The Local Art Scene in Calgary



If you are afraid to take a risk then your art is conservative, uninteresting and unengaging.

This was my response to Jeff Spalding. We were talking about the current crop of fall art openings in Calgary. He was telling me he was about to be fired for curating a show of Marylyn Monroe images, some nude, at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum where he was the new CEO.

I see this lack of risk, and shitty art, as a consequence of Calgary’s ‘mobbing’ art community. (Mobbing is the bullying or collective attack of an individual by a group. It entails the victimization of a target in order to demean, discredit, humiliate, undermine, exclude, alienate and isolate them. It’s conducted via smear campaigns, harassment, DARVO, bureaucratic hassles and even manipulating law enforcement and/or the courts to attack the target. Of course, mobbing can happen in schools, churches, at work, on social media, in all kinds of organizations that tolerate these kinds of behaviors. It can also occur within families.)

I experienced the consequences of art-mobbing, as a consequence of publicly standing up and speaking out about my personal experience of the faculty’s drug and alcohol abuse and the neglect of students’ need for safety and support at AUArts.

“Another time I’ve experienced mobbing was professionally as an artist/teacher when I blew the whistle on the booze and drugs of the faculty and consequent student abuse after I had started teaching at my alma mater AUArts. Gord Ferguson, the head of sculpture, allowed his poorly supervised student to dismember a live chicken at lunch in the school cafeteria”

Shortly afterwards, Thayre Anglis, my supposed love at the time, reported she was warned off me by Carol Green, a local artist, “If you hang out with Jerald you will lose your art support system. (The smear campaign was that I am hard on women.)

The gallery won’t show you.

The community social invites will dry up.

Is your life better without this fear,

Without these bullies?

Apparently not. She left.

According to Dr. Albert Ellis and REBT, an idea is irrational if: It distorts reality. It is illogical. It prevents you from reaching your goals. It leads to unhealthy emotions. It leads to self-defeating behavior.

The irrational idea is that it is a dire necessity for an adult human being to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in his community. The rational response is:

  • It’s impossible to be liked or loved by everybody. No matter how popular you are, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.
  • Even if you could get everybody to like or love you, you would never know if they liked you enough, or if they still liked you.
  • Different people have different tastes. Some people might like (for example) your new hairstyle; other people might hate it. Therefore, no matter what you do, some people will admire you, and some people won’t.
  • Getting people to like you takes time and effort. If you try to get everyone to like you, you won’t have any time or energy left over to do the things that you want to do.
  • If you demand others’ approval, you’ll always be doing what they want you to do, instead of doing what you want to do with your time and your life. Your life will no longer be your own.
  • If you try too hard to be loved or approved, people will soon tire of your constant sycophancy, and they will not respect you.
  • Paying too much attention to how much love and approval you are receiving, means you won’t pay enough attention to how much love and approval you are giving.
  • There’s no harm in trying to be popular, but it’s best not to try too hard. In other words, it’s self-helping to want to be popular, but it’s self-defeating to need to be popular.
  • Having love and approval means you’ll find it easier to have friends, to find and keep a job, to find accommodation, etc. But just because other people approve of you doesn’t mean that you’ll like yourself. It’s better to strive for unconditional self-acceptance; i.e., you accept yourself, regardless of what others think of you.
  • It’s not pleasant when other people don’t like you, but it’s not awful, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not fatal.

So I took down my show, The Summer of Thayre, and packed it up and dropped it off at Thayres’ house. She had just revealed that she met Bill Rodgers weekly, and had since art school, to perform oral sex on him. I was heartbroken for his wife Mireille Perron, my former teacher whom I adore. Mireille had just told me that she couldn’t chat with me socially at openings any more because she was afraid she would lose her husband.

I moved my, by now, mostly digital practice onto the fledgling and much hated by the bricks and mortar art community, internet.

Jarvis Hall, a local gallerist/picture framer with family connections to artists, was negotiating to show my work until the mobbing. “Jerald, I can’t show you as I have the future of my family to consider”, claiming that it was because I was on the internet, the creature.

I began to thrive on the net. Millions of people began to view my work on various platforms.

A year later I suffered a stroke. Apparently a common consequence of the stress and anxiety of mobbing. No one locally came to visit in the hospital, but on the internet I raised $10,000 in a go fund me to get out of the hospital into an accessible apartment, $20,000 to get a modified vehicle, and was visited by well wishers and people I deeply respect, almost daily. Cliff Eyland, an internet friend, transplanting his new lungs, bought some of my work from his hospital bed.

Did the Calgary artists community do me a favour by mobbing and ostracising and bullying? My life improved when they left based on measurable criteria: finances, professional recognition, communication, companionship and sex. So I follow the advice of professionals: “A true victim does not relish the role of victim. They do not want to be perceived as victims, and they will do whatever they need to do to heal, adapt and move forward in their lives.”
Dr. Tara Palmatier, Say Goodbye to Crazy: How to Get Rid of His Crazy Ex and Restore Sanity to Your Life.