The Centre for Art Tapes is a not for profit artist-run, charitable, organization that facilitates and supports artists at all levels working with electronic media including video, audio, and new media. We provide services to a diverse membership, and the general public, that include production facilities, ongoing exhibitions and screenings. As well we provide programs that offer, through training and in-house residencies, opportunities for individuals to critically engage with cultural and social issues. The Centre is a creative environment for individuals as well as groups to pursue independent work at the highest levels of artistic practice. The Centre is designed to provide artists with access to a broad range of production facilities and foster training and mentoring programs for members of the community.
In order to ensure that members can reach their creative goals we provide support by maintaining an equitable, open, and accessible space that encourages cross-pollination of ideas and techniques among different groups. The independent creation of productions using video, audio, and interactive digital technologies is at the core of the Centre’s function. Members who are actively engaged with the Centre have the opportunity to form committees with staff to constantly explore ways in which services can be further developed in our shared community. The Centre continues to be a flexible organization that shifts its services in accordance with cultural and economic pressures while maintaining its core identity as a service-based facility for the support of media arts. We are acutely aware of the importance of including new and burgeoning experimental processes within the media arts to allow these practices to be crystallized within the mainstream.
Halifax-based artists take advantage of our production facilities and our programming on a year round basis. Artists have access to a broad range of equipment, technical support, and opportunities for professional growth through the dialogue created by our programming and the production of work by local media artists as well as those from elsewhere in Canada and abroad. Over the past three decades we have changed as the needs of the community have altered, and our two areas of activity have remained central to the Centre’s identity of providing Halifax-based artists with opportunities to further their professional development to the highest degree. Media artists from across Canada and abroad are invited to exhibit installations, video, audio, and new-media as well as to participate in colloquia, lectures, forums and master classes.
The Centre for Art Tapes has been active in Halifax for over thirty years, and in that time it has been able to fill many essential cultural needs for the media arts community. Since its formation as a not-for-profit artist-run society for the presentation of media art the organization has grown into an indispensable resource for a broad range of people. Not only do we provide the general public with opportunities to experience innovative media-arts exhibitions, we also support independent artists with our annual programs, educational initiatives, and through general access to facilities and equipment rental. Our membership of 130 people use the Centre to create independent media artwork on a year round basis. Apart from providing the opportunity for people to create and experience work we are also strongly involved in disseminating its resources and expertise to other organizations through a variety of outreach and community integration initiatives.
The Centre’s emphasis on the programming of and creation of media art has varied since its formation in 1979. In 1985, Canada Council Visual Arts core funding was established for the organization’s programming, and in 1998, we were transferred from the Visual Arts to the Media Arts Section at the Canada Council for our programming and core operational funding. In the past few years the Centre has integrated its production initiatives with its own programming so that we are currently placing equal emphasis on both the creation and dissemination of media art. Work that is produced through the Centre as well as copies of printed materials and documentation of curatorial initiatives have always been accessioned and included in our archive. The Centre does not act as a distributor, however individuals who search our collection of over 620 works through our on-line catalogue can request to view work at the facility.
The Centre has not had an in-house exhibition space since 1992. Instead, we have initiated the creative activity of finding the “perfect” venue for each programming event. Thus we rent space or collaborate with diverse groups and organizations to use their spaces. These partnerships have increased others’ awareness of the Centre and its programs along with an expansion and cross-pollination of audiences. Recent and upcoming venues include: the Eyelevel gallery, the Khyber Arts Centre, Neptune Theatre, the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, the Dalhousie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery and Saint Mary’s University Gallery.
The Centre stimulates the production, research and presentation of new works through three areas: annual programs, exhibitions, and production resources. There are five established Annual Programs: the Local Artist-In-Residence Program, the Visiting Artist Program, the Media Arts Scholarship Program, the New Media and Electronics Lab, and the Video to Go Program. There is an on-going commitment to exhibitions and presentations developed through our Annual Programming Grant that consists of approximately twenty presentations, exhibitions and guest curatorial projects per year; and the Centre preserves work in our archive and showcases productions through the Media Train. By focusing our energy around these eight areas of activity we support a wide range of media artists who work in different genres.
The production and programming at the Centre has always been very broad and inclusive within a fundamental policy to include all electronic media. In the early years this meant a concentration on video and analog audio. Like all media centres we have added new media to our list of initiatives and it is increasing in importance as the digital revolution evolves. The programming has been consistent in its usage of various media at its performances, installations, audio festivals, experimental video screenings and artists’ talks. All of these events have continued to form the core of our presence in the art community of Halifax and depending on resources, in the Atlantic region. Within these art forms artists using the Centre explore contemporary culture, in terms of questions relating to aesthetics and the evolution of media art and social issues affecting our community. These themes actively build our community and engage them in shaping the dialogue we foster between our membership, the greater art community and the general public. Our commitment to ensuring a physical body of critical dialogue has increased in recent years through the production of more publications and essays by curators. This development of increasing our curatorial commitment has gone along with a greater emphasis on visiting artists that now includes utilizing the recent Visiting Foreign Artist grant pilot program. The Centre has also initiated the concept of the Media Train, a program that showcases members’ work in an international forum. This initiative began with Media Train: Departing Halifax, Arriving New York at the VertexList Gallery in November of 2005. In November 2006 a selection of member’s work chosen by curators at USF in Bergen Norway was shown during a festival project called B-Open, and in December 2008 curator Mark Williams of the New Zealand Film Archive screened a selection of members' works in Wellington, New Zealand. With these new initiatives we continue to build a context for the media arts, to dialogue with other disciplines and act as a bridge to a general public that is becoming increasingly interested in the media arts. Our newest initiative is our completely redesigned website which contains a curated presentation of current work and archived projects called the Digital Mirror. We also provide an interface to search our catalogue.