As the global health crisis has rapidly transformed how art is experienced, Toronto’s 24th annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival was adapted to reflect the challenges of this new reality. Normally spanning the month of May, the city-wide Festival’s exhibitions will open on a case-by-case basis, once public safety is assured and schedules are confirmed. As information becomes available we will update details on our website, which launched on April 1 with the full roster of exhibitions planned for this year’s Festival. While many venues will remain closed for the foreseeable future due to the impact of COVID-19, we acknowledge the enormous efforts of everyone involved and celebrate their great accomplishments. An exceptional range of lens-based works by Canadian and international artists was selected for a diverse array of exhibitions at museums, galleries, public sites, and alternative spaces throughout Toronto. We very proudly present information on all of these shows on this website and within the Festival’s catalogue, despite the unforeseen havoc of the pandemic which has unfortunately resulted in some cancellations.
On May 1, the Festival’s customary first day, we launched a new platform for Online Programs. Rolling out on our website throughout the month, this series of initiatives featuring new and recent projects by Festival participants and partners includes profiles on artists, video screenings, photo-essays and photobooks, recommended readings, and a variety of conversations recorded in living rooms, studios, and exhibitions. These timely iterations of image-based programs activate the exhibitions planned for the 2020 Festival, as we await the privilege of seeing them in person.
Collaborating with artists and cultural partners across the city, CONTACT fosters a deep engagement with photographic imagery and a heightened awareness of local and global issues. Revealing critical subjects and shared concerns, many of the artists in our Core Exhibitions expose physical, emotional, and environmental scars that reflect the fragility of our times. Their projects affirm artists’ roles in building awareness, stimulating dialogue, and fostering engagement with important issues, whether individual, collective, or global. They explore the interconnections and implications of bodies, identities, locations, and histories, and provide spirited messages and meaningful engagement that remind us of the world’s beauty and the ongoing significance of artistic expression. Selected through a call for submissions, Featured Exhibitions of lens-based works by artists from Canada and around the world are planned at established galleries all over the city. And our Open Call Exhibitions, which enable emerging artists to show their work at local galleries and alternative locations, are the foundation of CONTACT. We continue to foster the careers of artists through the annual Burtynsky Grant that supports the creation of a photobook, and The Exhibition Award, which provides an emerging artist with a solo show in the CONTACT Gallery.
Reflecting on these difficult times as people around the world confront health concerns, CONTACT is very fortunate to work with an incredible community and so many remarkable partners and stakeholders—our most sincere thanks goes out to all of them. We are very grateful to our title sponsor Scotiabank and major sponsors Nikon Canada and PATTISON Outdoors for their active engagement in the arts over the years and who continue to support the growth and success of the Festival. Provincial and federal funding from Celebrate Ontario, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council, is gratefully acknowledged for providing tremendous assistance to present new and innovative projects annually. Our sincere appreciation goes to our many funders and sponsors, as well as to a number of resolute individuals whose donations and volunteer efforts have been critical.
This year’s Festival is dedicated to all of those in the arts who have been affected by COVID-19. We hope that these challenging and uncertain times will ultimately strengthen society, one that values creativity as a vital part of life experience. Best wishes for good health and safe shelter.
— CONTACT staff and board of directors