple as getting the petition
the FCA did obtain a meeting with the Prime accepted. […] [W]e are not asking the
Minister, his Principal Secretary Walter government for jobs for artists but I fear
Turnbull told Taylor, that meeting must very much that most artist could not and
involve more than simply saying that artists would not leave their present jobs to do war
63 65wanted to contribute to the war effort. art jobs […].” Kettle also felt that the
FCA’s policy did not place enough emphasis
The FCA began its petition drive on self-organization and self-direction in the
after its 1942 Toronto meeting. Through the arts. “The government,” he told
rest of that year and into 1943, the FCA Saskatchewan artist Ernst Lindner, “is not
found its overtures to the PMO stalled. In going to be very impressed by an
SouthernJournalofCanadianStudies,vol.4,1(June2011) 10