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June 2011

Oh Canada!

June 29, 2011 | Muriel | Comments (2)

Canadian royal-watchers are happy that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, (William and Kate to most of us), have chosen Canada for their first royal tour.  They will be arriving on June 30 in Ottawa, and there will be a youth barbecue and reception that night in the garden of Rideau Hall, the Governor General of Canada's residence.  On Canada Day, up to 500,000 people are expected to go to Parliament Hill to see the couple.  This year's Canada Day is also the day that the Duke of Cambridge's mother, Diana, would have turned 50.  Here is a clip from Canada Day on Parliament Hill last year, when 100,000 people turned out to see the Queen:

Before the noon festivities on Canada Day, the royal couple will be visiting the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec for a citizenship ceremony.  On the way there, the royal couple will see the stunning National Gallery of Canada, designed by Canadian architect Moshe Safdie.

Everybody will be photographing the Duchess of Cambridge's outfits, and as a fashion icon herself, she may be interested in reading Fashion: a Canadian Perspective.  The Duchess also enjoys spending time at the other end of the lens, and she might like Photography for the Joy of It by renowned Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson.  Please click on all titles for more information.

  Canada's House            A World Inside             Treasures of the National Gallery of Canada

Global Citizen       Fashion       Photography for the Joy of It

  On July 2, the royal couple will be flying to Montreal and will be attending a cooking workshop at the Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec.  Ricardo, one of Quebec's most famous chefs, was once a student at the school.

Ricardo Anne of Green Gables Flavours of Prince Edward Island

It has been reported that one of the Duchess's favourite children's books was Anne of Green Gables, and on July 4 the royal couple will be going to Prince Edward Island.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be visiting Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site, featured in the Anne of Green Gables film starring Megan Follows.  There they will be sampling the best of cuisine from Prince Edward Island.  July 5 will be spent in the Northwest Territories, July 6 is a day for themselves, and July 7 and 8 will be spent in Calgary.

Free Summer Films / Movies in Toronto

June 26, 2011 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

Growing up, my family summer vacation meant small rented wooden cottages at Wasaga Beach. The highlight of any visit was the summertime drive-in theatre in Elmvale - the excitement as it got dark - the speaker attached to the inside of the car window - straining to see the view - the concession stand and all those cars! It's retro chic now - but back then it was good simple fun.  The beach at Wasaga had the wonderful all sand quality - went on for miles and was extremely shallow - so excellent swimming for kids. Mid-week it was virtually empty although on weekends it was packed with daytrippers.




Last summer, in Vienna, we stumbled across Karlsplatz, near St Charles Church, where there was a free outdoor showing of the classic Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg spy thriller movie Dishonored (1931).  Hundreds of enraptured vintage film lovers sat in the sultry evening air (there was a heat wave last summer) drinking beer and enjoying the film.  As it turned out, free summer films took place all over Vienna. It took me back to the drive-ins of my youth.



So, you can imagine how happy I was when I found out there are free outdoor summer films being shown all over Toronto - TO Summer Movies (thanks Sameer and Matti for keeping this list up to date and they're still taking information).

The folks who are programming for Yonge Dundas Square and Green Space on Church (519 Church Street) seem to have an especially camp sensibility - Hairspray (1988), Beach Blanket Bingo, Grey Gardens (the original NOT the remake), Mommie Dearest, Saturday Night Fever

I recall seeing Paris is Burning when it first came out and and am struck by how Madonna commercialized the concept of Voguing (for another viewpoint why not track down How do I Look).  I did not know that Joan Rivers interviewed several of the stars of the movie as well as the director Jennie Livingstone.  I'm struck by the poignancy of it seen years later and the fact that many of the stars have in fact died since.






If you're interested in free indoor summer films the Toronto Public Library has a lot to offer.  There are films for adults, teens and children/families at many branches (most are during the day).  Check out the July August 2011 What's On (you can get this online or at your local library branch) and see pages 16-17 for further information on branch locations, movies  and times.  

You can also find this information out on our website ( - you can type in films in the search box - then choose "programs"  in the type box on the left hand side and there are over 50 programs at various branches (you can even sort by date!).


The Toronto Reference Library is doing something special this summer and hosting three films in French (with English subtitles) in a Thursday 2 pm series called Un Après-midi au cinéma:

All are welcome to these free films.

There are many opportunities to see free movies in Toronto this summer both indoors and outdoors so enjoy !   If you know of more free films why not leave a comment?



Kandinsky and Abstraction

June 22, 2011 | Robyn | Comments (0)

Born in Russia, Wassily Kandinsky became a painter, teacher, organizer, writer and theorist. One of the founders of abstract art, his contribution spanned two world wars and the Russian Revolution, with explorations in painting, printmaking, stage design, and the decorative arts.  He was profoundly influenced by colour and geometry, this radiates strongly in his work. 

The book, Wassily Kandinsky, 1866-1944 : the journey to abstraction by Ulrike Becks-Malorny, is a telling of that story.

                                                      Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944 the journey to abstraction
One of Kandinsky's major writings, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, outlines his views on this side of his work.  In this book, he states, "that is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul."


Concerning the spiritual in art

A third publication, the catalogue entitled Kandinsky (for the retrospective exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, September 18, 2009 - January 13, 2010) highlights some of his major paintings, technique and influence in the United States.  Look at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website for an introductory video on the exhibition.




An artist whose work is worth some attention.


Gamelan music of Java - Kinds of flowers - Puspawarna -in Space (Yoyager Golden Record)

June 11, 2011 | Bill V. | Comments (4)

I find the Gamelan music of Java and Bali Indonesia intoxicating.   Imagine something like a Western orchestra composed of numerous instruments - but ones that only play together as a complete entity.  So, while the instruments stay constant over the generations, the various musicians change.  Gamelan music can also be accompanied by singing.  There are a selection of books on Gamelans available at the library as well as a wide variety of LP records and CDs

There is even a national connection to Gamelan and the music of Indonesia through Colin McPhee who was a Canadian composer and musicologist and the first Western composer to seriously study and write about it. He was a pioneer in attempting to merge Eastern and Western music.  The Library has both books and also CDs/LPs that cover his life and work.  His best known work is Tabuh-Tabuhan.

A Guide to the Gamelan by Nick Sorrell     A Gamelan Manual  A player's guide to the central Javanese gamelan

PuspaWarna, a piece of gamelan music,  was sent into space as part of the Golden Record on the Voyager Spacecraft (see below for more details).  There are several different versions available to listen to at the Toronto Reference Library.  Amazon has many Gamelan CDs available, including one that has two different versions of PuspaWarna.




Javanese Gamelan music has become quite popular in the United States as a musical endeavor - there are many non traditional groups who perform. Gamelan Nyai Saraswati is an ensemble group from the Music Department of  the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has one such group where they've done a version of Puspawarna/ Kinds of Flowers.  There are several different versions available on Youtube.



There are some other recordings of Indonesian music at the Performing Arts Deptartment  of the Toronto Reference Library, 5th floor. The Toronto Reference Library also has a small collection of books in the Indonesian language at the Languages Centre, 5th floor. Some of the books can be borrowed and some are to be used only at the library.


Image of Voyager Golden Record by NASA

This is our third blog post, part of a series on the Voyager Golden Record that was launched into Space in 1977 on board the Voyager spacecraft. The astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan headed a team who selected images and sounds portraying the diverse life and culture on Earth, and here is the complete Voyager music list. Carl Sagan wrote the book "Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record" about the Voyager project.

The music and musicians featured in this blog series so far are:

 More posts are coming!


Bollywood Art

June 8, 2011 | Alyson | Comments (0)

You've surely heard by now that the International Indian Film Academy is holding its awards ceremony here in Toronto from June 23rd to 25th.  This is a very big deal. The IIFA holds its awards ceremony in a different city each year. Upwards of 700,000 million people world-wide watch the event on television. It could bring  tens of thousands of people to the city.

Worthy of at least a couple of blog posts here.

Mother inda poster

I thought I'd start by championing an art form that may be underappreciated here in the West - the hand-painted film poster. Underappreciated and now largely vanished, replaced by digital images  - a symbol of India's rapid modernisation.


Poster art is as old as the cinema in India, but starting in the 1920s  Hindi cinema developed its own distinctive visual language and produced its most magnificent images.While Hollywood posters switched from illustrated to photographic images very  early, the painted image in India remained for most of the 20th century. Poster artists, unfettered by the the film industry, were left to interpret their designs freely according to their own style and imagination. The result was a unique and highly individual art form.



                                                                                                                          Don with A Bachchan


Check out this poster for Don, a 1978 film. That's heartthrob and film icon, Amitabh Bachchan in the upper left corner. Not exactly flattering. 

 Can you imagine control freak, Tom Cruise allowing his image to be freely interpreted in such a way?  In this age of stylists, PR people and Internet reputation management, the hand-painted poster of Indian cinema is wonderfully authentic.

I also find the minimal text that characterises these posters adds to their appeal.  In a country with almost two dozen official languages, I guess a picture is worth more than a thousand words.





 SNational geographic bollywoodadly, progress has meant that mass-producing digital posters is now cheaper than employing individual artists.  National Geographic's William Albert Allard took this photograph in Mumbai outside of a once-thriving poster artist's studio.

But interest in this art remains, as these posters are now highly prized by collectors. So, perhaps it's not completely lost 

If you'd like to learn more about Bollywood movie posters, the recently published The Art of Bollywood covers this topic in great detail, highlighting some of the better-known artists, although many talented artists were unsung. It is still on order for Toronto Public Library (apologies accompanied by a plea for patience), but you can still place a hold on it.

In the meantime, you can see some of these original works in person.  The Art Gallery of Mississauga is  currently running an exhibit called  Picture House: The Art of Bollywood which runs until July 10th.

Here are some samples of this vibrant art form:


Devta poster    Free love poster

Jadoo poster         









Culture Days 2011 @ Toronto Public Library or Artists, there's FREE exhibition space at Library branches

June 4, 2011 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

Toronto based artists and arts organizations lend me your ears

If you have an interactive artistic or cultural event, and want to be part of Culture Days 2011, the Toronto Public Library has 45 branches available to you free of charge

Do you have a huge number of twitter followers? Then why not check out the TPL twitter page and link to our tweet about culture days?  Is your facebook wall scanned by dozens ? Then make your influence felt and spread the news - post our blog on your facebook page!

Culture Days is a pan-Canadian celebration of arts and culture and we want you to be part of it.

To be considered for a space, the arts activity must be free and interactive. Toronto-based individual artists, small and medium-sized arts and cultural organizations, collectives or groups that wish to organize their events at a TPL branch are invited to submit an application by June 10, 2011.  The application is online.

These will be assessed by a jury and matched with an appropriate branch location. Decisions will be based on the suitability of the activity for the branch’s venue space and the interactive nature to the activity. Artistic merit will not be assessed. All artistic disciplines are encouraged as well as those that appeal to families and to audiences of diverse ages. If possible, artists will be matched with a branch in their own neighbourhood.

The majority of activities will be scheduled on Saturday, October 1, with a limited number scheduled on Friday, September 30.

If you have any questions about Culture Days at Toronto Public Library, you can email Miriam Scribner (Programming and Events) at  .





Toronto Reference Library Costume and Set Design Collection and the Prague Quadrennial

June 1, 2011 | Irene G. | Comments (0)

Toronto Public Library owns more than 4500 stage designs including both costumes and sets. It is the largest collection of its kind in Canada. These drawings are important for research and they are also beautiful works of art. Are you interested in stage design?  Then read about our collection and this year’s Prague Quadrennial.

Do you enjoy interactive exhibitions with all kinds of performances and installations? Are you fascinated by creative stage architecture and extreme costumes? Always wanted to go to Prague? You should book a flight soon – because it is the year of the Prague Quadrennial, the International Competitive Exhibition of Scenography and Theatre Architecture. Held every four years and for the 11th time this year, the Quadrennial certainly is the most important exhibition for theatre design. From June 16 to June 26, artists from all over the world will present their work in the beautiful city of Prague, showing the most innovative set, costume, light and sound designs.


  Video impressions of the last Quadrennial in 2007


This year Canada and over 60 other countries will compete in the National Section of the contest. Over the years, many Canadian artists have displayed their work at the Prague Quadrennial.

One of the best-known Canadian designers is Mary Kerr, who has participated in the Prague Quadrennial multiple times. She has a wide-ranging career in Canadian production design and has worked in drama, opera, dance, film and exhibitions. In 1994 she was the designer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. Mary Kerr works as a professor of design at the University of Victoria. To find out more about her, view her personal website with the University of Victoria or check out these two books:


               Prague Quadrennial (2003)       Scenography in Canada

The Catalogue of the Prague Quadrennial 2003 provides a list of participating artists and artwork. Scenography in Canada is a very informative illustrated book, including information about Mary Kerr and some pictures of her designs.


The Performing Arts Department at the Toronto Reference Library owns more than 600 of Mary Kerr’s designs in its Stage Design Collection. This Collection is the largest of its kind in any Canadian public library, including more than 4500 stage designs from award-winning designers such as Michael Levine and Susan Benson. You can also view an online list of all the artists included in the Stage Design Collection.


Costume designs for Jonathan Jeremiah Peacham and Tiger Brown

Costume designs for Jonathan Jeremiah Peacham and Tiger Brown. © Mary Kerr, 1989.


The beautiful designs of Mary Kerr and all other designers can be easily accessed through the stage design facsimile card index on the 5th floor in the Performing Arts Centre. Theatre scholars, artists, students and all members of the public can search the index by designer, production or company to find production information and a photograph of the design.

Not enough inspiration? Then check out the Performing Arts Centre’s Printed Ephemera Collection to view theatre reviews, flyers, newspaper clippings, more than 40.000 programs dating back to the 19th century, film stills, photographs, posters and engravings. Or see the Picture Collection on TRL’s 4th floor to browse through pictures about every imaginable subject.

The Prague Quadrennial has a Student Section as well, giving young artists the chance to show their work in a professional space. Last time, art schools from all over Canada participated, including Toronto’s York University. To read about their experiences and have a look at their project, see York’s Newsletter for students.

If you can't afford to fly to Prague why not visit the Toronto Reference Library. Come use our collections (we're free of charge) and get yourself ready for the full stage design experience! We hope to see you at the library soon.

The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic, music and cultural works in the library and Toronto.