Thursday 31 December 2009

Hours of work to make seconds of TV during CFTO weather forecast

Weather Or Not It Is Worth It.

Back at the TV station it is considered Pimping Up the News Broadcast. In an endless stream of accident reports, murder stories, gridlocked traffic reports, the bright spot in the news cycle is the "live-eye" reports. You know the drill. An on-air personality takes a remote crew and visits an event to give a series of good news 2-minute hits during the newscast.
In Toronto, Roger's owned CITY-TV pioneered the "live-eye" remote with its morning crew, anchored by singer and TV personality Jennifer Valentyne. Cross-town rivals, CTV's CFTO have countered with their roving weather reporters - Anwar Knight and Tom Brown - who go on location at events and happenings to wrap good-news stories around their newscast weather reports.
Regardless of which station you watch, the "live-eye" reports are always upbeat and hopefully fun for the viewers. Although the remotes seem light and breezy the stations spend considerable thought and funds into each daily foray into the community. There are satellite trucks, remote cameras, technicians and talent dedicated to visiting everything from the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, to Scotiabank Caribana. Over a year the live-eyers talk to civic leaders, trade show pitchmen, performers, artists, authors and yes, sometimes even clowns in full greasepaint. And, at Christmas they talk to religious leaders.
People like me are often involved in setting up live-eye visits. Television crews depend on outside help that they trust to round up guests to appear in a visually interesting setting and talk for no more than two-minutes about a specific subject. The guests have to be articulate, to-the-point and interesting. They shouldn't stutter, have thick accents or strange facial expressions. They must be willing to get up painfully early and wait for hours to appear on the "live eye" and accept with good grace having their segments moved or dropped. Most importantly the guests and all the location/events support staff (and publicist) must not charge the TV station for their time and costs.
In PR terms it makes sense to help out. Because the live-eye visits are good news skewed there aren't hard questions to answer. The guests that appear live are permitted to explain to viewers why they should be interested in their story. The live-eye is one of the few opportunities in the broadcast cycle for people to show and tell, and 2-minutes is a long long time on TV. Since the live-eye remote returns to the same location four times over the course of a broadcast, your story gets to repeatedly hit on the ever changing viewership which drops in and out of programmes many times over an hour.
On Wednesday December 16th I received an email from weatherman Anwar Knight at CFTO to ask for assistance with the noon "live-eye" on Friday December 19th. It took us a few hours to actually connect by phone, so, whatever help the station's weatherman needed, had to be organized by end-of-day Thursday.
In the lead-up to Christmas CFTO was sending Anwar to places of worship to see how different communities and different religions celebrated the holiday season. On Friday CFTO was to visit a Jamaican Canadian church, however, the Jamaican consulate somehow dropped the ball and there was no church for the station to visit. Did I know of any church that could help out over the noon hour on Friday?
I did. A year ago I had met with Pastor Pat Francis of the Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Mississauga. A special envoy to the United Nations, a charismatic preacher and the leader of a growing church, she hoped to hire me to help with a building project. The church, its private school and offices are currently entrenched in an old warehouse. The warehouse church is big but not big enough for its growing congregation. They currently have 3 services on Sunday and 1,000 people worship at each service.
Pastor Pat wants to build a $30 million church and school near the Mississauga / Toronto border. She figures she will need the help of a PR agency. I quoted but never heard back (even churches do that Toronto thing -- silence means no). I didn't forget Pastor Pat and always thought she would be great on TV.
With calls to the Church Deacon in Trinidad and the help of Andre Newell, a church member and a member of the Scotiabank Caribana marketing team, we were able to open the church up 48 hours after Anwar's call and help created 4 segments of good television.

This is what happened.

Wednesday - 2 calls to Trinidad from the vegetable aisle of Loblaws
Thursday - Pastor Pat agrees to appear on television
- Andre Newell asks Olunike Adeliyi,, an actress who recently appeared in the Flashpoint drama TV series to come to the church on Friday and help with the broadcast (she is a member of the congregation)
- Andre talks to Jamaican restaurant who donate traditional Caribbean Christmas dishes
- Andre asks gospel singer and organist to perform during the broadcast
- Stephen Weir provided CFTO with location map, background on the church, Pastor Pat and some of the Christmas traditions celebrated in the Caribbean.
Friday - Stephen Weir meets the three-man crew at 10.30 at the church. Cables are laid from the remote truck into the alter area of the church.
-Stephen Weir meets with Pastor Pat and members of her church to talk about the broadcast
- The Organist and singer arrive. The organist begins performing background music
- The Church has an A/V department which set up their own camera and lighting. A Christmas tree is decorate and a corner of the church is draped for a food segment
- Andre sets out the food.
- Anwar Knight arrives and meets the crew, Pastor Pat, Tattiawna Jones and members of the church.

At noon the broadcast began. After giving the weather Anwar interviewed Pastor Pat asking her about how Caribbean Canadians mark Christmas. Anwar wanted to stress that Christmas is a time for families to be together. Pastor Pat agreed but reminded viewers the most important thing over the holidays was Our Savour.
The second segment was with Olunike Adeliyi,talking about Christmas. Our gospel singer sang and the cameras saw how the Church was decorated for the holidays
In our third segment Anwar, Pastor Pat and Olunike Adeliyi, sampled Jamaican food. (We did get a plug in for the restaurant the home-made sorrel, black cake and a beef-patty like dish).
The fourth and last segment didn't run too smoothly - we had hoped the children attending the Church's elementary school would appear on camera (they were having an end of the year party in the next room). No model releases - so CTV was concerned about having the young students on air. The school principal didn't like the fact that kids were out of uniform, so, the children segment was scrapped.
In its place Andre and I hustled around and collected wrapped presents and put them under a Christmas tree. Dr. Pat talked about the Church's Toy Drive. It is being done in conjunction with CHUM radio, but, she was asked not say CHUM radio. Even though CTV owns the radio station, CFTO has its own Toy Drive and didn't want to promote someone else's drive!
CFTO was also worried about the copyright of the songs sung by our singer and played by our keyboardist. The solution? She sang a really old song and the organist played music that was copyright free.
By 1 o'clock it was all over. Four live segments were shot giving the church 10 minutes of air time. It took 20 volunteers, a few international phone calls and 8-hours of work by Andre and myself.
Was it worth it? Hard to tell! Do people still watch noon-hour TV? Will they remember the name of the church or its charismatic pastor? Who is going to pay me for a day of my time?
I don't have all the answers. I know viewership numbers are down but I think at least 100,000 people caught at least one of the spots. They might not remember the church's name, but, I believe they will remember Pat and her passion and intensity and profound faith.
For me, I didn't have to come, I could have done everything over the phone - however I do worry so, I made a point of being there. And I accept the fact that I am not getting paid. Cell calls to Trinidad were made on my dime. The drive, the two hours at the church and three hours of prep work were pro-bono.
I did send a note to Matt Garrow CTV's PR guy telling him I'd helped Anwar out. Can't hurt. Would I do it again? Depends on the Weather ... and I don't mind helping out a good cause.

Top: Pastor Dr. Pat Francis
Middle: Anwar Knight with a member of the congregation
Bottom: The broadcast in session

Pat Francis - Biography

Dr. Pat Francis through her local and international ministries has reached millions of people with the message and mission of hope.
Pat believes that "knowledge is power" and through her dynamic teaching seminars and weekly television program "Good News with Pat Francis" she empowers millions of people with wisdom and practical strategies to reach their full potential with the help of faith in God. She believes that education is the door to freedom and provides the foundation for a prosperous future. Pat Francis and her team have developed many schools from kindergarten to College and many associated programs to provide academic, social, and spiritual enhancement for children and young people. Over one hundred scholarships have been awarded to students to aid them in achieving their goals.
Pat's latest project "KC Collegiate" is an alternative high school with a customized program for high school dropouts providing a solution for the thousands of young people who are frustrated with the traditional public school program, with learning challenges and greatly at risk. Her Restorative Justice and Rehabilitation Program for youth were recently featured on "CFTO TV" referring to Dr. Pat Francis as a person that is "saving lives and stopping the cycle of crime in young people".
In 2004, Dr. Francis was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the United States Senate for her work in the faith community and her efforts to rescue at risk youths. She was also awarded recognition in "The International Who's who" because of her passionate commitment to helping children at risk and her positive influence in the local community.
Through her international charity "Compassion For The Nations" Pat has supported orphanages, pastors, and annually takes teams to third world countries and the Caribbean for medical missions, develop health care centres and teach at conferences throughout North America, The Caribbean, India, Africa, Peru, China and other nations.
As a Business Person, Dr. Pat has developed several businesses. Additionally, she has engaged the services of the business owners to teach people on successful business strategies and has helped hundreds to purchase their own homes or start businesses.
Dr. Pat is a graduate of the University of the West Indies in the medical field of Radiography. She is also a Certified Psychotherapist and holds two Masters degrees and a Doctorate from Christian Life School of Theology, Columbus, GA. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling and is the founder and President several charities.
She is an author, pastor, humanitarian and international conference speaker.


Kingdom Covenant Ministries
20-1224 Dundas St. E.
Mississauga, ON
TL: 905.566.1084

Thursday 24 December 2009


McMichael Canadian Art Collection Holiday Hours,Exhibitions and Programme Information

December 24, 2009. Kleinburg, Ontario. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection will be open throughout the holiday period except on December 25th. On all other days, including Boxing Day and New Years Day, the gallery will be open from 10am to 4pm.

The gallery is located at 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, Ontario. For directions visit

Holiday Programming:
December 27 ArtChat
Maria Chapdelaine: A Québécois Saga
The story of Maria Chapdelaine is well known for its wonderful illustrations by Clarence Gagnon. View and discuss the complete set of original artworks, which tell the story of rural Quebec in the early twentieth century.
December 29 and 30 Bonus Family Days!
Help ring in the New Year with art activities and live entertainment including performances by David Hannan and Jordan O'Connor and their Cuckoo Clock Theatre. Free With Admission. 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m.

January 3, 2010 Cadence
Four men, four microphones, no instruments. Toronto's celebrated vocal band Cadence, whose members include Dylan Bell, Carl Berger, Kevin Fox, and Ross Lynde, will be performing in the McMichael's Great Hall. Free With Admission. 1:30 p.m.

January 10, 2010 Sing and Play
Enjoy an Inuit performance and drum making by Iqaluit artist, Naudlaq. Touch stone and bone carvings and handle the tools used by Inuit sculptors. Make your own Inuit-inspired prints and take a family tour of the special exhibition, Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth. In the McMichael's Great Hall. Free With Admission. 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m.

January 17 Chris McKhool
Enjoy an exciting jazz violin performance by Chris McKhool. In the Great Hall. Free with Admission to the Gallery. 1:30 p.m.

January 17 Canadian Stories
A guided tour of the gallery concentrating on a specific portion of the McMichael permanent collection. Visitors have an opportunity to expand their knowledge about their favourite artists. 1 hour. Free with Admission. 11:30 a.m.

Current Exhibitions (Free With Admission)

* Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth
On until January 17, 2010
Mark the fiftieth anniversary of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and celebrate the remarkable achievement of the internationally acclaimed artistic community of Cape Dorset (Kinngait)

* Ed Bartram: The Eye Within

pictured above: curator Chris Finn (l) and artist Ed Bartram (r)
On until January 3, 2010
Discover the rugged Georgian Bay landscape through Ed Bartram's abstract and dynamic etchings.

* Woodland School
On until May 9, 2010
Explore the vibrant art of Woodland School painters Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, Alex Janvier, Blake Debassige and more!

* Maria Chapdelaine
On until January 3, 2010
Experience the popular 1916 novel, Maria Chapdelaine—a story depicting life in rural Quebec—through Clarence Gagnon's brilliant illustrations.



Stephen Weir
gallery publicist

PR Past Taints Harry Potter Story For Torontoist


I recently attended a press conference at the Ontario Science Centre. The occasion? A glitzy expensive pre-launch for the upcomingHarry Potter Exhibition.
I like attending public sector press conferences - it keeps me in touch with what is going on in the city and I stay up-to-date on current PR practices. Like everything else, the business of press conferences is rapidly evolving. In years gone by (try 2008) an art gallery or museum opening consisted of press kits, speakers, a couple of examples of art/artifacts and a cuppa coffee (evening events usually includes boxed wine and carrot sticks). In late 2009 it is: cue the smoke machines, fly in the international speakers and hand out bags of swag worthy of a minor league film festival. No one likes to spend money on a press conference but, as the story I eventually wrote about the Harry Potter exhibition reports, Toronto pressers have gone Hollywood because PR departments believe it is the only way to guarantee results.
While at the Harry Potter presser I took attendance (and pictures).
Noting that the Toronto Sun was the only newspaper not there, I went back to my office and wrote a story on the launch. I decided to write a news piece about how the bar has been raised for public sector pressers, and offer it to the Sun (since they weren't there).
I was a bit delayed by other (paying) jobs, so it was late that day that I finally got the piece over to their city editor Antonella Artuso -- it was very close to their deadline. Didn't hear back (the Sun's way of saying no). The next day when my Sun arrived, I saw a very small Harry Potter Science Centre story that had been cobbled together from the Science Centre's press kit.
I then sent the story and pictures over to the popular news website, the Torontoist. They had looked at another one of my stories, liked it, but said I had sent it in to late. So, this time, less than 24 hours after the press conference I delivered my piece along with three pictures and cutlines.
The initial response I got was good, they wanted to run it. However, a few hours after they showed strong interest I received a second email from their freelance review editor, Ashley Carter,questioning the story. Here is what she wrote: "The piece is good, but I have to ask (considering your PR background & our need to be obnoxiously careful with these things), do you work with the Science Centre?"
It has been a couple of years since I last did any work for the Science Centre, so, I was a little surprised that I wasn't passing their PR smell test. This wasn't a fawning fluff piece -- in the museum world my story isn't all together positive. CEOs of government owned museums and galleries don't usually like to be quoted trolling for ticket sales. As well there is the whole issue of home-grown Canadian shows versus big box / big dollar American travelling exhibitions raging through the museum/gallery community right now. The article might be seen as being quietly critical of Ontario's Ministry of Culture buying into an exhibition heavy on US/UK movie sets and light on Canadian content.
I have had stories rejected because they didn't "fit" or were too long, or didn't read well, or there wasn't the budget, but, this is the first time in decades of freelance writing that I have not had a story printed because I do PR work to pay the bills.
As they say these days, "No Worries". I have my own soapbox to post things on (but gets a dozen readers daily compared to Torontoist's thousands of daily readers). So, below is Mugging for the Media Muggles, the unedited story that the Sun passed on and the (non-paying) Torontoist rejected.
Cutline: Top: An Ontario Science Centre official fields questions from two different TV crews at the pre-launch press conference for next year's Harry Potter exhibition.Below: Freelance writer (and PR guy) Stephen Weir. Photo taken at the Toronto Market following the Harry Potter press conference (David Tollington).

Friday 11 December 2009

Mugging for the Media Muggles

Mugging for the Media Muggles – Big Box shows come at a cost
Ontario Science Centre conjures up advance media event

With one wave of Harry Potter's wand, the PR bar was raised a little bit higher this week in Toronto. In a city where newspaper readership numbers are in decline and television operations are being scaled back, public museums and galleries are having to use the Dark Arts to get the attention of the media.
It took a live wizard's owl, a Hollywood-style fog machine and a smoke and mirrors performance by officials at the Ontario Science Centre to conjure up a press event of mythical proportions. The Science Centre is bringing “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” to Toronto this April, and in a bid to promote advance ticket sales, staged a press event that was big on theatrics and small on details.
Only two speakers, Leslie Lewis the CEO and Eddie Newquist, President, Branded Entertainment, stood knee deep in billowing smoke (the fog machine was working overtime) and talked to a very large group of reporters, photographers and cameramen. Like a well scripted TV show the pair teased the audience with only tidbits about the coming exhibition and took the opportunity to sell, sell, sell.
"The Ontario Science Centre is the first and only Canadian venue to host Harry Potter: the Exhibition," said Science Centre's Lewis. "Did I mention that tickets are now on sale and can be purchased on line at our website?"
Why the hard sell from a Government of Ontario owned facility? It has to. In the competition for audiences, the major public galleries and museums are bringing in large traveling exhibitions. ROM's Dead Sea Scrolls. AGO's King Tut. The Science Centre's current blockbuster Body Worlds 3. All three shows have proved in other cities that they can attract audiences ... but the cost of renting these exhibitions comes at a very high price. Marketing and Public Relation activities aren't an option, they are mandated by the companies owning the traveling exhibitions.
If the Science Centre is going to recoup its investment it must sell tickets now, five months out from the official launch. Tuesday's event will go a long way to getting word out about the coming show and the ability to purchase advance tickets, all just in time for Christmas.
Over 50 journalists from every major news outlet in the city of Toronto (except the Toronto Sun) attended the short theatrical press conference. They captured images of confetti guns booming, school children waving non-functioning Hogworts wands and a costumed actor with a live owl on his shoulder.
They learned that this spring "visitors will experience dramatic environments inspired by the Harry Potter film sets and see the amazing craftsmanship behind more than 200 authentic costumes and film props."
According to press material handed out at the conference Newquist's Branded Entertainment (a division of Exhibitgroup/Giltspur) has teamed with Warner Brothers Inc to create a 1,300 square metre exhibit space that will give ticket holders "a firsthand view of authentic artifacts displayed in detailed settings inspired by the film sets, including the Great Hall, Hagrid's hut, the Gryffindor common room, and more. The exhibition will also include costumes and props from the upcoming installments of the Harry Potter series, once production of these films has been completed."
The press conference was timed to coincide with the Canadian Blu-Ray and DVD release of the latest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The DVD is expected to sell well during the holiday season, and, if word gets out soon to consumers, advance tickets, at a base price of $27.50 each, could wind up in Christmas stockings this December 25th.
Earlier this fall the Art Gallery of Ontario proved the worth of holding a high voltage press conference for its blockbuster King Tut: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs exhibition. Its November press conference, complete with pyramid shaped muffins, a cavalcade of international speakers and an exhibition tour that included a taped introduction by Harrison Ford, helped drive advance ticket sales of over 50,000 (base price $28.50 for adults) before the show opened to the public.
Be it Galleons, Muggle's pounds or an ancient Pharaoh's debens, that's magic that publicly owned attractions can easily understand.

CUTLINES: Top left:
Toronto students put on Harry Potter style scarves and waved non-function wands to help the Ontario Science Centre announce its next upcoming blockbuster show – Harry Potter: The Exhibition. The launch was held December 8th.
Top Right: Who? Who? Who are the media scrumming? It is a live owl being held by a costumed actor and Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis. It was all part of a Tuesday morning press conference to announce the April arrival of a traveling exhibition about the Harry Potter movie series.
Above: Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis announces that a new traveling Harry Potter exhibition will be coming to Toronto in April. The exhibition which will include costumes and sets from the Harry Potter movie series. The announcement was made at a glitzy Hollywood style press conference held at the Ontario Science Centre on Tuesday December 8th.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

This is the fortnight to launch ... anything. Keep that suit pressed and the black tie knotted!

When should you hold an event to get the maximum media coverage? Don't hold you event too late in December. Unless your story has Santa Claus or kittens, the Christmas Rush will rush right past you.
And here in Toronto don't hold any press event during the first two weeks of September unless you have Tom Cruise as your spokesperson - yes the Toronto Film Festival eats up every TV camera and every reporter in city during it's two week run. And don't hold it anytime after that for the rest of September - worn out reporters are off using up all that overtime that earned.
Summer is out unless you are looking after Caribana, the Indy or Pride. The CBC shuts down for the summer, so do the community channel and most regular radio programming. Veteran reporters with weeks of earned holidays have long since left the city with July and August roll around. Most of the copy produced in the summer is being handled by Mr and Mrs Phil Inn and summer interns.
January is out ... Post Boxing Day advertising revenues have gone south and the media has NO space to spend on covering a non-news event. Frankly the big guess in January is the weather, it is so unpredictable that even if your well planned event is newsworthy it could be whited out.
No, November and the first week in December is that MAGIC time. This is no big secret, every camera lusting publicist knows it well. Look at some of the events that I or one of my associates have attended in over the past fortnight or so:

The Giller Prize
McMichael Canadian Art Collection launches 50 year Cape Dorset Collection exhibition
Kipling Gallery launches Nordic/Inuit sculpture exhibition
King Tut at the AGO
New CBC newsroom and its stand-up new look
Writer's Trust
Body World 3 at the Science Centre
Canada Reads Launch at the CBC
Grenada Hosts Toronto chapter TMAC (travel writer's association)
The Launch of Harry Potter at Ontario Science Centre
The Santa Claus Parade

... and the list goes on from there!


Top: Stone Cape Dorset statue, part of the Inuit Cape Dorset retrospective at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is located in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Second from top: It is fitting that eveyone is standing. It is the launch of CBC's brand new National News look, where everyone stands up. Press launch held in Toronto's downtown CBC headquarters.
Third from top: Joy Lapps, plays the steel pan at a November meeting of the Travel Media Association of Canada. The get-together was sponsored by the Grenada Tourist Board and held at a downtown Toronto restaurant. Ms. Lapps and Grenadian-Canadian award winning Calypso singer Redman, provided the Caribbean content.
Third from bottom: Jian Ghomeshi, the host of Radio Q, was the MC at the Writer's Trust Award evening. Despite his star power and the fact that over $100,000 was given out to Canadian authors, there was little coverage of the event.
Second from bottom: Jian Ghomeshi again. This time in the lobby of the CBC building with the authors and participants in this year's Canada Reads radio series.
Bottom: Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis announces that a new traveling Harry Potter exhibition will be coming to Toronto in April. The exhibition which will include costumes and sets from the Harry Potter movie series. The announcement was made at a glitzy Hollywood style press conference held at the Ontario Science Centre on Tuesday December 8th.
Below Bottom: Cell phone picture of the jam packed luxurious King Tutlaunch held last month at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Monday 7 December 2009



The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation requests the honour of your presence at a press conference to announce the finalists for the 2010 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 10:00 a.m. sharp
Consort Bar. Main Level. Le Meridien King Edward Hotel
37 King Street East. Toronto. Ontario

Media Contact:
Stephen Weir 416-489-5868, 416-801-3101
Linda Crane 905-257-6033
PRIZE CONTACT: June Dickenson 647-477-6000

Monday 30 November 2009


Mood on Demand Fact Sheet

On December 1, Canadian television will change radically with the debut of Mood on Demand: a new and groundbreaking addition to Rogers’ Video on Demand (VOD)-Channel 100. Mood on Demand offers exclusive, high quality ambient content for flat-screen High Definition television- content that transforms a flat-panel TV into an art gallery.
Mood on Demand offers an art content stream. This is a unique only-for-HDTV exhibition of Canadian masterworks from The McMichael Canadian Art Collection. For .99 cents a day viewers can ‘hang’ two dozen paintings from the masters who captured the heart and soul of Canada. Among the works are:

• Lawren S. Harris- Pic Island (c.1924)
• Clarence Gagnon- The Chapdelaine Farm (1928-1933)
• Arthur Lismer- My Garden, Thornhill (c.1916)
• Tom Thomson- Snow Shadows (1916)
• A. Y. Jackson- Bent Pine (1948)
• Franklin Carmichael- Farm, Haliburton (1940)
• J.E.H. MacDonald-Snow, Lake O’Hara (1927)
• A.J. Casson- Fisherman's Point (c.1948)
• A.Y. Jackson Road to Baie St. Paul (1933)
The art lover has three viewing choices: a gallery-like slide-show presentation where all the work can be viewed and compared; a travel through each picture as the camera takes us seemingly inside each painting; a brilliantly engaging view of a single image at a time.
Mood on Demand represents new thinking about art; it is an innovative, compelling way to expand the art experience for the Canadian public.
Mood on Demand’s partnership with Rogers’s Cable VOD system is a global first that puts Canada at the fore of an exciting, revolutionary mood enhancing dimension of HDTV and Video on Demand. The new service launches December 1st.
Mood on Demand redefines the art experience by bringing the visual arts directly into the Canadian home. HDTV technology creates a lush cinematic viewing experience where spatial details and clarity result from an enhanced pixel count creating a previously unattainable level of pictorial quality. This intersection of cutting-edge TV technology and high art creates the possibility of an at-home art gallery. Some new HDTV sets units even come complete with actual picture frames.
Mood on Demand allows museums and art galleries to reach new audiences while answering HDTV owners’ demand for compelling HD content that goes beyond sports.
The remarkably robust market for flat-screen TV with Flat Panel Plasma and LCD televisions is poised to account for 100% of all television sales by 2010, compared to a mere 6% in 2004. Larger flat-screen sets are experiencing the most dramatic growth. Mood on Demand is perfectly positioned in terms of the current major transition to larger flat screens by offering unique content for the enhanced HD experience. These consumers are interested in higher-end HD content to showcase their televisions.


Mood on Demand / Good Earth Productions
Bob Mackowycz: 647 808-4399
Mitch Azaria: 416 766-4114

Hang a Tom Thomson or an AY Jackson at your next dinner party for 99 cents!


Masterpieces from the McMichael Collection of Art now available on High Definition on Rogers’ Video on Demand

November 30, 2009
For immediate release

November 27, 2009 KLEINBURG, ON — Selected masterpiece paintings from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection are now available for viewing in high definition for Ontario and New Brunswick subscribers of Rogers Cable Television services. Images from the Group of Seven can be displayed on hi-def television sets with the December 1st debut of Mood on Demand: a new and groundbreaking addition to Rogers’ Video on Demand (VOD)-Channel 100.
Mood on Demand offers exclusive, high quality ambient content for flat-screen High Definition television- content that transforms a flat-panel TV into an art gallery. The McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg is making available paintings by members of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomas and Québécois painter Clarence Gagnon. Television viewers who subscribed to Rogers will be able to view these paintings in 24-hour rental blocks.
For .99 cents a day viewers can ‘hang’ the McMichael Collection of Art high def photographs of their paintings. Among the works available are:

· Lawren S. Harris- Pic Island (c.1924)
· Clarence Gagnon- The Chapdelaine Farm (1928-1933)
· Arthur Lismer- My Garden, Thornhill (c.1916)
· Tom Thomson- Snow Shadows (1916)
· A. Y. Jackson- Bent Pine (1948)
· A.Y. Jackson Road to Baie St. Paul (1933)
· Franklin Carmichael- Farm, Haliburton (1940)
· J.E.H. MacDonald-Snow, Lake O’Hara (1927)
· A.J. Casson- Fisherman's Point (c.1948)

"It's wonderful that we are able to share treasures from the fabulous McMichael Collection to an even wider audience in this innovative manner,” said Thomas Smart, the Executive Director & CEO of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
Mood on Demand, a Toronto based company, redefines the art experience by bringing the visual arts directly into the Canadian home. HDTV technology creates a lush cinematic viewing experience where spatial details and clarity result from an enhanced pixel count creating a previously unattainable level of pictorial quality. This intersection of cutting-edge TV technology and high art creates the possibility of an at-home art gallery.

About the Gallery

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is an agency of the Government of Ontario and acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Culture. It is the foremost venue in the country showcasing the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. In addition to touring exhibitions, its permanent collection consists of more than 5,500 artworks, including paintings by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, First Nations, and Inuit artists.
The gallery is located on Islington Avenue, north of Major Mackenzie Drive in Kleinburg, and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors/students and $30 for families. There is a $5 fee for parking. For more information about the gallery visit


For further information or to receive high resolution photographs, contact:

Stephen Weir, Publicist
Gallery: 905.893.1121 ext. 2529
Toronto Office: 416.489.5868
Cell: 416.801.3101

A.Y. Jackson (1882-1974), Road to Baie St. Paul, 1933, oil on canvas, 64.4 x 82.2 cm, Purchase 1968, Courtesy of the Estate of the late Naomi Jackson Groves, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Saturday 28 November 2009

Scotiabank Caribana 2010 - Event Calender issued by Stephen Weir & Associates

The official Caribana 2010 event schedule has been released. The current schedule does not include any new events but that could change in the coming months.


Calypso Tents Music Series
Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from June 5 - July 4, 2010; 8:00 pm - Midnight
This is an exciting annual showcase of Canada's best Calypso and Soca original music for the Caribana Festival. The series runs three nights each week (Friday Sunday) at various venues in Toronto, each night featuring a different cast of singers and 'live' bands performing Calypso in its best storytelling tradition: social and political commentary, humor and wit.

Scotiabank CARIBANA™ Official Launch

Nathan Phillips Square, City Hall
Tuesday July 13, 2010; Noon - 2:00 pm
This official ceremony launches the activities for the 2009 Caribana Festival Season. Patrons can meet and mingle with Federal, Provincial and Municipal officials, Caribana representatives and sponsors while sampling Caribbean and international cuisine. It is a snapshot of what's in store over the coming weeks.

Scotiabank CARIBANA™ Junior Carnival
Shoreham Drive | Yorkgate Mall
Saturday, July 17, 2010; 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Junior Carnival provides festival-goers and the surrounding community the opportunity to experience the thrills and joys as young masqueraders participate in their early festival years.

Art Exhibition
Royal Ontario Museum
Thursday July 22 – Monday Aug 2, 2010; Noon - 9:00 pm
The Association of African Canadian Artists presents original paintings and sculptures that have been influenced by the diversity of our people.

Scotiabank CARIBANA™ Caribana Gala

Liberty Grand – Exhibition Place
Friday July 23, 2010; 6:30 pm – 1:00 am
An elegant evening of style and glamour, celebrating Caribana and paying tribute to its pioneers.

Kaiso 365 (Calypso Monarch Finals)

Venue TBA
Saturday July 24 - 7pm - Midnight
This is where the Calypso Monarch is crowned. Come and see the best and biggest Canadian Calypsonians battle for the crown. From the topical to the lyrical, the sweet soca rhythms will lift you out of your seat and get you moving.

King & Queen Competition
Lamport Stadium
Thursday July 29, 2010; 7:00 pm - Midnight
On the Thursday evening before Caribana Day the Kings and Queens of the Bands meet to do battle. Like peacocks they will primp and preen, eliciting “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience. It is an honour for any participant to be enthroned the King or Queen of Scotiabank Caribana 2009. The King and Queen symbolically have the keys to the city, freedom of the streets. Their movements are supposed to be uninhibited. Band members and onlookers alike are to give them the respect, even if mockingly, usually accorded to real-life royalty
(Admission: $27 in advance. $35 at the door)

Pan Alive
Lamport Stadium
Friday July 30, 2010; 7:00 pm - Midnight
A thrilling evening showcasing the musical and tonal qualities of the steelpan as members of the Ontario Steelband Association compete before a panel of judges. This Panorama of the North is the biggest opportunity to hear this wonderful instrument in all its glory. The evening is devoted entirely to the capturing rhythms of the steelpan.
(Admission: $20 in advance)

Scotiabank CARIBANA™ Parade
Exhibition Place (Lake Shore Blvd)
Saturday July 31st, 2010; 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
This showcase event features an incredible display of colour and pageantry, commencing at Exhibition Place and proceeding west along Lake Shore Boulevard. Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard will come alive with the sights and sounds of Carnival!
(Admission: $18)

Ontario Place
Sunday August 1, 2010;12:pm am – 8:00 pm
This event features a full day of performances from a variety of artistes, highlighting the diverse cultures of all the Caribbean people. Activities include a food competition, song, dance, theatrical drama and storytelling.
(Admission $14)
For more information please visit or post a comment on this site, and your questions will be answered!
Cutline: Blue stiltwalker at the Scotiabank Caribana Lime 09, Ontario Place. Photograph by Andrew Weir

Friday 20 November 2009

Big Show for 88-year old George Hunter

He took pictures used on Canadian $5, $10 and $50 and now at the age of 88-year old George Hunter has a new exhibition of photographs that he took over 60 years ago!
A Canadian photography pioneer, George Hunter captured the disappearing nomadic Inuit way of life for the National Film Board in a series entitled, Canadian Inuit 1946. Print images taken from Mr. Hunter’s original negatives add visual clarity and cultural context to this exhibition. Mr. Hunter’s images capture and reflect Canada and its peoples. Many of his iconic photographs are on permanent display in museums and galleries across Canada. Now 88, Mr. Hunter resides in Mississauga.
George Hunter attended the opening of his exhibition at the Kipling Gallery on November 19th in Woodbridge,Ontario.
CUTLINES: George Hunter is interviewed at the Kipling Gallery by Zoomer TV.
Bottom Photo. George Hunter and his partner stand behind a Abraham Rueben carving at the Kipling Gallery opening of the two artists' work.

Successful exhibition opening for Abraham Anghik Ruben

Both Norse and Inuit Spirits inspired famed carver Abraham Anghik Ruben to spend a year carving hundreds of pounds of Brazillian soap stone. The fruits of his labour inspired art buyers who came to the Kipling Gallery in Woodbridge Ontario to see and buy his work. In the space of 4-hours over $750,000 worth of red stickers were placed on purchased work.
These bold pieces transcend boundaries imposed by traditional Inuit art mediums, portraying a fresh and broader perspective of northern cultures. At age 58,the Paulatuk carver now resides in Salt Spring Island, B.C He will be at the gallery until Sunday night.
The Kipling Gallery, 7938 Kipling Avenue, in downtown Woodbridge is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
CUTLINES: Two top pictures:Inside looking out. Two view of the Kipling Art Gallery on opening night.
Third from top:Abraham Anghik Ruben talks to a guest at the opening of his new exhibition.
Bottom: Abraham Anghik Ruben is interviewed in the Kipling Gallery by Zoomer TV.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Both Norse and Inuit Spirits inspire famed carver Anghik Ruben - Meet 88-year old arctic photographer George Hunter

New Works
by Abraham Anghik Ruben
and introducing George Hunter

Meet master Inuit sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben and photographer, George Hunter

Thursday, Nov. 19th, 2009
5:30 pm to 11:00 pm • Kipling Gallery, 7938 Kipling Avenue, Woodbridge

WHAT: Media are invited to meet the artists at the opening of the Kipling Gallery’s latest exhibition:
New Works by Abraham Anghik Ruben, and introducing photographer George Hunter.

Abraham Anghik Ruben

The celebrated Paulatuk carver introduces his latest stone carving series, From Thor to Sedna – The Mystical Gods of the North, which draws heavily on myths of both the Inuit and Norse cultures. These bold pieces transcend boundaries imposed by traditional Inuit art mediums, portraying a fresh and broader perspective of northern cultures. At age 58, Mr. Ruben now resides in Salt Spring Island, B.C.

George Hunter
A Canadian photography pioneer, George Hunter captured the disappearing nomadic Inuit way of life for the National Film Board in this series entitled, Canadian Inuit 1946. Print images taken from Mr. Hunter’s original negatives add visual clarity and cultural context to this exhibition. Mr. Hunter’s images capture and reflect Canada and its peoples. Many of his iconic photographs are on permanent display in museums and galleries across Canada. Now 88, Mr. Hunter resides in Mississauga.

WHO: Tour the exhibition with the artists and gallery owner Rocco Pannese

WHY: Mr. Ruben’s mystical images break the mold in terms of Inuit stone carvings. He is one of Canada’s most successful and accomplished living Inuit carvers and rarely travels to Ontario. His earliest arctic work is important, not only because he has recorded a life style that has largely disappeared, but, also because the photographs are outstanding artistic achievements. George Hunter’s photography career spans seven decades. Highlights of his work include images on Bank of Canada $5 & $10 notes, Time Magazine spreads and images for Canadian pavilions at Expo 67.

WHERE: The Kipling Gallery, 7938 Kipling Avenue, in downtown Woodbridge is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Media contacts:

Stephen Weir 416-489-5868 • c. 416-801-3101 •
Linda Crane 905-257-6033 • c. 416-727-0112 •

Gallery Contact: Rocco Pannese (905) 265-2192 •

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Blog Day at Body Worlds 3

Social Media Experiment Blog Body Worlds 3 at Toronto's Science Centre

A few days after holding a standing-room-only press preview of BODY WORLDS 3: THE STORY OF THE HEART for Toronto’s “established” media the Ontario Science Centre staged a morning Social Media (SM) preview of the same show. Toronto Bloggers, Tweeters, Web Masters and their guests were invited to tour the show and meet a heart expert.
Close to 50 Toronto area on-liners came out on Saturday October 24th, to take pictures, tweet and gather material for their take on an exhibition of sliced, diced and splayed bodies. The new exhibition has more than 200 authentic human specimens on display, including entire skinned and exposed bodies, as well as individual organs and transparent body slices.
There are several versions of the Body World touring show, created by Germany’s Dr. Gunther von Hagen; to date over 26-million have passed through the turnstiles globally. This is the second time that the Science Centre has hosted a very popular (read long line-ups) Body Worlds exhibition.
As traditional media outlets loose advertisers, readership and staff, publicists have to look in other directions to get the word out and motivate potential ticket buyers. While the average Toronto blog has a readership roll smaller than the size of a violin, given the power of links and the chance to go viral, anyone of the Science Centre morning guests has the potential of being instantly as big as the whole orchestra!
The Science Centre has always been a Social Media leader within Toronto’s cultural Group of Seven (Harbourfront, AGO, ROM, CN Tower, Ontario Place and the Ballet/Opera). Probably because its day-to-day audience is so young -- most don’t know what the world was like before Facebook -- the Science Centre learned early how to effectively communicate on-line with schoolage children. It has an in-house You Tuber, events for on-line audiences and a web site that communicates with hundreds of Torontonians daily.
The Science Centre has held events for its Social Media audience before, but the Saturday morning preview was the first time it pitched directly to the people who feed content into the growing SM information pool. According to the Ontario Science Centre communications department, the morning preview was set up at the request of the company managing the Body Worlds 3 tour – it is something they do in every city their bone show rolls into.
I attended both the Body Worlds 3 press launch and the subsequent SM preview morning. Although the goal of both events was the same – generate publicity for the show – the conduct of the attendees was totally different.
At the press conference everyone is working … Job #1 is to get the story and get out … fast. Yet, everyone knows everyone and the press conference is also a moving social event repeated at every media event across the GTA.
While waiting for the guest speakers to arrive it is old home week round the muffins and coffee. Who has been laid off? Any jobs in your newsroom? Guess who got sued?
Most reporters are mildly interested in the exhibition but have other stories, other worries and maybe even other press conferences to cover that day. Best press conference? Short. Colourful. Quotable and always newsworthy.
There are questions to be asked. Photos to be taken. Press kits to be reviewed. “Bits” to be recorded either for TV or the news outlet’s website. And did I mention there are questions to be asked?
“Why did you cut up a giraffe?” Dr. Angelina Whalley (the wife of Dr. Gunther von Hagen) is asked. “Do you think the Body Works 3 show is controversial?” A CITY TV reporter quizzed me from behind her video camera as I walked through the exhibit prior to the press conference – yes the ol’ tried and true journalist-interviewing journalist.
SM Saturday was different. No one knew each other. There was no kinship between the person tweeting for his fan base of 10 and the young blogger working for a Social Media marketing company.
I approached as many SM attendees as possible as we joined the Conga Line snaking its way through the sold-out exhibition hall. All bloggers were given badges and permission to take photographs inside the exhibit space, so it was easy to separate the freebee invited guests from the paying customers ($28.50 to get in).
I didn’t know what to expect. Are all bloggers/tweeters/Facebook fanatics and web masters 20-something geeks? Nope. Some were young. Some were older than me. The only “geek” I ran into was a Tweedledee-looking fellow with coke bottle glasses and pants belted just below his man-breasts. He embarrassingly denied being a SM guest even though we registered at the desk at the same time and he wore a media badge.
I did met up with a photographer who works for as an online editor. In his spare time he takes pictures (lots and lots of pictures) at events and posts them on the network’s popular website. I had first meet him at Scotiabank Caribana – the photos he posted from the annual parade were emotionally charged and were viewed by tens of thousands of people (and probably ‘borrowed’ by hundreds of other SM participants).
What really stood out was that the guests that Saturday were not journalists. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t take notes (although a couple tweeted as they walked by exhibit cases filled with body parts). Some were taken aback when I (a stranger) started quizzing them and jotting down their words in my low-tech notebook.
Most have full-time jobs and don’t consider their blogs an occupation. They haven’t yet learned how to get the most out of a media preview. No notes. Few pictures. No desire to interview.
Upon leaving the exhibition hall, the SM guests were invited to meet with Dr. Chi-Ming Chow. He is a spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and a Cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at St. Michaels Hospital. He had been asked by the Science Centre to be a resource person for any blogger wanting to know about the human heart.
“ I think the show is good because it is educational. It reminds me of my days in medical school,” said Dr. Chow. “But, for many (people seeing the Body Works 3 show) it is also visually shocking.”
“ Here in Canada we wage a two prong attack against heart disease; education and treatment,” he told me. “This is a good tool because it is the larger story of the heart. It shows what healthy organs look like and it does show disease, obesity what happens when you smoke and what happens (when you don’t quit).”
I was the only blogger to interview Dr. Chow. He was pleased to come out to his first SM event, but seemed disappointed that no one else stopped by to have a heart to heart with him.
“First time I have been asked, to event like this” said Karim Kanji, who has a blogs called Inspiration by Karim. “ But, surprisingly I have a second one this afternoon. A travel show. I can get used to this!”

“ I work in social media so I do get invited to a lot of things,” said a chatty 20-something female blogger as she handed in her press badge and picked up a press kit and a free T-Shirt.
“ I have got to say this is the best I have been treated. Free tickets, I was allowed to bring a guest. I loved not having to Queue. The press kit will come in handy, and swag too! What’s not to like about an event like Body Worlds 3?”
Did the SM guests respond by promoting their show? I obviously have. The Science Centre communications department said they were pleased with the response, but pointed out that the show is sold out almost every day regardless of whether the bloggers or the media ever tweet or get off the pot.


CUTLINES: Above -- visitors stream through the Body World 3 exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre. Mixed in amongst the paying customers are close to 50 bloggers who attend a free Saturday morning SM preview of the show. Was it successful? Hard to say yet, but, Goggle News tells all. For the Science Centre it doesn't matter much ... the show is a sell-out! Pictured below at right --is an out-of-focus Palm camera shot of a Karim Kanji at the social media registration desk.

Monday 2 November 2009

NEW INUIT ART EXHIBITION IN GTA: Abraham Anghik Ruben and introducing George Hunter

Kipling Gallery
Abraham Anghik Ruben and introducing George Hunter

An exhibition of stone and bone carvings by famed Inuit master sculptor Abraham Anghik Rubin. Accompanied by photo series, “Canadian Inuit, 1946” from veteran Canadian photographer George Hunter. Artists will be in attendance at launch Thursday, November 19th from 5:30 to 10:00 pm. November 6th through December 5th. Kipling Gallery, 7938 Kipling Avenue, Woodbridge, ON. 905-265-2160,


Media contacts:
Stephen Weir 416-489-5868 / c. 416-801-3101 /
Linda Crane 905-257-6033 / c. 416-727-0112 /

Monday 26 October 2009

Cook to speak at IFOA this Friday


Charles Taylor Prize Winner Tim Cook to Read at IFOA
Who: Tim Cook, winner of the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction headlines Non-Fiction Night at Harbourfront’s International Festival of Authors.

What: Tim Cook will read from his award-winning book Shock Troops which follows the Canadian fighting forces during the titanic battles of Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele, and the Hundred Days campaign. Shock Troops builds on Volume I of Cook’s national bestseller At the Sharp End.

When: Friday, October 30, 2009; 8:00 p.m.

Where: Brigantine Room, York Quay Centre, Toronto.

Why: Signature Non-Fiction event at highly regarded 10-day authors’ festival.
Tim Cook, Charles Taylor Prize founder Noreen Taylor, and Charles Taylor Foundation trustee David Staines will be available for media interviews.
The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction is presented annually by the Charles Taylor Foundation with the support of its partners: AVFX, Ben McNally Books, Book TV, Bravo!, Canada Newswire, CBC Radio One, The Globe and Mail, Le Meridien King Edward Hotel, Quill & Quire publications, and Windfields Farm.
Previous Winners of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction:
2000 Wayne Johnston for Baltimore's Mansion: A Memoir
2002 Carol Shields for Jane Austen
2004 Isabel Huggan for Belonging: Home Away from Home
2005 Charles Montgomery for The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia
2006 J.B. MacKinnon for Dead Man in Paradise
2007 Rudy Wiebe for Of this Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest
2008 Richard Gwyn for John A.: The Man Who Made Us
2009: Tim Cook for Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War, 1917–1918,Volume 2
The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are Michael Bradley (Toronto), Judith Mappin (Montreal), David Staines (Ottawa), and Noreen Taylor (Toronto).

CUTLINE: Noreen Taylor and this year's winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, Ottawa historian Tim Cook. Cook won the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for his book Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War, 1917 – 1918, Volume Two, published by Viking Canada. The prize of $25,000 was awarded Monday, February 9, 2009, at a gala luncheon held in the historic Sovereign Ballroom of Toronto’s Le Meridien King Edward Hotel. Photo by Tom Sandler

King City Artist Ed Bartram - To Attend His First McMichael Canadian Art Exhibition

Artist Ed Bartram to attend preview
King City landscape artist has first McMichael exhibition

The media is invited to attend a special Media Preview of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s new exhibition Ed Bartram: The Eye Within. This McMichael-curated exhibition looks at how Ed Bartram interprets the Georgian Bay landscape through a series of seventeen large-scale prints juxtaposed with two almost century-old Georgian Bay prints by Group of Seven member J.E.H MacDonald.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Tour the exhibition with the artist and with McMichael’s curator, Chris Finn.

In 1912, J.E.H. MacDonald spent the summer in the eastern Georgian Bay region. Captivated by the beautiful landscape, MacDonald produced several landscape drawings in an effort to preserve his cherished memories of the experience for others to know. From these drawings, he then created a series of one-colour print images. Like MacDonald, contemporary artist Ed Bartram spends his summers in the Georgian Bay area. His prints, produced using a range of innovative printmaking techniques, visually celebrate and share his connection, understanding, and memories associated with Georgian Bay. “My work interprets the forces of nature found on these Precambrian surfaces [which have been] revealed by the cleansing and polishing power of ice and water.”

McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, Ontario. For directions, visit
Media contact:

Stephen Weir, Publicist
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Gallery: 905.893.1121 ext. 2529
Toronto Office: 416.489.5868
Cell: 416.801.3101

Monday 12 October 2009

The Quick and the Really Dead - Two Toronto October Media Events

Nuit Blanche - Yorkville gallery hires artist to body paint muscles on a living model. At Ontario Science Centre it's Body Worlds 3 exhibition strips skin and exposes muscles of dead models.

FINAL: Two Toronto media events held in early October are strangely linked by the body's muscles and vital organs. A trendy Toronto art gallery paints them on a living model, while at the Ontario Science a traveling exhibition shows bodies with their skin removed, their muscles exposed and vital organs dangling from partial removed spinal cords.
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche was held October 3rd, sunset to sunrise in downtown Toronto.
The city's fourth annual Nuit Blanche engaged audiences in a massive participatory celebration of contemporary art.
Two days prior the media was invited to attend a launch at Scotiabank's main branch for the massive art event. Reporters were given an extensive press kit which highlighted some of the more newsworthy "art" happenings that were to take place during Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. One that caught my eye was an entry about the Liss Gallery in the Yorkville Art Gallery District.
Mini-Digital Camera in hand I dropped by the gallery after midnight to watch Canada's edgiest new artist; Jonathon Ball, spray painting the bodies of a man and a woman, both who had the physique of bodybuilders.
Ball painstakingly painted the man to look like his skin had been removed and his muscles,bones and organs were exposed to the air. It was a marvelous exercise in ultra-realism x-ray art. Over the course of an hour about 100 people stopped to gawk. I was the only "media" taking pictures. The gallery was happy for the traffic and were not slighted that the press took a pass on their midnight paint-in.
Five days later I found myself attending another media event again involving exposed muscles and organs. The Ontario Science Centre held a press preview of Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS 3: THE STORY OF THE HEART. exhibition.
This is the second time that a Gunter von Hagen exhibition of sliced, diced and splayed bodies has come to Toronto's Science Centre. Three years ago the show was so popular that the building stayed open 24-hours a day, throughout the last weekend of the exhibition's run.
I attended the first exhibition and came out again to this month's press launch. It is a different show this year and received a much different response from the reporters.
Yes there are more than 200 authentic human specimens on display, including entire exposed bodies, as well as individual organs and transparent body slices. There is also a giraffe, thinly sliced from the tip of its head to its hooves, in the show.
This time the popular exhibition (it has been seen by over 26-million people) strips back the flesh and muscle and looks at the human heart to show the effects of healthy lifestyle choices.
The first time Body Worlds came to Toronto the exhibition was quite controversial(parts of the show were banned this year in Cologne). The Ontario Science Centre was accused of exhibiting desecrated bodies simply to make money. The negative comments didn't hurt the science museum, it was one of the most successful exhibitions in their 40-year history.
This time around the Ontario Science Centre went to great pains to explain that Body Worlds 2 meets the Science Centre’s mission: “To delight, inform and challenge visitors through engaging and thought-provoking experiences in science and technology.” Gunther von Hagens’surgeon wife, Dr. Angelina Whalley came from Germany to speak at the media preview lecturing that all of the bodies on display were self-donations. The willing donors, most of them German (70 Canadians have already agreed to donate their bodies) were aware that their bodies would be stripped of skin, treated in plastic and twisted into life-like poses sans flesh to entertain and educated the masses.
Judging from the reaction to the overflow media crowd (more attended this year than at the September 2005 launch), the explanations were unnecessary. The press understood what the show is all about. So did a group of students who also attended the media scrum - their questions during wrap-up Q&A were not about outrage or sacrilegious money making displays, or concerning indignities to the body, but instead were technical in nature - How Long Does It Take? Do family members know that their mothers and fathers are on display?
So the city "gets it". The media still see it as a newsworthy show. I got "it" too, and I think that it should be compulsory viewing for science student in the province to see BodyWorlds 2 (you will never smoke again after seeing an exposed smoker's lung)here in Toronto.
What has me scratching my head (with the skin still intact thank-you) is why was there no media turn-out for a living BodyWorlds style model standing in the window of a Yorkville gallery? Yet, there was a gaggle of photographers and reporters to on hand to see a display showing two skinless acrobats holding each other while their spines and vital organs are dangling out of their backs? In Yorkville the inner workings of the body were being exposed by a very talented Canadian artist working with two models who have also been sculpting their form for years. No one died to make this exhibit happen.
At Body Worlds 3, the dissection of human bodies has become a major industry encompassing body harvesting, an Asian preparation factory and an aggressive German touring exhibition company which has already presented similar Body Worlds exhibitions this year in Buffalo, Waterloo, London, Philadelphia,and Cologne. This time, Science beat Art - thumbs literally down.

Above: Dr. Angelina Whalley at the Ontario Science Centre podium
Liss Gallery in Yorkville (Toronto, Ontario) hired models for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche all night art celebration. This man stood in the window for an hour being body painted by Canada's edgiest new artist; Jonathon Ball.
Middle: BodyWorlds 3 female acrobat.
Bottom: Photographers and cameramen wait for the press conference start oblivous to the skinless bodies locked in a final pas de deux. The body organs have been removed from the backs of the bodies; those are brains dangling from the exposed spines. The red barrels represent how much blood a human body pumps in one day.

Thursday 24 September 2009

UPDATED NOVEMBER 24, 2009. Twinning the PR efforts to get more coverage in dwindling media market


When newspaper readership numbers decline and television revenues shrink, it is the arts - err make that the high-end fine arts -- that takes the hit. The media, at least for now, have made coverage of the high-end arts (visual arts, opera, ballet, Canadian dance, Canadian non-fiction, poetry and Canadian theatre) a low priority. Murders, political scandals, visiting stars and movie launches win out over art show openings, book launches and new museum shows, most of the time.
Publicists must deal with the changing times -- there is no guarantee any more that a show opening or exhibition launch will attract media in large numbers. Some non-profit publicists have staged cultural events where NO ONE from the media has attended.
Two Toronto institutions - the Ontario Art Gallery and the Royal Ontario Museum - teamed up in late September to fight back. They did this by doubling down their public relations efforts.
Late last week the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum held a supersized media launch for two different, but related, photography shows. Rather than hold competing press conferences, the two institutes teamed up to hold an almost day long launch which included show tours, speeches, and a media lunch in the museum's 4-star (well price wise) restaurant.
The media event saw the launch of ROM's "Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008" and the AGO's "Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Conde Nast Years, 1923-1937". The shows run from September 26, 2009 to January 3, 2010.
The AGO and the ROM are traditionally media coverage rivals, so, this pairing is mould breaking. Stephen Weir & Associates covered the launch and has previously attended media events at individual ROM and AGO launches.
The room was packed and PR organizers believe that there were more media for this one effort then if there were two separate press events held. One senior ROM official told SW&A that the launch brought out more cameras and reporters "than we got for the Dead Sea Scrolls"
The media launch began Wednesday morning at the AGO. A wall of art experts and administrators took turns at the microphone explaining the shows, their partnerships and anything else that came to mind. There were over 50 media in the room including camera crews ranging from the CBC to Fashion TV.
Some media were given private previews of the shows before the Wednesday launch; CTV's Canada AM national breakfast show was at the ROM on Tuesday as was freelancer Peter Goddard (Toronto Star).
After the speeches the media was given a tour of the photography show then bused to the Royal Ontario Museum. A tour of their show was laid on and then over three seatings the media was treated to a lunch sponsored by the ROM's sponsor, the Bay. (SW&A did not stay for the free lunch).
The response to the supersized media launch was positive, although some media had to pass on the ROM tour and lunch because of deadline pressures. The only odd thing that caused a bit of muttering amongst members of the press corps was the ROM's decision to search their bags, briefcases and purses upon entering the building.
No one was quite sure what they were looking for since most reporters were carrying computers, video cameras, sound recording devices and even pens and paper (what do they expect!). A fashion reporter beside me came in with a can of Dog Off, legal Mace, no one cared. I wasn't challenged for bringing in a camera, a smart phone, a tape recorder and a mitt full of Sharpies.


Better resources - there was a big breakfast line-up of newsworthy speakers.
Outstanding press kits - well prepared information from both institutions as well as from curators and sponsor.
Terrific pre-launch hype - PR people from other arts institutes were invited. This was a nice gesture and it also made sure that the Zoo, the Science Centre, museums and art galleries in the city did not have competing press conferences.
Well organized - two PR departments from two different corporate cultures made sure that the media got to interview the people they wanted in a timely professional manner.


- What happens when one venue gets more coverage than the other (which happened with the Star spending most of its lineage on the AGO).
- Will the public buy into this? There wasn't a single price for both venues, instead each instution gave a 20% discount if you showed a used ticket from the other show. buying tickets to both buildings, There is a financial reason for consumers to see two different but similiar shows but it takes some work on the part of the consumer. Will the public buy into seeing both exhibitions or will one or both of the institutes loose at the gate?
- What will happen if the media like one exhibition and hate the other? Now if the media is glowing for both shows, both institutions win, but what if the media recommend one venue over another? i.e. "If you have only one Saturday to look at art, make sure you visit the ROM and give AGO a pass (or vice-versa)."
It is all about bums in seats and people through turnstiles. As Peter Ross, Marketing Director at the McMichael Canadian Art Institute often says "if there is outstanding PR coverage and it doesn't help drive numbers then is it really outstanding PR?"
Ross, as other non-profit cultural VPs know there, are so many other factors involved in getting people motivated to see an art show. Price. Road Traffic. Competition. Weather. Age of our audience.
Did combining PR forces work with the AGO and ROM? Don't touch that dial ... we will see.
And this just in - William Thorsell, the CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum is retiring. Toronto Star entertainment columnist Martin Knelman (who attended the AGO portion of the launch) reported his retirement in a story which came out two days after the joint press conference. It was a nice touch on the part of both Knelman and Thorsell to not publicize the retirement during the launch ... the two men gave the show opening a chance to gain publicity before releasing a story that would have stolen inches and minutes.


When the audience disappears and the accompanying drought of advertising dollars rolls through the CEO's office, it doesn't take long for the cutbacks begin. In Toronto there has been a significant reduction in locally produced television news programming. Radio stations have laid off reporters and trimmed on air staff. All four newspapers have laid off writers and photographers and reduced the size of their product. Metro News laid off most of its staff (and replaced it with interns and rookies), National Post has cancelled its Monday edition and the Star has shrunk its page count and scrunched sections together. The Globe has rolled much of its book and publishing content over to the web. The Sun has a new publisher (Mike Power, former head of advertising), a new design and a smaller metric page size.
The culture industry continues to advertise heavily in the traditional media while the movie, music and book industries' dollars have long ago migrated to the Net, Social Media and Outdoor Media. Despite the Arts support of the media, the editorial coverage continues to zero in on the art forms - contemporary music, films and books - which no longer support the very media that covers them.
Publishers/Station Managers are aware of what is happening -- their "beat" decisions are made to keep their companies operating and are not meant as a swipe towards Canada's long established cultural institutions. Besides art galleries have similar problems. Gallery and Museum visitors are getting older and coming less frequently (not talking about popular but revenue challenged school programmes). Most institutions guard their stats, but, for galleries there is about a 7-year gap for the average visitor in terms of when they revisited a gallery. There is a hard core group that will go to all the galleries and see all the new exhibitions but that is a small crowd that you don't even really have to advertise to(same with gallery/museum members) so the PR and marketing is aimed at motivating that very small sliver of the numbers' pie who will spend the money and make the time to come out and see the show.
UPDATE: With the King Tut opening behind them, PR professionals at the AGO had time to reflect on the success of the joint AGO/ROM launch. On November 24th I had a chance to talk to one of the AGO's publicity team.
"It was a great success," said the AGO's Antonietta Mirabelli. "We feel we got more coverage together than if we went it alone - and that coverage has staying power. We are still getting coverage, we had a double page spread yesterday, months after the show opened. We did offer a 20% discount (for people showing a ROM ticket) and the return rate was strong, so, we knew people were seeing both shows. We went together on ad buys so there were savings there, and, I did enjoy working with my counterparts at the ROM."

Would she do it again? "In a heartbeat."

CUTLINES: Top: portrait of Katharine Hepburn hangs in the AGO exhibition Edward Steichen: In High Fashion
Second from Top: Entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum has a large sign advertising the Vanity Fair portrait exhibition.
Second from Bottom: Every seat taken at the joint AGO/ROM media launch of two celeb portrait exhibitions.
Bottom: A rare sight indeed. CEO from the AGO (left - Matthew Teitelbaum) and ROM (second from left, William Thorsell) share the stage at a September joint media launch.