Head Underground

The AGNS Young Patrons Circle’s annual ArtRising fundraiser brings an injection of underground art to the gallery.

Artist Noah Logan uses colour and body paint for a pop art vibe.
Artist Noah Logan uses colour and body paint for a pop art vibe.

Underground may not be the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, with its hallowed halls of Nova Scotian art history and folk art. The AGNS Young Patrons Circle shine a light on contemporary emerging artists with ArtRising Volume III: Underground, the third annual fundraiser the Young Patrons Circle holds for the AGNS.

The Circle is only three years old, following the same path as other successful young patrons organizations across Canada, which help engage a younger demographic with the arts. "The audience of the AGNS is aging, and we're trying to get a younger urban demographic involved," says chair Bessy Nikolaou.

The Circle hosts supper clubs, guided tours of exhibits and vault tours. "The AGNS benefits from a younger demographic stepping through the door," says Nikolaou. "And I've met tons of people in their 20s and 30s who have never set foot in a gallery."

The main event for the Circle is their annual ArtRising fundraiser. The money raised from the event, which features art from Noah Logan and music from Cold Warps, Cousins and T-Woo, is matched by Canada Council and goes towards purchasing a piece for the AGNS collection---the goal is $30,000. "We're trying to go against the traditional fundraiser format, the rubber chicken dinner at World Trade and Convention Centre," says Nikolaou. "We're going for an overall sensory experience."

Enter Noah Logan. Logan's performance piece will echo his contribution to last year's Skin exhibit at the AGNS, where performers painted with anatomically correct hearts walked in time with a heartbeat at the exhibition opening. This Friday, performers will be painted behind a silk curtain, then engage with the audience. The body decoration will be bright and reminiscent of early '90s New York art movements, think Keith Haring under a black light.

"I'm going for a colourful pop art vibe---a really '90s New York vibe---trying to recreate some of the things that happened then, particularly in the underground art scene in lower Manhattan," says Logan. "With events like this it's more about showing what art can be, it doesn't necessarily have to be super commodifiable, it can be performative and weird. It's an interesing dichotomy, I want it to be super conceptual but also appeal to people who just want to have fun."

Logan's work is firmly rooted in the contemporary, something that he feels the AGNS is increasingly trying to embrace. "With a big gallery like the AGNS it can be daunting and perplexing, there's a lot of government mandates and various things to uphold," Logan says. "It's sometimes hard to understand those things from a young person's perspective. We can't have the most provocative art right now because we're in a conservative culture, especially in regards to art, but it's something to be proud of that the AGNS started the Sobey prize, which is the best art prize in Canada."

Nikolaou thinks events like ArtRising not only improve the relationships between youth and art, they also improve the city. "If we're not supporting our artists our biggest fear is that we will lose them to New York, Toronto or Montreal," he says. "We're trying to think ahead to what makes an urban destination---why tourists come here, why people would move here. An exciting arts and culture scene is important to an urban lifestyle and we want to be a part of that."

ArtRising Volume III: Underground
Friday, April 5 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis Street
7pm, $75

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