Online Exhibition hosted by Embassy Cultural House
Organized by Rachel A. MacGillivray and Ron Benner with the assistance of
Jamelie Hassan, Olivia Mossuto and JoAnna Weil
Deadline: Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Live: January 2022
When the world went into lockdown last March, so did my creative brain. I hit a wall in my studio practice that was so thick and heavy I couldn’t even pick up my materials, and nothing I had been making felt important anymore. The only place I came alive was in my garden. Planting gave me purpose, seeds shooting up gave me hope, pulling weeds and clearing land helped me step outside of my worries. We spent 5 months in isolation with our toddler son and most of that time was spent together, planning and tending our gardens – it’s how we survived the separation, anxiety, and pressure. It’s the thing that got us through and we’re not the only ones. Now, it’s time to share our gardens.
Whether your experience was painting fantasy gardens while in lockdown, visiting public green spaces, taking care of a beloved house plant, containers on your balcony, or working in your own garden - tending vegetables, flowers, or weeds - we want to share your experience. Let’s recognize and acknowledge these connections with the natural world.
- Rachel A. MacGillivray, July 28, 2021
I am reminded of an exhibition that Jamelie and I did in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2013 about the Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca, titled The World is a Garden Whose Walls are the State. The title was inspired by a quote from Ibn Khaldun's The Muqaddimah (1377 AD) which was one of the first universal histories of the world…now, the world is a garden whose walls are the pandemic.
- Ron Benner, July 28, 2021
Please submit an image of your pandemic garden experience and include a short statement about the location, date, and your relationship/connection/experience to and with the “garden” during the pandemic.
Deadline for your contribution: September 7, 2021
Image size: 300 dpi, no smaller than 800 pixels on the shortest side.
An artist fee of $30.00 will be paid for each digital contribution.
For questions about the exhibition, email:
Photo Credit: Rachel A. MacGillivray, In the Garden, 2020
We are honoured to present this spectacular online exhibit "A Guest + A Host = A Ghost," curated by Hamilton-based Ihor Holubizky and designed by Oliva Mossuto to celebrate the life of our good friend, independent curator and writer Bob McKaskell. It was one year ago today that Bob passed away on June 30, 2020.
Holubizky has conceptualized this multi-layered project and has written that it " is a tribute to Robert McKaskell and his professional facets as art historian, curator and educator. Rather than memorialize what he did, it is better to channel the spirit and active intelligence, and embody how he thought. Marcel Duchamp is the armature for this exhibition-orchestration. Robert was a Duchampist, although he and I never spoke of Duchamp directly—and perhaps because one never knows who’s listening. In the mid-1980s he devised an “Homage to Marcel Duchamp on the occasion of the centennial of his birth,” mounted at the McIntosh, Forest City and (then) London Regional galleries."
Special thanks to Hugh Barrett, Kelowna Art Gallery, Museum London, and the Art Gallery of Windsor. We also thank all the artist-contributors. All works are courtesy and copyright of the artists, with exceptions and additional credits as noted.
Before he passed, Bob was living between Port Dover, Ontario and Oaxaca, Mexico. While in Oaxaca he decided to study Spanish and he had just initiated a program of curating exhibits of Oaxacan artists in his apartment located in the centro historico of Oaxaca. We have created a page that highlights the work Bob had begun in Oaxaca within our project called Intercambio/Exchange with Oaxacan artist Lissette Jiménez Díaz, and text written by Marnie Fleming.
Bob taught Contemporary Art History for many years at Western University. He was a huge supporter of both Canadian and international artists and had a commitment to challenging art practices which included conceptual art, performance works and independent artists' projects. While in London, he was involved in programming at the Embassy Cultural House, the Forest City Gallery, Museum London and the McIntosh Gallery. He also worked at the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary where he built strong friendships and made contributions to the arts community across Canada. We have so many fond memories of Bob - especially close to our hearts is the survey exhibition he curated Embassy Cultural House - 1983 - 1990 at Museum London in 2012.
Conversation with Freda Guttman, artist & activist in support of Palestine: May 23, 2021 @ 16:00 EDT
The old Embassy Hotel was located at 732 Dundas Street East at the heart of the Old East Village. The Embassy Cultural House was established in 1983, as a community-driven gallery and hosted interdisciplinary programs. It closed its physical doors in 1990. In 2020 the Embassy Cultural House was re-envisioned as a virtual artist-run space and community website.
Artist Statement for the work by Susanna Heller "Eyes in a Bleak World" for the ECH's inaugural online exhibit Hiding in Plain Sight launched on October 30, 2020: “Eyes in a Bleak World “ is a recent painting completed in 2020. The sky and earth in this oil painting are dominated by the intensity of two eyeballs wrenched from some creature and which soar comet-like through a scorched and haunted landscape. The power of sight in this painting is menacing and speaks to the destructive state of the world which we are witnessing.
For the 2021 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, The Embassy Cultural House (ECH) is proud to highlight the digital, photo-based, and photo-related artworks from this exhibition in an immersive 3-D format, produced by contributing editor Andreas Buchwaldt. The virtual tour can be viewed below, or at the Hiding in Plain Sight exhibition page.
The virtual tour re-imagines the Embassy Cultural House in the present, where it was originally located at the Embassy Hotel on 723 Dundas Street. Andreas Buchwaldt visualizes an alternate future for the ECH by inserting an archival image of the building’s facade into its original location with an online panoramic mapping tool. In actuality, the Embassy Hotel was destroyed in 2009 following a large fire. In addition to the sympathetic treatment of the facade, the inside of the building has been mapped to match the original interior of the Embassy Cultural House. The expresso bar and booths remain fixed in their same orientation, surrounded by works of art.
In October 2020, the Embassy Cultural House presented its inaugural virtual exhibition Hiding in Plain Sight, organized by Ron Benner, inspired by the 2020 book of the same name by St. Louis-based journalist Sarah Kendzior. In her book, Kendzior describes the former US President Donald Trump’s administration as “a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government.”
View the ECH's Scotiabank Contact page here.
Presented by Embassy Cultural House and the GardenShip and State Project
Join us Sunday, May 2, at 1:30 p.m. for A Virtual Exhibition Opening and Video Presentation. The event will begin with a Land Acknowledgment and welcoming by Mary Lou and Dan Smoke.
The Embassy Cultural House (ECH) and GardenShip and State are pleased to present a virtual group exhibition Stop Extinction! Restore the Earth to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 2021. Works in the exhibition are by artists from within the ECH community and Gardenship and State participating artists. The 50 artworks that make up this ambitious project take on a broad range of issues related to the climate crisis and other threats to our ecology, emphasizing decolonial practices as central to addressing this urgent moment.
A concise animation, “Up in Smoke,” by the youngest presenter in the exhibition, 15-year-old Kian Saadani-Gordon, portrays the blue planet with a giant, billowing smokestack protruding from its body. It is a poignant yet frightening reminder of our predicament. Equally caustic in its critique of human culpability regarding the plight of gaia are the ‘earthly non-delights’ portrayed by Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge in their photo-triptych, “Futures.”
Numerous other artists in the exhibition, including Jessie Amery, Stephen Cruise, and Jamelie Hassan, also allude to the garden – as by turns a troubled sanctuary and a site of potential regeneration and possibility. In works by Sharmistha Kar, Roland Schubert, Jean Spence, and Christine Walde, rivers, lakes, and waterways feature as emblems of devastation, but also as reminders of human and more than human indebtedness to the earth’s water sources as central to survival.
GardenShip and State co-curator Jeff Thomas invokes colonization and decolonization, reminding us of the inseparable linkage between stewardship of the planet and the legitimacy of Indigenous land claims. Perhaps nowhere in the exhibition is the spectrum of human experience, aspiration, and often failure as fully pronounced as in the juxtaposition of Ron Benner’s digital photograph of seeds, grains, beans and pottery shards, labelled, “Remains in Association with cultural deposits: 10,000 years before present era,” and Mark Kasumovic’s stirring black and white image of a vast, florescent-lit cavern, entitled, “Vault #3 [from the series, A Human Laboratory,”2015]. Benner’s colourful, living archive, and Kasumovic’s frozen image of an empty Svalbard Global Seed Vault, are the exhibition’s alpha and omega moments.
Stop Extinction! Restore the Earth contributors include: Jessie Amery, Tariq Amery, Ron Benner, Paul Chartrand & Michelle Wilson, Carole Condé & Karl Beveridge, Stephen Cruise, Tom Cull, Susan Day, Holly English & Olivia Mossuto, Mike Farnan, Michael Fernandes, kerry ferris (1949 - 2016), Jan Figurski, Mireya Folch-Serra,Fatima Garzan, Joan Greer, Dave Gordon, Tariq Hassan Gordon, Jamelie Hassan, Fern Helfand, Lisa Hirmer, Sharmistha, Kar, Mark Kasumovic, Brian Lambert, Patrick Mahon, Kim Moodie, Catherine Morrisey, Troy Ouellette, Jill Price, Judith Rodger, Kian Saadani-Gordon, Niloufar Salimi & Mohammad Tabesh, Jayce Salloum, Jenna Rose Sands, Roland Schubert, Sandra Semchuk, Carolyn Simmons, Mary Lou & Dan Smoke, Ashley Snook, Jean Spence, Diana Tamblyn, Jeff Thomas, Bernice Vincent (1934 - 2016), Esther Vincent, Christine Walde, Paul Walde, and Jade Williamson.
www.embassyculturalhouse.ca is a volunteer digital project originally launched in July 2020 to recognize the contributions of the arts and culture community which came of age in London in the 1960s-1970s. Artists Jamelie Hassan and Ron Benner and jazz musician Eric Stach founded the Embassy Cultural House (1983-1990), located in the restaurant portion of the Embassy Hotel at 732 Dundas Street in East London.
In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Embassy Cultural House was re-envisioned as a virtual artist-run space and website. ECH emphasizes activism, community engagement, and diverse and intergenerational collaboration. As a not-for-profit collective, the ECH has quickly grown into a network of 100 contributors from across Canada and around the world.
GardenShip and State is an artistic research project conceived at the intersection of environmental critique, decolonial theory, and artistic practice. Involving a diverse group of twenty Canadian-based and international artists and thinkers, the project examines urgent issues confronting us today: climate change and global warming and the measures states and non-state actors can, or should, take to resolve them. These challenges are of global concern because local actions and global effects are intertwined, as shown by the destructiveness of the environmental crisis on humans and more than humans experiencing colonialism.
Co-curated by Patrick Mahon and Jeff Thomas, an on-site exhibition planned for Museum London (Sept.2021 – Jan. 2022) will play an important role in promoting regional discussions about the consequences of living in the Anthropocene. The project began with a Launch Workshop held in Fall 2019 at Museum London and Western University. Since then, some of its participants were featured presenters in a panel for this year’s Words Festival (Nov. 2020), and a slide show of works by seventeen of the project’s collaborators was projected on the giant screens overlooking the Deshkan Ziibi (Antler River, also known as Thames River) from Museum London’s Centre at the Forks.
The GardenShip and State exhibition in Fall, 2021, will be a multi-sensory experience that inhabits the Ivey Galleries at Museum London, and spills into other areas of the Museum, inside and out. Comprising textiles, photography, sculpture, video, and installation, the exhibition emphasises environmental critique and decolonization through projects that are aesthetically rich and culturally complex. (
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Embassy Cultural House (ECH) is pleased to announce that award-winning Indigenous journalists and activists, Mary Lou and Dan Smoke have joined the ECH Advisory Circle. They recently received the Atlohsa Peace Award for their work on truth and reconciliation. You can listen to their interview with Chris dela Torre on the CBC here.
Mary Lou is also well-known for her performances and was recognized by the London Music Hall receiving an award in 2019 for her traditional and contemporary singing. She is a member of the Ojibway Nation, from Batchawana, on Lake Superior, and Dan is Seneca Nation from the Six Nations Grand River Territory. They met in 1972/3 and were married in the Onondaga Longhouse in a traditional Indigenous Haudenosaunee Wedding Ceremony in 1977. They have been happily married for 43years.
Working together they have hosted "The Smoke Signals Aboriginal Radio Program," since 1990 and continue with this Western University campus-based radio program offering interviews with Indigenous cultural workers and advocates from across Turtle Island. They have collected an extensive archive and books over the years related to their decades of working as journalists and advocates. From 1999-2019 they worked with the London CTV Station.
ECH co-founders Ron Benner and Jamelie Hassan said, “Dan and Mary Lou Smoke have dedicated their lives to building bridges between the peoples of Turtle Island. We are honoured to have Dan and Mary Lou’s friendship over the years and look forward to collaborating with them on future ECH projects.”
Dan and Mary Lou Smoke said, “Ron and Jamelie have stood in solidarity with Indigenous communities through their art work and activism for decades, and we are pleased to join the ECH Advisory Circle and contribute to this innovative digital arts and cultural project.”
You can visit their page on the ECH website here.
Other members of the ECH Advisory Circle include: Samer Abdelnour, Wyn Geleynse, Fern Helfand, S F Ho, Lorraine Klaasen, Judith Rodger, Ruth Skinner and Lucas Stenning.
The Embassy Cultural House (ECH) family and community are grieving the loss of Tyson Haller who passed away recently in Ottawa. He was a strong supporter and advocate of the ECH both during its original program at the Embassy Hotel between 1983 - 1990 and its present online format.
Tyson's parents Helen and Egon owned the Embassy Hotel from the late 1970s until it was sold in 2001. He was a huge part of the running of the hotel and organized the music program in the hotel bars. Tyson went on to study film at Ryerson University in Toronto. Our heart goes out to his family and all his friends in London, Toronto and Ottawa and around the world who are mourning his untimely death.
Please visit Tyson's page to see some of his film work and photos.
You can now view the Hiding In Plain Sight exhibition catalogue online! Our huge thanks to Shelley Kopp who has worked tirelessly over the last few months to edit and design this catalogue. Special thanks to Olivia Mossuto and Judith Rodger for their contributions. We would also like to thank all of our ECH circle of advisors and team and to all of the exhibition contributors, who have made this exhibition and catalogue possible with their response to this open-call exhibit, including art works, writing and enthusiasm. We have enjoyed this launching our first virtual exhibit for the ECH.
This online catalogue will go to print mid-January with a planned print run of 500 copies. Please email: email@example.com if you would like to order a copy. Copies will be sold at cost for $15.00 CAD.
Updates on the London Arts Community