Category Archives: Art Biz & Arts Leadership

Top 10 Ways To Grow As An Artist

Work In Progress - Haida Gwaii

“The Portal :: Work In Progress – Gwaii Haanas Collection” ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on canvas. 72″x96″.

1. Ignore Every Single “Non-Artist” Authority.

Whether or not it’s your best gallery owner, jurors, grant authorities, your greatest collector, your mother, your spouse or your kids. Ultimately, you need to ignore what they say. Unless they are artists – ignore their opinion on the work. Good…or bad.

If they’re not creating, they’re not in the same zone you are regarding your growth as an artist. Be pure in your mission to create. You are the expert on you and you alone.

2. Eyes On The Prize :: Surround Yourself with Talent Better Than Your Own.

Take stock of your skills. With a critical eye, review where you are weak. Take workshops, study and apprentice with artists who are better than you are. Read art books, watch demo videos. Learn from them. If you enjoy an artist’s vision – tell them. Open up a dialogue and engage! If you’re a realist – check out American Painting Video Magazine which profiles some of the best contemporary realists.

3. Be Authentic and Transparent.

Put it all out there with confidence. If you don’t know something, admit it. If you do – share it. This requires a lot of bravery. Go for it. No one ever grew from being fearful. Let it go. You’ll still be standing tomorrow.

4. Create A Habit To Create.

Make stuff. Lots of it. If it’s not finished, who cares. Just make it. Surround yourself with a lot of work in progress. Have a dozen pieces on the go at once and commit to paint every day for 6-8 week periods or longer. Build it up until you are creating something every day.

5. Boot “Failure” and “Success” OFF the Island.

Ignore them. There is no place for failure or success in the life of the creative. In fact, there’s little space for quantitative measurement of either. There is only the act of creation – the process. Draw from everything you know, let it all go and make something new…without thinking. Don’t judge it – either way. There is no “good” or “bad”. There is just the thing you make.

6. Focus On The Process – Never The Outcome.

Enjoy every moment process in the creation of your work. From the second you wake and pour a coffee to head to the studio, you are creating. Consider that. Enjoy each step – don’t rush until you’re ready to go to the next step. Consider every action of “make” a beautiful, complete moment of creation in itself. Don’t think about the outcome. Just do.

7. Never Apologize.

Be pure in every statement of your work, from the action of the brushstroke to the articulation of the piece. Never “excuse”. If you are honest in your art-making in each step, you’ll learn, create and grow beyond your wildest dreams.

8. Get The Heck Out of Dodge!

Seriously – get out of town! Take a trip far away from your hometown and studio. Visit museums, art galleries and libraries. Find a culture completely different from your own and be curious. Ask questions – learn and challenge your own beliefs. Pick something so different from your “regular beat” that it scares you.

9. Share. Share. Share.

Share everything you know  – no matter what the topic – with everyone who will listen. You’ll learn, in return. Share your failures. Share surprise, success, your birthday, your family…share it all. It’s in sharing our stories, we discover our commonalities and our differences. This is the stuff “art” is made from!

10. Define Your Space. Raise Your Capital.

That means physical, emotional, social, psychological and financial space that will allow you to do 3 1-9. Set yourself up for success by having enough capital to totally commit yourself to your work in all these areas. If you’re looking for a helper, check out Alyson B. Stanfield. Lots of incredible art business advice and workshops here! Need help with your blog? Contact the amazing Kim Bruce. She just saved this blogpost for me!


Got any further ideas or resources? Remember #9 – Share, share share!


Folks Who Inspire:

Jerry Fresia – Authentic Impressionism
Alyson B. Stanfield –
Kim Bruce –
Scott Waddell
Grand Central Academy
Jacob Collins
Bo Bartlett


Let Them Eat Cake! – Nursery Rhymes, Facts & Figures, Dreams & Accountability

"Spilt Milk:: What's In Your Canoe?" ©2010 Janice Tanton.

“Spilt Milk:: What’s In Your Canoe?” ©2010 Janice Tanton.

Nursery Rhymes

When I was a child, I had a beautiful book of nursery rhymes and poems that my Mom and Dad would read to me. I still have the book, and I’ve read it to all of my children. Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Field was one of my favourites. This rich poetic notion that inspired me to dream beautiful dreams and that sailing off in wooden shoes was possible.

Here is another one that made a big impression:

“Mr. Nobody” (Author Unknown)

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody’s house!
There’s no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody

`Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pine afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don’t you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody

The finger marked upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blind unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying round you. See
Are not our boots they all belong
To Mr. Nobody.

I am just one Mom, looking for the answers to what looks like a bad mess, the boots lying around, the proverbial squeaking door. In the same way I’d ask my children who spilt the milk on the kitchen floor…and they all answer: “NOT ME”…sometimes it takes a bit of digging to find out the true identity of Mr. Nobody. So….just who IS accountable for the mess?

The Mess Made By Mr. Nobody

Last Monday morning (Sept.10th) I met with officials from the CRPS Board to discuss my concerns with education, funding an accountability, looking for the pieces of the puzzle. What I got (I think) was a good snapshot of the financial picture this particular school board faces…but I still don’t think I know who Mr. Nobody is. It might be a lot of governing bodies who should be accountable for our tax dollars, decisions and allocations – everyone has made a little bit of a mess, resulting in an unclean house. Here’s the story from the administration at the CRPS school board, with thanks for their cooperation and willingness to explain this to me. And please bear with me here…this post is long, and there’s a lot of stuff in it. I’d like to draw it out in a picture for you – much easier to understand, but I’m rather busy at the moment in a production residency.

Facts & Figures

  • In 4 years, the province has not increased the funding to special needs education, even though all costs are going up. Funding received from the province at CRPS for special needs students is $888,822 but the expenses are $2,046,882. The Board has to come up with the difference. Apparently the Province will suggest that from the “regular” pot of funding, Special Education should also be propped up. However, there are no real guidelines as to how this is to be accomplished, which seems to be a chafing point.

    Special Needs Funding

    Special Needs Funding

  • Grant funding from the provincial government is linked to enrolment. In CRPS, enrolment has dropped.
    Enrolment - All Bow Valley Jurisdictions
  • Enrolment – All Bow Valley Jurisdictions


“CRPS has been in the top ten in teacher costs due to teachers being high on the grid based on experience for the last 8 years and have been #1 for three of the last four years.” Basically? No one wants to leave. Canmore and Banff are beautiful, affluent places…but filled with polarities, much like pre-revolutionary France.

Teacher Years of Experience & Training CRPS vs. Provincial Average

Teacher Years of Experience & Training CRPS vs. Provincial Average

Basic Fact – Grant funding from the province drops, costs rise – you cut teaching positions and therefore “programming”. CRPS has lost 21.07 teachers since 2006/07. That almost seems like a whole school full of teachers and programs to me. Interestingly though, when you look at how many students the system has lost since the same year (267)….hmmm….it makes you wonder.

CRPS Staffing - Teaching Staff FTE (Full Time Equivalents)

CRPS Staffing – Teaching Staff FTE (Full Time Equivalents)

“Let Them Eat Cake.”

And that leads me to facilities….and there’s lots of them. Brand spanking new, shiny, loaded to the gills, and yet….rooms need to be closed and they still need to be maintained. Heck…not long ago, LGMS had a huge remake to it. There’s a whack of property value on the balance sheet too. I’m beginning to see Versailles and Marie Antoinette in all of this. Are you?  We’ve got some shiny buildings….who cares if we can actually provide programming or not.

CRPS Operation & Maintenance Funding

CRPS Operation & Maintenance Funding

At one time, the Province recognized that places such as Ft. McMurray and Canmore had higher costs of living and they compensated for that through the Relative Cost of Purchasing Funding grant. Over 6 years, that funding has been completely eroded – a drop of $700k+ in six years. YOO HOO……Premier Redford and the Ruling Elite PC Party….Ahem……it’s still not any cheaper to live here. In fact, with inflation, there’s a bigger gap for the average family, and I’m sure…the average (or not so average) school. Sheesh. I see some spilt milk on that one.

CRPS Relative Cost of Purchasing

CRPS Relative Cost of Purchasing

Dreams and Accountability

Those are just a few things to chew on where the financing of our education is concerned. It still doesn’t even touch on issues such as large class sizes that I’m seeing. The other thing that is just really bothering me is that apparently CRPS has contracted our former superintendent to go out and search for overseas students. Now, that costs money. I’m not really “down” for that at all. Seems like an unsustainable pipe dream to me, and the precarious building of a very strange elitist, capitalist system of public education, where we cannot provide for our own.

Speaking of strange, as we continue to build Versailles-In-The-Mountaint….our Town is looking at spending 1.8 million dollars on refurbishing the old library and gallery into an “arts” centre.

I’m just not certain as to how sustainable this all is in the long run. Our kids can’t really get what they need. If we are going to continue to talk about Alberta as a leader, an innovator, a sustainable economy, it’s time to wake up and share the cake….or bring out the guillotine.


I want to thank the administration at the CRPS, our principal at Canmore Collegiate and  several of the trustees who have put up with my tireless questions on funding and priorities. I’m still not sure what everyone is totally accountable for and I think we need to look closely at how all the decisions are being made. A big thanks to Principal Glen Nelson and Shannon Amey for stepping up to the plate and offering to get a Grade 10/11/12 art class going at noon hours. I visited the art class for the first time yesterday and I’m spurred on by the enthusiasm and hope in these fine students. I look forward to watching them learn and grow over the next year. I don’t think it’s a long-term solution, but it sure has made a difference for some kids in our system – including Ben. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let 'em eat cake

How’s Alberta feeding the world up there in Edmonton/Versailles, Ron? Cake? Breadcrusts? Oil?

As for our fiddling MLA Ron Casey (also former Mayor and Builder of Versailles/Canmore)…I think he’s trying to play games to be quite honest with you. He met with the school administration back in June and received all this information I have here, but really…what has he done? He’s KNOWN all this stuff all along! Pffawww. There goes my faith in politicians…again.

I sent him two emails – September 4 and September 7 and I am very sure that others have as well on this topic. He’s left me a phone message on my cell phone late last week to say that he has no record of phone calls. Well of course not – I emailed…and your assistant wrote back to say she was going to discuss the matter with him and get back to me. He would have known this, as he called my cell number which is at the bottom of the emails. I pointed this out to him again in an email on September 13th, the day he left the phone message. I’ve asked him to write a response instead. Still no answer 7 days later. Nothing I detest more than a cake-eating politician. He has, however…taken to “following” me on Twitter which was QUITE amusing to me.

What do I want? I want everyone to get together and fix this! Not “strategize on how to fix it”. Not “think about how to fix it”. FIX IT!

Please!………I’ve got art to make, a family to feed and an art class to teach.


P.S. – One more thing. Check out your tax bill if you live in Canmore/Banff. I believe a very sizeable chunk of what you pay in taxes goes to the provincial government for EDUCATION. Good questions to ask – how MUCH of that actually comes back into our public education system?

 Related Posts:

We Have All Pooped The Bed – Why You Can’t Get An Arts Education In Canmore, AB

Canmore Arts Education Burns While MLA Ron Casey Fiddles


7 Grandfathers, 7 Weeks, #7 Studio, 7 Paintings : What Obliteration Could Do For You

Lucky Studio 7 - Glyde Hall

The Clarity of Studio 7 – Glyde Hall, The Banff Centre

I’m always excited by the whiteness of a vast canvas. With nothing suggested, it becomes the means by which thoughts and directions can begin to have a life of their own and manifest. There is space for something to be born into.

Extrapolating that same brilliant white canvas into a three dimensional, fresh, white blank studio space is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. A space devoid of old work, piles of papers and the collections of years of work, even if it’s well set up, can cause creativity fatigue. Much like a mind cluttered with the happenings of the day, there is no space for creation. No room for ideas to manifest. No clarity possible. No hope when stuff just builds up.

“Art Is The Proper Task of Life.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Today, I got the keys to a new space – Studio #7 at The Banff Centre where I’ll be working on seven complex paintings for the next seven weeks for the Gwaii Haanas and final CAMP exhibitions. I’ve had them brewing in my mind, but they were not yet crystal clear. I’ll admit I’ve been excited about embarking on the challenge, but also challenged…by the creative challenge itself. Today, when the doors opened into whiteness with a few old pieces of furniture, it was akin to a deep meditation that allowed me to see things differently and to focus my thoughts for the upcoming residency. It was fast – within a half an hour of just sitting within the white walls of the studio, I could actually SEE what the paintings were going to be, my angst disappeared and the solutions presented themselves.

Working on some complex issues with education and the arts over the past week has been exhausting and a big learning curve – lots of new information peppered with high emotions on all sides. People are fearful of change and upsetting the status quo. Filtering through the rhetoric, politics and individual agendas has been like taking some whitewash to an old fence and wiping away the dirt. There’s a lot of dirt on THAT fence, but it’s clear to me that there are solutions when you scrub hard enough. Some folks don’t like me scrubbing that hard, but I’m determined to ensure there is success. Solutions like this require everyone coming to the table with an honest desire to make things better for the future – laying aside party politics and jurisdiction in order to truly innovate in a clean space. Find that creative solution to the blank canvas of complexity.

It’s the same when you create a painting – you follow and act according to the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishnabe.

Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Truth

The Seven Grandfather Teachings

“The Seven Grandfather Teachings” ©Janice Tanton. 2008. Oil on canvas. 8″x24″

  • Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishnabe language, this word expresses not only “wisdom,” but also means “prudence,” or “intelligence.” In some communities, Gikendaasowin is used; in addition to “wisdom,” this word can also mean “intelligence” or “knowledge.”
  • Zaagi’idiwin—Love: To know Love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gizhaawenidiwin is used, which in most context means “jealousy” but in this context is translated as either “love” or “zeal”. Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.
  • Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ozhibwaadenindiwin or Manazoonidiwin.
  • Aakode’ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use eitherZoongadikiwin (“state of having a strong casing”) or Zoongide’ewin (“state of having a strong heart”).
  • Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “righteousness.”
  • Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this withBekaadiziwin, which in addition to “humility” can also be translated as “calmness,” “meekness,” “gentility” or “patience.”
  • Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.
Corpse of The Golden Spruce

“Corpse of The Golden Spruce” – Yakoun River, Port Clements, Haida Gwaii. The last of it’s species.

Lucky Studio #7 for 7 weeks…on 7 paintings with the 7 Grandfather Teachings? Four groups of 7?…I think it’s a sign.

Canmore Arts Education Burns While Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey Fiddles…in a FABULOUS matching purple shirt and tie.

Lord of the Dance….or a Modern-Day Nero?

72 hours ago if you told me that my head would explode with the complexities of individual school budgets, school board politics, town and provincial politics, I would have told you….”Nawww…I don’t have time for that. I’m busy cleaning up from a weekend of camping, doing the laundry, canning, planning a residency, a studio tour, public exhibition and getting my kids ready for school.” (Not what I would call fiddling.)

“Why You Can’t Get An Arts Education In Canmore” tells the story of the beginning of this dive into the muck and mess that is our current educational system. My diagnosis at this point? It’s broken. There are some short-term solutions. I have offered to go in and assist with teaching drama and art at the school for those that want it, although I’m very concerned that at this late stage in the game, that’s not going to be the game-changer here. Students are getting comfy with their schedules, social issues and highschool is pressure enough as many of us can attest. Still, I’m willing to do what I can.

These key issues still remain for me:

  • The importance of an arts education, accessible by all in order to create well-rounded, creative thinkers that can tackle the complex issues of the future and provide innovative solutions.
  • Creative Solutions!…. if we can get past making decisions at all levels based on the “rules” and start basing them on the values we hold.

Even though the system is broken, we can fix it.

WE. Not partisan party politics, not individuals. WE. It’s complex, but understandable and when things are at their most “broken”, it offers opportunity to really get in there, get rid of what’s causing the problem(s), innovate and create something new. In order to do this, we need everyone at the table, with a willing attitude, throwing out the excuses, cynicism and rhetoric, and believing it can be done – on any subject or problem that is important to us.

I’ve had a very willing contribution to understand the issues and present the facts – from some trustees, school council, community members, administrators, stakeholders, town council members and media. I’m downright inspired in many cases by the marked determination and passion of these folks. I have also felt cynicism, burnout and apathy from some. I’ve even heard from some Minister’s offices  – that they’ve forwarded my concerns onward up the ladder. Great! Thank you! I FEEL like someone is listening. Let’s get on this! Past experience tells me I’ll get a stock  answer in about 30 days, by mail, and according to party policy. (Oops…my cynicism is showing.)

I haven’t, however….heard a thing from the former Mayor of Canmore and new MLA in Banff/Cochrane which does surprise me, since he touts that he’s such a big supporter of the arts.

I did hear, though….that he was ever so busy attending a soiree at a local gallery to fete the Minister of Culture  and the AFA (Alberta Federation of the Arts) Board. Don’t even get me started on that one.

Yes, that's how I like to see my tax dollars spent! CELEBRATING!!! WOO on!!!!

Yes, that’s how I like to see my tax dollars spent! CELEBRATING!!! WOO HOO….party on!!!!

I know we’re all busy, but isn’t it his JOB to respond to the concerns of his constituents? I’ve had other MLA’s and their offices from OTHER ridings across Alberta call me to express concern and enquire….but I think the Ronster is busy. Not even a PEEP or a TWEET from a constituency  assistant or from His Worship. Doesn’t he look smashing and dapper in this Don Cherry lookalike purple tie and suit? Kudos. That’s ARTSY.

He’s partying with the artists and tasting food today.
That’s okay…I’m not going away. I want to see this FIXED.

Ron Casey Cooks Up A Rabbit Stew

I wonder if it’s rabbit stew in that slow-cooker?

September 7th: 12:26 pm UPDATE

Good news! Just received an email from Lesley Bannister. I love it when folks start to work….Perhaps proof positive that blogging and social media are the fastest way to effect change? Blogpost was originally published at 10:11 am…some action within two hours, 7 minutes and 5 seconds. Of course, the first letter was sent days ago. Just throwing it out there. I’m hopeful, if folks can come to the table.

From: Banff Cochrane <>

Subject: RE: Education Access – Canmore Collegiate

Date: 7 September, 2012 12:18:05 PM MDT

To: Janice Tanton <>


Hi Janice,


Thank you for your comments regarding school fees and scheduling conflicts at Canmore Collegiate.   I will be discussing your issues further with Mr. Casey this afternoon in order to better direct your inquiries.


Thank you.

Lesley Bannister

Constituency Office Manager for

Ron Casey MLA Banff-Cochrane

Chair, Rural Caucus

ph.403.609.4509 fax.403.609.4513


Related Posts and Resources:

We Have All Pooped The Bed – Arts Education In Canmore – Why You Can’t Get One

Ron’s not taking my calls….but maybe he’s taking yours. Here’s how to contact him:

MLA – Ron Casey, Banff-Cochrane

Con­stituency Office

Unit 109, 1205 Bow Val­ley Trail
Can­more, AB
Canada T1W 1P5
Phone: (403) 609‑4509
Toll-Free: 1–866-760‑8281
Fax: (403) 609‑4513

Leg­is­la­ture Office

630 Leg­is­la­ture Annex
9718 107 Street
Edmon­ton, AB
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 415‑8429
Fax: (780) 415‑0951


We Have ALL Pooped the Bed :: Arts Education – Why You Can’t Get One In Canmore, Alberta

First Day of School – Delicious or Disaster?

No one could have possibly predicted how ugly the day would turn as we watched our children shine in the sunlight of  the first day of school for 2012.

Shiny new pencils and children headed off, their heads filled with thoughts …not of digging into that first science or math quiz, but of seeing their friends, meeting their new teachers and getting a chance to do some FUN (and valuable) things that will propel their learning and build the generation of the future.

We watched as other parents, grandparents and children gathered in the school yard as we saw to the first day of school for our budding Grade 3’er.

We watched, innocent  and unaware of the disaster ahead,  as Ben got on the bus to head to his first day of official highschool – Grade 10.

We saw to it that they were prepared with the proper footwear, backpacks, pencils, markers, erasers, scientific calculators, paper and pens.

We remembered our very own “first days at school” and the excitement that comes with it all. Grace was ecstatic to see that the “bully” was not in her class this year and we all breathed a little sigh of relief, knowing this was the biggest stressor we thought she would have to face.

How wrong we were.

We thought we’d done everything we could to prepare them for a great educational year, filled with learning in all sectors of the Alberta curriculum spanning the gamut from science and english to outdoor studies, music, art and drama.

For the first year EVER in Ben’s life after Grade 1 (another horrific educational muff-up), he was EXCITED to go to school.

Every parent was excited for their child….teachers excited to meet their pupils. After all, this is Alberta! The richest province in all of Canada. The gorgeous mountain community where the world enviously comes to visit. How could we possibly fail in a province that has so many resources – in a magical place where the world comes clamouring to it’s door for the slippery black mud left by decaying trees and dinosaurs to feed it’s hungry appetite for goods made in China.

No one could have possibly predicted how ugly the day would turn as we watched our children shine in the apparent bright sunlight of a that new day….or that we are doomed to repeat the legacy of the dinosaur in our failure to adapt.

We Have Pooped The Bed – All of Us. Teachers, Trustees, School Boards, Administrators, Governments and Parents.

Author unknown.

That all exploded in our faces with a call at 11 am from our son Ben. “Mom, they can’t make the schedule change that I asked for in June. I have to take Mechanics instead of Art. Apparently Art is all full. Mom – I got 30% in Mechanics last year. I can’t take this! I’m going to fail!” Words a mother never wants to hear a child utter.

“What? How could this possibly be?” I asked myself. I was told that the switch in Ben’s schedule could be easily accomplished (This, by his LRT – Learning Resource Teacher) through countless emails from June to August.)

“Don’t worry – we’ll make the scheduling change”

I don’t really think I need to say how important learning through the arts is in our family and particularly how important and helpful  it is for the learning capability of our son Ben whose learning style is different. (Please see my TEDx Talk on The Language of The Creator)….but I am anyway.  I am constantly having to advocate with the school system on his behalf, and it’s been an ongoing battle. I know I’m not the only parent who has to do this -but that doesn’t make it okay. We are better than this! I know it!  I know that my parents never had to be this involved in ensuring that their child received as good an education as their own or better. And wow….did I ever get a great education. (Ontario – literal “old school”)

I quickly felt the blood boil in my veins, and fired off an email to the LRT. Knowing that that this was the first day of school, and that I wasn’t likely to get a timely response, I followed up immediately with a call to the Principal and put it out on Facebook that something was amiss with scheduling at the local high school. After all…I can adapt. I can use FB, Twitter and social media to communicate on the same level as governments and large organizations, can’t I?

I received a call just before noon from a new LRT who was now “handling Ben’s case”. Oh. News to me. I’ve been corresponding with the OTHER LRT all summer and not a whiff of that was communicated. Fine. Am I critical of the system? You’re damned right I am.

Summer art mentoring at my kitchen table.

I recounted the issues and told her that the only response I wanted to hear was that there was a place for Ben in Art class. Why? OTHER than all the reasons that are obvious as to why an education in the arts is important to critical, innovative and creative thinking…one of the things that has focussed him and gotten him excited about school (FINALLY) is thinking about how he could take a course at the local college upon graduation in game design. Art and a good portfolio basis is one of the perks in getting prepared for entry in this program. He was pleased that Drama was included on his schedule, and I was pleased that he was pleased. Last year he took it, and despite what he thought it might be like, he pleasantly found that it really helped build his self-esteem and ability to speak out in groups. Good. Thank goodness he’s in drama. It’s accelerated his learning curve and opened up new possibilities. Isn’t that what education and life-long learning is all about?

The new LRT told me that she would investigate this with one of the two guidance teachers who were working on schedule changes…however, the lineup was very long so she might not be able to get back to me right away. I told her that Ben would NOT be going to school until it was solved, so please do everything to get this right before the end of the day.

Little things started to niggle in my mind. Why couldn’t they fit art AND drama into his schedule? Why was I just learning about this now, given that we’d requested it back in June and ongoing discussions had occurred via email in the summer.Nothing else was really that difficult regarding his schedule. He was on a stream-2 path with all the entry courses that are required for Grade 10.

About an hour later, she returned my call. “Are you sitting down?” I admit, my temper flared right away. “No, I’m not sitting down for this and I WILL NOT accept anything but

Ben works on a colour wheel. Summer art school in my home.

a positive affirmation that Ben is in Art class.” She proceeded to tell me that it was absolutely impossible with Ben’s schedule to allow him to take art.”Oh….so the course isn’t FULL. It’s just IMPOSSIBLE.” Really? I’m an artist. Nothing is impossible in my world. She continued to tell me that because of declining enrollment, scheduling, required courses….that Ben could not possibly TAKE Art and graduate. Really? Tell me this again, because I am just about to blow my smokestack. And on it went…the usual “party line” about declining enrollment, small schools……….I told her that was NOT acceptable, and they had to fix it. I did blow my stack. CLICK. I hung up on her. I feel bad about that 18 hours later. No…I take it back. I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m sick and tired of no one taking accountability for the mess that education is in for this province and the pat, prepared answers at all levels of this issue.

Art Sleuth On The Case

You’re damned right I’m in a crusty mood on this!

I was furious. I think I said that already. I started calling and writing trustees, school principals, MLA’s, Ministers, The Premier….and then I thought – wait a second. This can’t just be my kid. What are some of the other kids dealing with. I contacted one of Ben’s friends – a talented and budding young artist also in his Grade who was looking forward to her art class this year. In fact, we had worked a bit together over the summer and have begun to mentor her. Katharin loves art. I contacted her and discovered that she too had been denied Art as part of her schedule, and had to take Mechanics in it’s place. I asked her what stream she was in. Her answer was “2” – the same as Ben. She was very upset and had gone to talk to the new art teacher about it, but as yet had been told by the guidance councellor that she could not take it.

I began to wonder if there was something “bigger” to this and continued with my calling to trustees, superintendents, principals and the like. Katharin put it out on Facebook to her schoolmates to see how many of them were unable to take Art and we quickly discovered that it looked like anyone in “2” was denied ART, and anyone in “1” was denied DRAMA.

Oh boy…this is smelling to high heaven. And yet, I could still not find anyone in the system to answer me as to why this was occurring. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE?…..apparently no one.

Finally, the Principal called me near the end of the day, and he confirmed what we had discovered – ART and DRAMA were being “segregated” according to the stream which you were in. Do you know what this means?

Any student in Stream 1 (university bound) who wants to take Drama, cannot. Any student in Stream 2 (college/alternative) who wants to take Art….cannot. Simple and plain.

Effectively, we have wiped out a whole generation of potential critical, creative thinkers. Cut them off at the knees and told them….sorry, we can’t do this.

Are you kidding me?

I think I would have literally died if art and drama were not available to me in highschool.


I’m damn worried. This is the generation that will manage my nursing home, deal with clean energy puzzles, sustainability in a growing population, global warming….and these are the folks that will manage the nursing home, hospitals and health care system as I enter my geriatric years. I doubt that with my past record, I’ll be easily managed and I’m already feeling sorry for the nurse that will empty my bedpan.

These are the great problems of our society today – sustainability in food source, energy source, health resources and seniors care and social management.

I’m sick and tired of running around in circles trying to get answers. Trustees say…well, we have a meeting on September 19th, and go to your School Council on the 26th. Hello? Did you miss time management in school? The semester is a third over and there will be no chance for this cohort of students to repair the bad decisions made by others in negating arts education.  The time for waiting is over….and why the heck, on the first day of school are we finding out that our arts tracks have been completely sideswiped by the system?

School Council President had no idea when I contacted her last night. Neither did several of the trustees. All of these folks are sympathetic to the situation, as are the Principal. I’m still waiting for any answer from the MLA’s office, the Education or Culture Ministers.


Savage Chickens. © Doug Savage.

We are. Just us chickens inside this here coop. We are the ones that have to make this happen in some way. I’m tired of the boxes that organizations, unions, governments and “the powers that be” put on themselves and on others. They are shackling our ability to be nimble, to think, to find those “innovative, inspiring” solutions that we are all so very thirsty for in the complexity that is our world today. I’m tired of the finger-pointing between teachers, school boards and government.

Social & Community Entrepreneurship

Let me ask the question…..if I were to step up and volunteer to teach the curriculum in ART and DRAMA (which MUST be delivered)…to this cohort of Grade 10 students, would the school, the teachers, the government turn me down because I don’t have a teacher’s license? What are the barriers, beyond funding? Classroom space shouldn’t be an issue – if we have declining enrollment, surely there must be space? We bend over backwards in this community for our sports and Olympic athletes….how do we bend to ensure there is a well rounded education in the arts as well as the sciences? No…I don’t want to do this for free. You know how I feel about artists being paid for their work. I have to support my family, but I’m also aware that somehow, there has to be a solution.

The irony of this is that currently, the Town of Canmore has a task force working on a new arts centre in the old library space, and a meeting of the Board for the Alberta Foundation of the Arts is about to take place in town this week. We are to be a “shining example” of a prospering arts town. Really? What a horrible lie that is. We are building infrastructures  but not providing the education for the future users. That is not “creating the conditions to prosper” which is the job of our government in a recent discussion with a former Minister of Arts and Culture in Alberta, Lindsay Blackett. How sustainable is THAT? I can’t support any of it.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Are you? Are you accountable? Do you REALLY want the best for your children?…or maybe you just want to let it slide and complain in your old age about the “new generation” that can’t seem to empty your bedpan. Slide quietly and fearfully into the future. Savage chickens….just a form of an adapted dinosaur.

Excuse me while I go get my son ready for failure in his Mechanics class and figure out this bedpan thing.


UPDATE!! – Thursday, September 6th – It has also just come to my attention through another parent that if you opt to take French, you cannot take Music and visa versa. I’m still not sure why it is that kids are being segregated by stream. In addition to this, there are many, many other problems and issues with the system.  Step up! Write your CRPS Public School Trustees, MLA, and contacts below TODAY. Let’s find a solution! We CAN!

Three days into this, and I still have not received a peep out of Banff/Cochrane MLA, Ron Casey or his office staff, despite the letters. Anyone else hear from him? 

That’s not sticking well in my crusty craw right now. I have heard that he did have time to attend both an elite soiree with the AFA Board, artists, other elected officials right here in Canmore. Hmmm….just what are our MLA’s doing these days? Touting transparency? Opening hospitals? Partying with artists? If I thought he was trying to learn about the issue with some sense of real concern to address it with solution, I think I could cut some slack…but I don’t think that’s the case given he’s been so busy toasting the town. Helllooooooo………… to the mighty…………..we have some problems down here in the muck.


Canmore Arts Education Burns While MLA Ron Casey Fiddles



Please contact the following “authorities” to effect some change in our systems:

Canadian Rockies Public School Trustees

Kim Bater –
Esme Comfort – Twitter: @esmecomfort
Amanda Kelly – No email available
Carol Picard –
Arlene Rheume – No email available
Sheila Snowsell –

Canadian Rockies Public School Superintendant: Chris MacPhee

Via email to his assistant:
Board Office: 403 609 6072


Rocky Mountain Outlook:

Twitter: @rmoutlook

Phone: (403) 609-0220
Mail: Box 8610Suite 201 – 1001. 6th Avenue,Canmore, AB T1W 2V3 Canada





MLA – Ron Casey, Banff-Cochrane

Constituency Office

Unit 109, 1205 Bow Valley Trail
Canmore, AB
Canada T1W 1P5
Phone: (403) 609-4509
Toll-Free: 1-866-760-8281
Fax: (403) 609-4513

Legislature Office

630 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 415-8429
Fax: (780) 415-0951


Minister of Education – Jeff Johnson

Constituency Office
4807 – 50 Street
Athabasca, AB
Canada T9S 1C8
Phone: (780) 675-3232
Fax: (780) 675-2396
Legislature Office
424 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018


Minister of Arts and Culture – Heather Klimchuk

Constituency Offices

Constituency Office
10649 – 124 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5N 1S5
Phone: (780) 455-7979
Fax: (780) 455-2197

Legislature Offices

Legislature Office
107 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 422-3559 Fax: (780) 427-7729

Premier of Alberta – Allison Redford

Constituency Office
6, 22 Richard Way SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T3E 7M9
Phone: (403) 252-0346
Fax: (403) 252-0520

Legislature Office
307 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2251
Fax: (780) 427-1349


OPPOSITION CRITICS (In no particular order……Please also copy them on email/correspondence you send to your MLA. This is how our democratic system works…so WORK IT!)

Laurie Blakeman – Liberal Opposition Critic (Arts & Culture)

Constituency Office

#3, 9908-109 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1H5

Phone: (780) 414-0743
Fax: (780) 414-0772


Kent Hehr – Liberal Critic for Education

Constituency Office

#130, 1177 – 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T2R 1K9
Phone: (403) 244-7737
Fax: (403) 541-9106

Legislature Office

201 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 427-2292
Fax: (780) 427-3697

NDP Opposition/Caucus Contact Information:

Alberta NDP Opposition
Room 501, 9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 1E4
Phone: 780.415.1800
Fax: 780.415.0701

Wild Rose Opposition/Critics:

Blake Pedersen – Culture Critic
Constituency Offices
Constituency Office
620 – 3rd Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB
Canada T1A 0H5
Phone: (403) 527-5622
Fax: (403) 527-5112

Bruce McAllister – Education Critic

Constituency Office
215-175 Chestermere Station Way
Chestermere, AB
Canada T1X 0G1
Phone: (403) 207-9889
Toll-Free: 1-866-843-4314
Fax: (403) 216-2225


Let’s Get Physical :: A Little Less Conversation and a Little More Action


Right…so, in a further attempt to “shake it up” in the studio, get loose and unwind, I spent some time creating a wicked playlist of boogie music. I’m a firm believer that painting with all your body, heart and soul is the best way to get those emotions down in paint. Lots of the time, I choose more classical pieces, but from time to time, I really need to get moving.

My husband and kids thought I’d gone crazy when I stopped the classical and opera music and started blasting out “Brick House”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing” and “Polk Salad Annie”. I’m sure the neighbours think something very strange is going on, as I keep the doors and windows to the studio open all the time and this music up loud. He he he…

Chaka Khan….We feel for you!

However…I must say, the mood in the household has picked up and everyone is going around doing “the bump” and dancing through the day. (Kevin is even cleaning out the garage.) Grace was even singing “Chaka Khan….I feel for you…..” all over the house. Ah…she’s her mother’s daughter, after all.

Well, I have to say it’s really “moving me” in more than one way. I’m finding myself dancing to the music and the works and they’re coming a lot easier.

Kinetically speaking, shaking your booty while you’re working is good not just for the figure…but for the figurative! It seems to move the work along quicker, make the brushstrokes a lot more emotive and physical. Using a large brush can help that loosey-goosey approach too. I’m finding I’m looking for the biggest brushes I can get at my hardware store.

Here’s part of the eclectic “shake it up” playlist. Maybe it will help you too!

Polk Salad Annie – Tony Joe White
A Little Les Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix) – Elvis Presley
Breakdown – Tantric
Lizobuya – Mbongeni Ngema
Freedom Is Coming Tomorrow – Khanyo Maphumulo
Southland Concerto – Hans Zimmer
I Have The Touch – Peter Gabriel
Sita Al Sobh – Hussain All Jassmi
The Isreaelites – Desmond Dekker & The Aces
In The Summertime – Shaggy
Turn The Page – Bob Seger
Get Down Tonight – KC and the Sunshine Band
Soul Man – Blues Brothers
Candy Shop – 50 Cent & Olivia
Getting’ Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith
Love Shak – The B-52’s
Sixty Minute Man – The Dominoes
Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
Vivrant Ting – Q-Tip
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Car Wash (Shark Tale Mix) – Christina Aguilera & Missy Elliot
Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
I am A Man of Constant Sorrow – The Soggy Bottom Boys
Shotgun – Junior Walker & The All Stars
Brick House – The Commodores
The Name Game – SHirley Ellis
Beautiful Day – U2
Sacred Love – Sting
Desert Rose – Sting
Joke Thing – Snow
The Glamourous Life – Shiela E
Hips Don’t Lie – Shakira and Wyclef Jean
Sympathy for the Devil (Neptunes Remix) – The Rolling Stones
Night Time Is The Right Time – Ray Charles
Powerless – Nelly Furtado
Caligula – Macy Gray
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynryd Skynyrd
American Woman – Lenny Kravitz
Can’t Stop – Jack Soul
Use Me – Hootie & The Blowfish
Coconut – Harry Nilsson
Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
Brushes (Never going Back Again) – Fleetwood Mac
Missionary Man – Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart
State of Independence – Donna Summer
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing – Chris Isaak
I Feel For You – Chaka Khan
Kiss – Art of Noise & Tom Jones

 Get down tonight!

Choices : Create / Destroy – They Are Both The Same.

Every moment of your life, you make choices.

Ball Kelp, Haida Gwaii

Ball Kelp, Haida Gwaii

In truth, there are only two choices.

Balance Rock, Haida Gwaii - High Tide

Balance Rock, Haida Gwaii – High Tide


Burnaby Strait, Low Tide - Gwaii Haanas National Park, Haida Gwaii

“Bat Stars, Turban Snails & Countless Lifeforms ” – Burnaby Strait, Low Tide – Gwaii Haanas National Park, Haida Gwaii


Clearcut and Landslide - Moresby Island, Haida Gwaii

More than twenty-five years after an old-growth clearcut on Moresby Island, Haida Gwaii, the mountain is scarred by landslide.

Every choice falls into both categories.

Protest Signs at Old Masset, Haida Gwaii

Protest Signs at Old Masset, Haida Gwaii

Every choice has a consequence.

Corpse of The Golden Spruce

“Corpse of The Golden Spruce” – Yakoun River, Port Clements, Haida Gwaii. The last of it’s species.

In every choice….be….an Artist.

Haida Gwaii - Ferry Crossing from Graham to Moresby Island

Ferry Crossing from Graham to Moresby Island – Haida Gwaii

ART :: What is it?

Temporary Installation: "CAMP - Land Claim" over "The Big Head" in Canmore, AB.

Temporary Installation: “CAMP – Land Claim” over “The Big Head” in Canmore, AB.

The beauty of art to me, is it’s many faces.


















Temporary Installation: "CAMP - Land Claim" over "The Big Head" in Canmore, AB.

Temporary Installation: “CAMP – Land Claim” over “The Big Head” in Canmore, AB.



Gwaii Haanas – The Need for a New Line at Lyell

"Sedgwick Camp - Gwaii Haanas" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 6"x8"

“Sedgwick Camp – Gwaii Haanas” ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 6″x8″

Wow…what can I even begin to say and share with you regarding my recent trip to Haida Gwaii and the residency in Gwaii Haanas National Park, Marine Reserve and Haida Heritage Site? I’ll start just by sharing some works I created onsite in Gwaii Haanas and some thoughts about current context.

You have to understand the remoteness of this place. It’s a 20 hour, two day FULL drive from Canmore, AB – first on the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and then through the winding Yellowhead Highway country, though Prince George, along the banks of the Fraser and Skeena River systems, through the Pacific Coastal Mountains to the Port of Prince Rupert.

From there, it’s a 7 hour ferry ride, just to get to the island of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and just in view of the shores of Alaska from it’s northern coast. And that’s just the first part of the journey! Epic in itself, just to get to Haida Gwaii.

From there, our group of five departed from Skidegate, another ferry ride from Skidegate to Alliford Bay and then through an hour and a half of potholed logging roads that you could swallow your truck, and humping gear over an “outed” bridge to the marine departure point at Deer Bay, Moresby Camp. Not a journey for the faint of heart!

Departing Moresby Camp, it was an hour long trip by boat on the trusty BC forestry services boat, the “Adelita” to our floating camp at the Bischof Islands in Gwaii Haanas. These waters are the fourth most dangerous in the world. Enough said, I suppose…

Using the Bischof Islands as our base, we headed out to many different locations in Gwaii Haanas. I created several works onsite where time and equipment landing would permit. I also worked on the boat, in watercolour creating sketches as we travelled the long distances between points. I’ll share those in a later posting with you.

The only communications in this area is by marine radio or satellite phone, both of which are sketchy at the best of times. When not sketching or painting, I spent a great deal of time in visual observation and in photography. There is never enough lifetimes to begin to paint what I have seen or experienced, but here is a short “bite” for those who are so eager to see what I did when I was there.



Athlii Gwaii – Sedgwick Bay Camp

Sedgewick Camp - Athlii Gwaii, Gwaii Haanas (Lyell Island)

Sedgewick Camp – Athlii Gwaii, Gwaii Haanas (Lyell Island)

This painting was done onsite at Sedgwick Bay, Athlii Gwaii (Lyell Island) where in  the autumn of 1985, a group of Haida elders travelled by helicopter  to engage in one of the first direct action efforts of first nations across the land. Conflicting interests that pit first nations against industrial development reached a boiling point. The Haida Elders created a line between the ancient rainforests and old growth cedar and spruce and the forestry companies that held timber licenses. Four Elders stood on the line at Lyell. Please see the clip below of excerpts from Urban Rez’s production of “Athlii Gwaii – The Line at Lyell”, exclusive footage from that time features touching interviews with elders; Ada Yovanovich and Adolphus Marks. Contemporary interviews were conducted with the Elders Ethel Jones and Watson Pryce in 2002. They shared their memories of that trying time. Sadly all four Elders have passed on but their act of selfless devotion to their beloved Haida Gwaii should be an inspiration to us all.

Visiting this place was a great inspiration for me. I would say it was one of the most stirring and inspiring moments of my visit. It was pouring down buckets that day, but I could hear the Elders and the protestors, firm in their convictions and in their hearts. Their spirits were all around me. There was even an old Chinese Checkers game still left in the main cabin. I sat in the doorway for a very long time, imagining what it might have been like for them all, to make a stand, bind together and speak out for what was right, not just for themselves, but for everyone.

I am grateful that the Haida Nation, these Elders and young warrior members stood so firmly to protect this place. We should do the same now, as the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project by Enbridge threatens once again, this magnificent culture and ecosystem in which we are all so interconnected. Stand up and speak out about the effects that this pipeline will have on habitat, culture and the ecology of our planet. Write your MP and the  official opposition. If you are international, write your own governments and let them know that this is an issue for all people.

Make yourself heard…and be part of the new “Line”. Do the right thing.