New App: My City Muse

This summer has been ridiculously busy for both Kelly and I.  We capped off the end of the season with an amazing, debaucherous weekend with our friends at Two Islands Weekend (and for future years, this is an event not to be missed!). After a week of TIFF films, things may settle down a little come next week (well.. maybe not for Kelly who’s knee deep in wedding planning). I am excited to start having some downtime in the city again and start exploring and sharing my new-found awesomeness.

My explorations in the art world will start with the help of My City Muse. The newly launched app for your iPhone (coming soon for Androids) is a dream for fine art lovers in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco and New York, with more cities to be added. The app was created by Sean Green, a University of Toronto Engineering alum and self-professed newbie to the art world.

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Patti Smith: Camera Solo

After a couple of years filled with frequent trips to New York City, I developed much love for the Big Apple. A good (and very thoughtful) friend bought me a special present to help deepen my appreciation for the (rock & roll) history of NYC: Patti Smith’s memoir titled Just Kids. Admittedly at the time I didn’t know much about Patti Smith. I knew she was a legendary rock star and that other musicians, old and new, spoke highly of her talent and success. Just Kids was an eye opener.

I learned so much from reading Patti Smith’s self-penned memoir. I learned that Smith’s first artistic expressions came in the form of painting, sculture and poetry. I learned about her intense love affair and friendship with famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and got a glimpse of the struggles of trying to make it in NYC in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. There were also Smith’s interactions with Andy Warhol and the artists associated with his Factory that were fun to hear about. Just Kids ends just as Smith’s music career is being propelled and the rest I had to learn on my own (wikipedia?).

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Beyond my interest in Smith’s rise to fame and learning about NYC’s Lower East Side, I took away a sincere appreciation and respect for Smith as a writer and artist. Her ability to recall the details of her early years evocatively and with beautiful emotion paints a clear picture of a semi-charmed life through rose-coloured glasses.  More than a memoir, Just Kids is poetry highlighting Smith’s intelligence and artsy disposition.

Why blog about Patti Smith now? On February 9th, 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario will present an exhibition of Patti Smith’s work for the first time ever in Canada. The show, titled Patti Smith: Camera Solo, will feature over 75 pieces of work, including photography, objects and film and will highlight her interest in poetry and literature. There will be free a audio guide to accompany the exhibit, and if that weren’t enough, Smith will perform two live musical performances at March’s AGO 1st Thursday on the 7th. Ticket prices remain $8 for members and $10 for non-members and go on sale on February 8th.

Patti Smith, live in concert for $10. Did you get that?? This is not a small deal, folks!!! Put it in your calendars and tweet it to the world – all those Bonnaroo/Coachella/Lollapalooza/Glastonbury concert-goers everywhere are losing their shit.

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Person Who has Everything

Got one of those pesky people on your shopping list who seems to have everything (or worse, not like anything)?  You’ve come to the right place!  We’ve rounded up a list of gifts – from the quirky to the luxurious – sure to please even the most difficult friends and relatives.

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1) You’ve heard it from us before – Etsy is a gift giving goldmine.  If you know anything at all about a person’s likes or dislikes, simply type it into the search bar and wait for the magic to happen.  You can also browse by type of item (i.e. art, housewares, accessories, etc.) or get your inspiration from the site’s daily handpicked items.  If you don’t know where to start and are in need of ideas, simply click on Gift Ideas and check out the amazing curated collection, organized by topic/recipient.

2) For the person who truly wants for nothing, a donation made in their name is a wonderful way to honour them while giving back to those in need.  If the individual has an organization close to their heart, that’s a great place to start.  If not, Plan Canada is a fantastic non-denominational organization doing amazing work world wide.  Plan has an array of “gifts” available, from home birthing kits to cows.

3) Unless the person you’re shopping for is a total stick-in-the-mud, a board game is a fun and easy gift idea.  Many of the classic games (Scrabble, Monopoly, etc.) are available as special editions, particularly around the holidays.  For the social butterfly, simple games like Jenga and Pictionary can be loads of fun at parties and don’t require much in the way of concentration.  A new version of a childhood favourite can also be a fun way to shake things up (turns out Clue is a fundamentally different game when played as an adult).

4) One thing that people don’t seem to have much of these days are printed photos.  If your person who has everything is a digital camera user, chances are it’s been some time since they’ve sat down with a photo album of memories.  Getting some favourite shots printed or compiling an album is a priceless gift that will stay with the person forever.

5) For the hipster who has everything, steal some shots from their instagram account and turn them into super cute square fridge magnets.  Only $14.99 for a sheet of 9 with free worldwide shipping via Stickygram.

6) Although art can be tough to buy for another person, a small, unique print is also a great gift for someone who seemingly has everything.  Society6 features the work of thousands of artists from around the world and small prints are typically under $25.  If you’re not sure you’re ready to pick out a wall hanging, you’ve also got the option to turn i-phone cases, tees and tote bags into custom works of art.

 

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AGO’s 1st Thursdays

I have longingly read about cool parties being thrown at famous art galleries like the MOMA (in NYC), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the LACMA (in LA) and truly pined for something similar to take place in Toronto. These events serve to engage a generation of young(ish) adults in art in new ways. Bringing together music, education, and art with themed events, these after hours parties allow the art-minded community to visit the galleries under new and unique parameters.

The ROM began a Friday Night Live event this past spring, but something about just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.  And then in October, the AGO launched its inaugural 1st Thursdays event. I attended the second event in November and you know what? It was THE most amazing night.  I had that incredible feeling of civic pride, mixed with warm fuzzies, splashed with a real sense of community and belonging.  Best yet, I felt this all under the roof of my favorite building in the city.

1st Thursdays is an art party extraordinaire with two installments under its belt, both to sold out crowds. Tickets are a mere $10 ($8 for members) and are available in advance on the AGO website.  Each month’s event has focused on one of the many exhibits on display at the gallery, along with a myriad of other activities and performances to suit any taste.

November’s 1st Thursday showcased contemporary photography and the 2012 Grange Prize winner was publicly announced.  All of the nominees were in attendance and their work was on display to be viewed. I had a great chat with this year’s winner, Jo Longhurst,  about being nominated and her upcoming 2-month stint as artist-in-residence in Toronto. She is quite excited to work in Toronto, a change from her native London, UK.

2012 Grange Prize winner, Jo Longhurst.

Musical guests DIANA, a newly-formed band from Toronto, played in the main atrium below the baroque stairs. Their sound was beautifully amplified in the big space and artwork specially curated for their set adorned the space around the stage. They can absolutely consider me a new fan & supporter.  After DIANA’s set, Katie Stelmanis, lead singer from one of my favorite bands of the moment Austra, took to the decks and DJ’d for the rest of the evening under mellow lighting.

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A new kind of art gallery: The Room

Toronto is home to numerous amazing art galleries, large and small.  Personal favourites include the AGO, MOCCA and the #Hashtag galleries, but for the past couple of years, I’ve had another less traditional escape haven for inspiration: The Room at the Bay on Queen Street.

The Room is a go-to for very high-end designer clothes, filled with labels that are rare to find in Toronto and even in Canada.  First opened in 1937, the old, regal decor of The Room was beyond due for a facelift.  Yabu Pushelburg was commissioned for the renovations, the same design firm responsible for the W Hotel in Times square, restaurants in Las Vegas and the Trump Hotel in Hollywood. The new look was complete in 2009 and has brought a crisp, fresh and contemporary change that beautifully highlights the fashion pieces on display.

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