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A publicity still for season two of "Work of Art" on Bravo!: It is "beyond a disgrace" that this is running while Bravo! is killing shows that cover the arts in Canada, writes John Doyle
A publicity still for season two of "Work of Art" on Bravo!: It is "beyond a disgrace" that this is running while Bravo! is killing shows that cover the arts in Canada, writes John Doyle

John Doyle

One more time: Can we please have Canadian arts on Canadian TV, please? Add to ...

Why do I vote? You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway.

I vote because I care about where I live. When I came to this country decades ago I was well pleased with where I had landed, pleased enough to feel tied to it in the best possible way. That meant never taking it for granted. So I vote because I care about the neighbourhood, the city, the province and the country where I live and work.

Previous columns by John Doyle

Today I’ll vote in the Ontario election, just as people have voted recently in elections in Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories. People vote because they choose to nourish their local community, city, province and nation. It’s a duty, and an honourable one. Not voting is just a bit thick.

To me, it matters that the streets I walk are more than tarmac, brick and cement. I’m blessed to live in one of the most effervescent communities in Canada – Queen West in downtown Toronto. Oh, it ain’t always pretty and there are problems, but this ’hood lives and breathes the art and popular culture of this city and beyond. It is alive with legions of painters and musicians and poets living side by side with the labourers who built this city in its recent history. All that needs nourishment, and we nourish by voting and claming a place in the civil order that allows the place to exist.

That’s just me. I’m a person. But is a corporation a person? That question is being gnawed upon right now by our neighbours to the south. The idea of corporate “personhood” has been a flashpoint of argument since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a long-standing ban against corporations spending directly on political campaigns. The corporation has the rights of a person, it seems.

I was thinking about all of this – the duty to vote and nourish and the corporations-are-people-too assertion – when I got a notice from the Bravo! channel on Wednesday. “Cutting-Edge Competition Series,” it proclaimed. And went on to trumpet the arrival, later this month, of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist (Bravo!, Oct. 15, 5 p.m.). It’s the second season for this show – “a head-to-head battle of rising art stars.”

After some yada-yada in the announcement comes this: “Assembled in New York City under the watchful eye of art-world elites, 14 up-and-coming artists prepare to make their mark on the industry as they compete for a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and a $100,000 cash prize.”

Yes indeedy, this is all about American artists competing for a show at an American art institution. It comes from the people who did Project Runway and Top Chef. There will be a guest appearance from Sarah Jessica Parker, who is one of the series’s executive producers. There’s more yada-yada about how “this colourful hour-long series uncovers new talent and sheds light on the artistic process that typically occurs behind closed doors.”

The offices of Bravo! are located at 299 Queen Street West in Toronto, slap-bang in my ’hood, the middle of the most vibrant arts community in Toronto, if not Canada, and a place with a glorious art history. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario College of Art and Design are a stone’s throw from the Bravo! office, for heaven’s sake.

And here, once again, we get the so-called arts channel blithely ignoring the Canadian arts and culture in favour of some rinky-dink American effort.

In the past few months, two staples of the channel – Bravo!News and Arts & Minds – were abruptly cancelled. Both were magazine-style shows covering the arts – profiles of Canadian writers, interviews with writers visiting Canada, the opening of exhibitions, new opera and ballet productions, the opening of new exhibitions, coverage of many arts awards.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – these cancelled shows are a key part of what Bravo! is mandated to do – cover the arts. When I asked Bravo!’s owners, Bell Media, about it I was told, “There are no plans to replace [the shows]with similar content, but we remain committed to programming like At the Concert Hall and Bravo!FACT.”

Obviously, they are also committed to airing shows that promote unknown American artists, not Canadian unknowns or the well-known. Not even what’s visible outside the window of Bravo!’s headquarters.

This is now beyond a disgrace. It borders on contempt for viewers and artists in Canada. What makes it particularly egregious at this time is the fact that, mere blocks from Bravo!’s offices, every evening right now, hordes of people walk the streets and alleys attending Theatre Passe Muraille’s production called Tale of a Town – Queen West. The wonderful event takes the audience around the ’hood for a while as a faux condo salesperson extols the glorious artistic history of the area before stopping at an indoor space where video, oral history and re-enactments bring so much to life – the musicians, painters, poets and all the rest. The toll of heroin arises, the devastation that AIDS brought, the fire that destroyed a stretch of buildings. There is irony and sadness, but above all there is a message – this is where the art begins if you make it so.

Somebody from Bravo! really should get out of the office and just look around. Sarah Jessica Parker’s production will do just fine without being inflicted on us by our now dubiously named “arts channel.”

Excuse my rant, but this is where I live, where I vote and where I spend my money. It matters, today of all days. If the corporation that owns Bravo! is considered a person, it might want to shift its rear end and just walk around outside to find its art stars. Enough with the cheap imports, already.

AIRING TONIGHT

You won’t find coverage of the Ontario election results on CBC in Ontario. The CBC is sticking with hockey and offering election coverage on CBC NN. In Ontario, CTV drops its U.S. network shows for an hour at 9 p.m. to cover results. Global’s coverage also starts at 9 p.m. and lasts more than an hour.

Otherwise you can note the Canadian show Property Brothers (W, 9 p.m.), back for a new season. The boys help Tina and James, who are looking to downsize and move out of the suburbs and into the city – where the action and the arts stuff happens.

Check local listings.

 

Previous columns by John Doyle

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