A talk given by Barbara Bickel at the New Forum Magazine launch in Calgary, Alberta
I begin by thanking the women who initiated the first Forum Magazine and the poet Vivian Hansen in particular, who I met through The Centre Gallery (a woman focused gallery that ran from 1995-2001 in Calgary). Vivian reached out to me as a visual artist to be a contributor to the Forum Magazine in 1998. I came to feminisms through my art practice. Through making and collaborating. Over the years, I have come to identify as a spiritual feminist and have deepened my practice as a spiritual feminist artist.
Being invited to contribute to Forum in 1998, as an emerging artist, and having art from a project where I was re-defining and expanding the possibilities for the archetype of Venus in the 90s, alongside the poetry of one of my collaborators, Kathy Lynn Treybig, was a significant honouring of the work of a next generation of women artists. Women collaboratively working through their creative practices to bring forward feminist consciousness. A few stanzas from Kathy Lynn Treybig’s Venus poem entitled “Loss Awakening”
The body convulses,
shudders, and weeps,
With a sincerity that only
the celestial would comprehend.
The whole being transmutes grief.
You have been servered.
the soul knows it has lot a limb.
Twentyone years later I am back in Calgary and co-directing, with my life-partner R. Michael Fisher, a matrixial-based (feminist) arts creation research lab, called Studio M*. I am grateful to publisher Lisa Murphy-Lamb of Loft 112 and editor Silvia Pikal for the invitation to be part of this seminal feminist art magazine in Alberta once again. Now called the New Forum.
I was invited to offer a short reflection on my experience with the original Forum and it prompted me to do a little bit of research into feminist literary and arts magazine’s in Canada to offer an historical context for contemporary feminist artists voices today. A history that we do well to remember and pass on, as each new generation of feminists embody creatively–critical voices through their art.
In reading the 2015 book “Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada” edited by Kristina Huneault and Janice Anderson, I was taken to a chronology that offered a partial study with a historical timeline. In this study, carried out by Gina Badger, feminist art in Canada begins in 1963 with the late writer Edith Josie, an elder from the Gwich’in nation, and her interchangeable community art/life newspaper column in The Whitehorse Star called HERE ARE THE NEWS that continued until 2005 and was printed by other newspapers and widely in its day. Edith Josie received the order of Canada in 1995 and The National Aboriginal Achievement Award, now the Indspire Awards, in 2000. Gina Badger poignantly writes in the preface to her study “no matter what, any story of feminism in North America is indebted to the labour and cultural production of Indigenous women (p. 271).” In addition, the civil rights movement had a significant impact on the emergence of feminist arts organizations and journals in North America.
1975 was declared by the United Nations as International Women’s Year. In the aftermath of the 60s revolution and supported by a progressive Trudeau government, 1975 saw the emergence of two new journals in Vancouver, Canada. One titled Makara, founded by The Pacific Women’s Graphic Arts co-operative, as part of Press Gang Publishers that ran from 1975-1978 – while support by the Local Initiatives Funding (work creation programs funded by the progressive government). This LIP funding also enabled the start of early activities of Women in the Arts in Canada. The second journal to emerge in 1975 was Room [of one’s own], Literature, Art & Feminism Journal. This journal is still going strong forty-four years later. This longevity, is very unique for a feminist arts publication in Canada, the US and internationally. I believe this speaks strongly to the women’s writing and arts community in Canada, of which Calgary and Alberta have been a big part over the years.
The next journal to emerge in Canada was the original Forum, which was published from 1988-2002. Notably it was the only feminist arts magazine to emerge in Canada in the 80s. I quote from the editors of the genealogy of Feminist Art in Canada, Kristina Huneault and Janice Anderson,
“Looking back on the 1980’s, the effectiveness with which women took things into their own hands is striking. Feminists did not just make art; they ran galleries, curated exhibitions, founded and edited journal, sat on juries and board of directors, published reviews, gave lectures and planned education programming. Typically, they did not just do one or two of these things, but many of them (p. 24).”
Following the lead of passionate feminist arts magazines of the west, a few more Canadian arts journals emerged moving eastward across Canada in the 90s. Most notably, inVersions, published out of the still standing organization Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) in Winnipeg a bi-annual publication that ran from 1990-2012. And Matriart, published out of the Women’s Art Resource Centre in Toronto that began in 1984 (I am not sure whether it closed in 2015 or not). I subscribed to both journals during their years of publication and found validation and inspiration as a feminist artist in Canada through them.
The new millennium has continued the creation of feminist arts magazines such as, At the Crossroads: A journal for women artists of African descent published out of Toronto; and .dpi published out of Montreal, both of which are no longer in press. There are numerous ones that are still in press on line such as Canthius: Feminism & Literary Arts based in both Ottawa and Toronto; From the Root Zine; and Minola Review, and now most recently the New Forum, based out of Calgary.
The New Forum, like the Room publication, has a festival attached to it. A festival is about bringing into a community into visibility, of expanding community, of celebration, remembering, social advocacy, and in the case of the New Forum Festival, honouring the making and sharing of feminist understandings through the arts.
I closed my reflection at the launch of New Forum with a toast to the co-founders, acknowledging their ability to envision long term for this next generation of feminist artists and writers and for obtaining the Calgary Arts Development grant funding for this inaugural June 2019 festival and issue.
May the practices of feminist writers and artists continue this trend
of resurrecting feminist art magazines across Canada.
I compiled a short list with links if you would like more details on publications. I have included in this timeline a few Canadian feminist presses of note. As a visual artist and writer I have focused my survey on magazines that publish both literary and visual arts.
I also share a video of my talk at the launch on June 22, 2019 if you would like to gain a felt experience of the event. Photo of the event below Loft 112 credit.
A Very Brief History of Feminist Art Magazines in Canada
1963-2005, Elder, Edith Josie’s column, Here Are the News, The Whitehorse Star
United Nations declares 1975 The Year of the Woman.
1975 – current, Room [of one’s own], Vancouver BC. Literature, Art & feminism journal [ with a festival] https://roommagazine.com/
1975 to 1978, Makara, Vancouver, British Columbiaby the Pacific Women’s Graphic Arts Co-operative, in co-operation with Press Gang Publishers. The collective began work in 1972–73
1978 – current, Inanna Publications, is one of only a very few independent feminist presses in Canada committed to publishing fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction by and about women, and complementing this with relevant non-fiction, that bring new, innovative and diverse perspectives with the potential to change and enhance women’s lives everywhere.
1988-2002, Forum Magazine, University of Calgary, Canada Feminist women’s writing magazine that included visual art for anyone interested in women’s issues
1990-2012(?), inVersions, Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA), Winnipeg, Canada (bi-annual)
1990-1998, Matriart , Women’s Art Resource Centre, Toronto , Canada
1992-97, At the Crossroads: A journal for women artists of African descent, Toronto, On.
2004 – 2015, .dpi – Montreal, Studio XX produced 32 issues of .dpi, a feminist art and online digital literary magazine. It served as a platform for creative, critical and socially engaged exchange about feminism and technology.
2006 – current, Demeter Press is an independent feminist press committed to publishing peer-reviewed scholarly work, fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction on mothering, reproduction, sexuality and family. Demeter is partnered with the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI)
2013 – current, Understory Magazine, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, literature and visual art https://understoreymagazine.ca/
2012 – current, Canadian Women in Literary Arts (CWILA), an inclusive literary organization for people who share feminist values. http://cwila.com/
?- current, Canthius: Feminism & Literary Arts – Ottawa and Toronto http://www.canthius.com/
2014 – current, From the Root Zine – feminist literary arts and images mag. women of colour https://fromtherootzine.wordpress.com/
2016-current, Minola Review – A journal of women’s writing. http://www.minolareview.com/
2019 – current, New Forum, Calgary AB – [with a festival] @NewForumAB
*Feb. 6, 2021 addition: Sharing a link to an interview with co-editors of an early feminist art magazine M.E.A.N.I.N.G that is helpful in remembering the importance of women artists writing.