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VIVA L’ARTISTE (article first published : 2007-06-11)

The week-long Viva L’Artiste showcase at Le Domaine in Hillcrest, Durban from June 11 to 17 aims to highlight South Africa’s rich and varied artistic heritage, while acknowledging the work of established artists and encouraging further development among younger ones.

Says Twane Palmer, Marketing Manager of Le Domaine and one of the key organisers of the showcase: “The concept behind Viva L’Artiste is clear: to celebrate the immense energy and beauty of the national art scene. Much is planned for the festival, from an exhibition of works by 35 leading South African artists and up-and-coming school talent, to dance performances by KZN’s Flatfoot Dance Company and popular music performances.”

Palmer and company have set about creating a week-long programme designed to suit the tastes and preferences of the discerning art lover in KZN. Much of this planning has involved joining forces with art experts such as Berea resident Sandy Batchelor, who runs a project called Art at Home and has been instrumental in providing a platform for local artists to showcase their work.

Says Batchelor: “Through Art at Home, which has seen me empty my home over the years to provide a space in which artists can exhibit and sell their work, I have come to work with a number of gifted local artists, and am indeed excited about the prospect of celebrating their creative talents - together with the rest of the province - through this inaugural Viva L’Artiste showcase.”

Batchelor has commissioned 35 artists to display at least five of their latest works during Viva L’Artiste. The R15 million Club de Vie recreational facility at Le Domaine will be turned into an impressive gallery space showcasing more than 150 works by these 35 artists. They include oil painter Angie Arbuthnot of Kloof, renowned art instructor Robin Townsend, Rani Pillay of Glenwood, Margit Gregory-Pretorius, who calls Africa her greatest influence, Zimbabwean-born Nicky Chovuchovu of Berea, Judy Wentzel, who owns the Judy Wentzel Gallery in Durban North, Tim van Vuuren of George, Renee van der Spuy, who boasts 40 years painting experience, watercolour painter Anne Cleveland and Lesley Magwood Fraser of Kloof, who is renowned for her nude figure studies. Their styles are diverse and their inspiration equally so.

It is also hoped that from the proceeds of professional artworks sold during the exhibition, 10% will benefit another development project close to the heart of the organisers. The local Focus on iThemba organisation is an accredited non-profit Public Benefit Organisation offering educational and life skills training for families and cluster foster care homes in the Hillcrest area. It was born out of the vision of Danie van den Heever, a Durban businessman, and Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family in the USA. Proceeds from sales of art during Viva L’Artiste will be used by Focus on iThemba to build additional facilities and buildings in support of their extensive work.

But even the growth of art cannot be sustained without grassroots development. Says Pascale Chandler, renowned owner of the Pascale Chandler School of Art: “It is also important to showcase developing learners’ artistic expression with that of mature and established artists. This fusion does not happen often enough.”

As such the organisers of Viva L’Artiste are also including a schools art competition to coincide with Youth Day on Saturday 16th June. The competition is open to pupils in Grades 10, 11 and 12 across the province and will include an exhibition of all entries throughout the week-long festival at Le Domaine. Palmer is hopeful that it will be supported by outlying schools which have gifted pupils for whom such opportunities may be few and far between. “It is the opportunity for young artists to achieve recognition for their work and to gain exposure to life as an accomplished artist,” she says.

Adds Chandler: “Art at school level is often marginalised and learners are not given the platform to evolve and develop a critical position in art production and cultural identity. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to do just that.”

Pascale Chandler will be joined by other highly respected adjudicators including Nathi Gumede, curator of the KZNSA Gallery and Nonto Ntombela, curator of the DUT Gallery, in selecting the most deserving pupils at a gala awards evening on Youth Day, the final day of the Viva L’Artiste festival. The seven main categories are Watercolour, Pastels, Oils, Sculpture, Crayons, Charcoal and Mixed Media, and pupils may also choose to enter more than one category.

In addition to visual art, Viva L’Artiste will also include a selection of performance works to be showcased in the Le Domaine Amphitheatre. Participating groups and individuals include KZN’s Flatfoot Dance Company and much-loved music stars Amor Vittone, Heinz Winckler and Anke, who will be performing at the Gala Evening on June 16 2007.

Entrance to the Viva L’Artiste art exhibitions will be free and open to the public, while special evening activities will be used to raise funds for Highway Hospice, with tickets ranging from R20.00 to R120.00 per person. These include a performance of “Isigqi Sasemzansi” by the Flatfoot Dance Company on the evening of Tuesday 12th June, a Nana Mouskouri concert by songstress Arina de Wit on Wednesday 13th June, a light classical performance by local musicians Thabo and Chizano on Thursday 14th June, a variety show featuring Arina de Wit on Friday 15th June and the afore-mentioned Gala Evening at R120.00 per person on Saturday 16th June. Traditional South African fare will be sold and served throughout the festival days. Ticket prices for the evening events include limited cheese and wine, while a more lavish Cheese and Wine event will accompany the Gala Evening on Saturday 16th June, for patrons to mingle with like-minded art lovers, friends and family.

Through its support of local artistic development, Viva L’Artiste may well grow into a highlight on the provincial and national arts calendar, for both local artists and lovers of art in all its glorious forms.

To book for any of the special evening activities and support Hospice, contact Heather of Hospice on 031 208 6110. For more information on Viva L’Artiste, contact Twane Palmer on 031 716 8027 or email twane@ledom.co.za Also visit www.ledom.co.za




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