ART SAFARI: From the Gladstone to the Power Ball

Inside Power Ball 12. Photography by Natalie Castellino.

Gia Castiglione and Marq Frerichs recently went on a great art safari, from the Gladstone’s regular “SpeakEasy” event to the Power Ball, the Power Plant’s annual fundraiser. They were looking to discover how two very different events can support and further arts and culture in Toronto. They interviewed each other about the best and worst moments of the night, the tenor and style of the two crowds, and the craziest conversations they overheard.

First up: SpeakEasy, described as “a night out for creative types,” which is held six times a year at the Gladstone Hotel. The night Gia and Marq attended, there was a drawing and painting show featuring 29 artists.

G: Did the Gladstone event live up to its “SpeakEasy” title?
M: Having been to a couple of illegal establishments with jazz bands, nefarious characters, and scantily clad youths, I didn’t really see the link between this “speakeasy and a vernissage. The second floor of the Gladstone was far too well-lit and the crowd was missing a certain grit. Instead, I felt like I was part of a moving salon.

M: What was your reason for attending the event?
G: I was there to see the works of painter Shannon Jill Bray. She works in oil on canvas and visually discusses the precision and the art of colour relations. Her work tickles my fancy. Luckily we’re colleagues so I get the skinny on her title choices.

Canvases by Shannon Jill Bray. Photography by Gia Castiglione and Marq Frerichs.

M: How did the venue add to the spirit of the night?
G: The Gladstone hotel was originally built in 1889 across from the Parkdale railroad station. As a result of the high volume of landed travellers nearby, the scene and clientele at the Gladstone varied so much. It still does.

M: Ah the Gladstone, the last great venue of Queen West. Where artist and suit still rub shoulders in search of local culture and colour. Hipsters and housewives talking with each other while discussing a canvas or listening to the artist answer questions.

M: Which brings me to a good question. What was the best line you overheard at the event?
G: I overheard two men discussing Azores, Portugal. Something about a beach town being all black. Black walls on buildings and black pavement on roads. I discreetly tried to involve myself in the conversation, but I didn’t catch the details.

G: What did you keep in mind when you were looking at the artwork?
M: I approach openings the same way as I do fashion shows: Keep an open mind and expect to be surprised, hopefully pleasantly. I don’t know a lot about Toronto’s contemporary art scene and this event only made me want to further my knowledge. Learning more is definitely stylish.

M: What was the tenor/style of the crowd?
G: The crowd was casual and relaxed. Lots of neutrals, basics and few wardrobe risks throughout.

G: Did you notice any trends throughout the crowd at all, or was that just me?
M: Common thread? I would be tempted to say natural fibre. Lots of green art and lots of socially conscious attire. For me, there was far too much tan, beige and cream and it was all a little too loose in the fit.

M: Who was the most interesting-looking person you saw there?
G: Her locks were down and waved and her face clear of cosmetics. She was wearing a Lululemon racer back tank and high-wasted slim legged slacks. I thought her look was the most interesting because she wasn’t afraid to wear a classic trendy look with an athletic garment. People who think that LYCRA or LUON is only for the gym clearly have never worn it. Comfort is a fad that is here to stay.

Next up: Power Ball 12, the annual fundraiser for the Power Plant art gallery. The theme was “The Ball That Started It All,” a mash-up of Power Balls past, with a carnival edge.

Welcome to the carnival! Photography by Gia Castiglione and Marq Frerichs.

G. What did you find was the most prominent difference between the two events?
M: Well that’s actually an easy answer: One was full of art and the other wasn’t.

G: Did you find that the “Carnival” theme was followed through?
M: If you define a carnival as a wild and raucous show, the Power Ball fit the bill. I was hoping for a crazy art-filled event, with flashes of nights gone by and glimpses of what will be coming to the Power Plant in the near future. What I got instead was a circumcised circus. Oh, it hurt me.

M: What was your most enjoyable moment of the night?
G: At one point, I was wearing headphones with Cuban-electro beats comfortably blasting in my ears. Alongside me was a mish-mash of like-minded artists actually enjoying themselves, dancing too. Nothing like a good barricaded boogie.

G: How did you choose your outfit for the event?
M: I put my ensemble together in about 10 minutes, unheard-of speed for me. A pair of high-waisted harem-jodhpurs from Athens, a wife-beater and my dearest friend’s straw hat.

M: The craziest thing you overheard?
G: “She doesn’t want tequila in her snow-cone?!” Do I dare deduce that the idea of spiked sugared ice was a contemporary comment on Willy Wonka’s famous quote “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”? Something tells me the party coordinators didn’t dig that deep, however it was a groovy idea for sure.

G: How did the surrounding conversations differ from each venue?
M: Well, I hate to say it but it was all a little black and white. At the Gladstone, I overheard a lot of praise for others: “I love your work”, “Love what you’re wearing”— gushing almost to the point of me gagging. And at the Power Ball: “I’m doing this” and “I’m wearing so and so, don’t you love it?” The worst thing I heard was “Wow, you look so pretty. I never knew you could clean up so nicely.”

G: Conclusions?
M: Between the two events there was a lot of push and pull going on in our eventful artistic style notebooks. It’s striking that the people who make art in the city, and the people who make galleries like the Power Plant possible through their financial support, are in such obviously different worlds. One is about art, the other is about money—and an event like Power Ball, as glam and glitzy as it is, is a microcosm of their uneasy, almost unnatural relationship.

Follow Marq on Twitter: @aboulevardier
Follow Gia on Twitter:  @gia2castiglione

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