Culture Swellness: Q&A with the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Director, Gaetane Verna

June 3, 2019

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One of my goals this year was to attend more art and cultural events (especially here at home in Toronto, since I find I make the effort to when I’m traveling but am less inclined to do when here at home), so I’m super excited as I’m attending my very first Power Ball (disclosure: I’m attending as a media guest)! I’ve heard about this annual fundraiser for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery for many years and am super excited to have the opportunity to go this year to the party.

To prep for the event and learn more about gallery and the fundraiser, I had the chance to have a little Q&A with Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery director, Gaetane Verna:

Can you share more about this year’s Power Ball theme?

For Power Ball: 21 Club, the entire gallery is being transformed into a secret speakeasy where guests will come into the shadows with us for a night of revelry and indulgence… immersive art experiences and performances by a diverse gathering of local and international artists, along with music and the best in food and cocktail–all for one (late) night only. I can hardly wait for it all to be revealed – there’s always a surprise at Power Ball.

What sets apart Power Ball from other galas?

Power Ball has grown into a highly-anticipated event, and as our annual fundraiser, makes it possible for us to present ground-breaking contemporary art from local and international artists, alongside a range of free programming open to all. We approach this event like we approach everything at The Power Plant: with artists as our priority and to keep artists at the centre of it all which means having their voice at every level of the institution: on our board, as members, as invited artists for our education programs.

The art installations each year, by a diverse gathering of artists are the starting point of all conversations, and the activations are woven into the fabric of the event to present a one-of-a-kind experience that reflects what Power Ball, and in turn, The Power Plant have become known for. We are proud of creating multilevel partnerships with many partners and sponsors, such as our Presenting Sponsor Holt Renfrew, who have demonstrated a commitment to contemporary art in Canada.

We welcome a dynamic audience a Power Ball largely in part by our artist package initiative, which includes pre-party tickets and a donation, which enables 10 artists to attend Power Ball and partake in the event, network with other artists and guests from the vibrant arts and culture scene of Toronto and beyond.

Is there an installation this year you’re personally excited about?

I’m not sure that I can pick just one! We will be presenting the work of a diverse group of local and international artists at this event. Toronto-based artist Max Streicher will present two of his Sleeping Giants (1998) on our South Terrace—these kinetic sculptures are inflated and animated by the force and movement of air. They are both playful and surreal, qualities that nicely compliment Power Ball. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing Mexican artist Chelsea Culprit’s commanding installation Tru Bruja (2018). In this work, Culprit plays around with the meaning of the word ‘witch’, critiquing its negative connotations while pointing to the powerful ways witchy women continue to disrupt social norms.

And because this year’s Power Ball theme takes as its starting point prohibition in the 1920s, a rich time in history for drag culture, we are engaging Toronto’s diverse LGBTQ community through a series of drag and burlesque performances curated by Tobaron Waxman of the Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency. Carlotta Carlisle, Tynomi Banks, Drag King Flare, Gay Jesus and Dainty Smith and Imogen Quest of Les Femmes Fatales Burlesque will strut, sashay and strip their way across the stage, recalling the ‘pansy craze’ that evolved in New York City during the 1920s when people in LGBTQ communities performed in speakeasies around the world, sometimes for hundreds of devoted attendees.

During the Pre-Party, local artist-designer-restaurateur Sarah Keenlyside will take party-goers on a spectacular journey that combines food and performance. Keenlyside will present her work Centerpiece (2019), a reimagining of the dining experience where the background becomes the foreground. Performances in collaboration with Ace Dance Theatre will transport guests into a space that celebrates the glorious dance of service, all while they indulge in exquisite cuisine by Man Ray Bar à vin, Restaurant La Banane and CXBO Chocolates.

What do you say to people who say they don’t “get” contemporary art?

We ask that you give it a try, visit the exhibitions and spend time with the artist’s work. We welcome all feedback – whether it is positive or negative, as long as we have the opportunity to start a conversation. We have a team of Gallery Attendants ready to answer questions about the exhibitions, as well as a dynamic educational program where visitors can hear different perspectives from professionals of various backgrounds. The Power Plant offers free admission to all exhibitions and public programming, so visitors can spend time with the art and engage with the ideas presented by the artist in different ways.

You’ve been director since 2012…fave Power Ball memory?

Every Power Ball has its own set of vivid memories – we have managed to stay relevant for 21 years by keeping our finger on the pulse and presenting the best in contemporary art. For Power Ball’s 20th anniversary last year, we invited London-based design duo Bompas and Parr who created an immersive adult funland having guests enter the space on a slide, walk through a Spirit of York gin and tonic cloud, shoot at veggies with a crossbow and their signature glow in the dark spiked jellies. Every corner had a contemporary version of funfair.

My mission since starting at The Power Plant is to make The Power Plant accessible and welcome to all. Power Ball welcomes guests of all ages, backgrounds, and industries. This in turn directly supports The Power Plant in being accessible year-round and allows us to present programming that reaches many communities through our Power Kids, Power Youth programs amongst other initiatives.

Are you attending Power Ball: 21 Club? See you there!



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