Working for Artists in the Boreal Forest

One of a series commissioned by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance

By Steven Ross Smith

When visual artist Barbara Terfloth looks out her window she sees, at this time of year, the bare branches of pincherry and saskatoon bushes, birch and poplar trees, and across the road, one big old pine tree. Beyond this, with the sun at the right angle, are dazzling glints of light and whiteness from ice and snow. She's perched in her home-studio-office, in McPhail Cove, on Emma Lake about forty minutes north of Prince Albert.

While her abstract and meditative oil paintings are influenced by her immediate surroundings, (though not necessarily with a winter cast), a great deal of her attention ranges back and forth across Canada in electronic pulses. She is the executive director of the National Canadian Artist's Representation Copyright Collective Inc.. (CARCC). The Collective has five hundred and fifty members, who are visual artists, from coast to coast to coast — Nunavut, PEI, BC and everywhere in between.

From the edge of the lake, by phone, fax and email, Barbara negotiates rights and licenses – the fees and terms – for reproduction and/or exhibition of members' copyrighted visual art works. She also has the rewarding job of then issuing payments to the artists.

The rights buyers, from anywhere in the world, request use of artwork for exhibition, reproduction, or telecommunication on film, TV and internet. “Artists used to give things away for nothing,” says Terfloth, “but the fact that the Collective can negotiate fees on behalf of the artists improves their income. I can be tougher than the artists.” She functions as well as an educator for the rights-seeker. She can speak of the principles underlying copyright, and can justify the fees.

As well as managing exhibition and reproduction rights for active artists, Barbara handles the same rights for Collective members' estates, including the estates of Ernest Lindner and Joyce Wieland. Lindner was a widely-known Saskatchewan artist and teacher who created paintings, lino-cuts, drawings and etchings for nearly half a century. He was also a founding member of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. He drew much of his imagistic inspiration from the Emma Lake area not far from where Terfloth works.

But let's not forget Barbara the painter. She was given the important first nudge toward painting by her father, whose own mother was a painter. In 1995 she graduated with distinction from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and also has an honours degree in English. Near home, Prince Albert artist George Glenn was an important influence for her, as was Joe Wong, the artist-in-residence there in 1994. Terfloth has also gained by involvement with CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation / front des artistes canadiens), through their workshops and professional development programs. These improved her knowledge and skills and validated her commitment as a professional artist.

CARFAC is a national arts service organization that began in 1968 when a group of artists, headed by Jack Chambers, organized and demanded payment for public use of their works and copyrights. Since then, CARFAC has grown to include a national membership, and to provide publications, workshops, referrals and more. It is also the organization that founded CARCC.

Terfloth has exhibited her work around the province, in Saskatoon at the Mendel and Snelgrove galleries, in Prince Albert's Little Gallery, and in Regina at the Rosemont. A few years ago her work was reproduced for a postcard series printed by University of Saskatchewan.

Barbara's administrative work for the Collective began as a volunteer commitment eight years ago, and after a few years became a paying job. As well as giving constant attention to the Collective affairs, Terfloth must make several trips a year to Ottawa and Toronto for meetings and advocacy work.

The fact that the Collective is directed from Terfloth's small community in Saskatchewan's boreal forest does not go unnoticed by her neighbours. She uses the local printer to produce documents, and the nearby Christopher Lake post office “certainly knows we're here,” especially when it's time for the national member mail-out.

In 2001 Barbara was elected to the Board of Directors of the Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC), a national organization that initiates, coordinates and promotes human resources – otherwise known as skilled workers – in the areas of arts and culture.

CHRC is involved with planning, management, development and training for these workers, and there are a lot of them – 670,000 according to Statistics Canada – Canadian artists, creators, producers, technicians and administrators. This large work-force makes a huge contribution, not just to Canadian culture, but to the economy as well.

In her position, Terfloth assists CHRC in its forward-thinking on the needs and challenges facing arts workers in a vital and changing environment. She is the visual arts representative and co-chair of the visual art and craft committee. She is also on the professional development committee and has served as a juror for the youth internship program grants.

For now Barbara's commitment to the rewarding work of the Collective and CHRC remains. It is work that satisfies. She is enhancing artists' incomes and well-being. She laments though “that many artists are still regularly waiving fifty per cent of their incomes” due to poor negotiation skills, or lack of knowledge of the value of their copyright and appropriate fees.

Despite this selfless dedication to service, Terfloth is beginning to feel the squeeze on her time. The administrative work steals creative hours and energy from her own art making. She looks forward to the possibility of handing off parts of her jobs, when suitable arrangements can be made. She just can't ignore that frosty glint from the cove, seen with a painter's eye.

“I love winter — the colours are many but subtle — grays and whites of course, but the birches and poplar are silvery gray, the willows dark reddish, the reeds and grasses on the edge of the lake yellow ochre, the evergreens dark green.”

She feels the need to work these perceptions onto canvas and to initiate the recent studio addition to her home. “The new studio,” she says, “is badly in need of paint stains on the floor!”


Steven Ross Smith is a poet, fiction writer, reviewer living in Saskatoon.

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