Why He’s a Top 40: For advocating on behalf of the local arts community and bringing international attention to our city
People busy getting on with their day had to stop and take a second look when they saw a man taking up a parking stall, gleefully ironing clothing for anyone who needed the service. That’s typical Todd Janes, a true performance artist. He makes you take a second look at the world around you and consider it as a wonderful art form.
As one of our city’s biggest champions for the local arts scene, Janes has been involved in various adventures of the arts, but his main passion is to advocate to the city and province on behalf of artists.
One look at his resum can leave your head spinning from the extent of committee, board and volunteer contributions he has made. He was once president of the Alberta Association of Artist-Run Centres and advocacy chair for the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton. He is also co-founder of Exposure (Edmonton’s Queer Arts and Cultural Festival) and a board member of the Canadian Diabetes Association. “For people my age, I feel it’s really important to volunteer and give back to the community. I know it sounds like a clich, but we have to try and make the world a better place,” says Janes.
Somewhere in between all this volunteer effort, Janes is also the director, programmer, administrator and visionary of Latitude 53, Alberta’s oldest and largest artist-run centre, and has been for the past 13 years. “The art scene in Edmonton is pretty awesome. It’s small, but mighty.”
That strength has been reflected in decisions being made at city hall, thanks in part to Janes and other advocates who ran a campaign during the 2004 election highlighting which municipal candidates favoured supporting the artistic community. “I think [Mayor Stephen] Mandel gets it. We have tried to sell the arts as a smart investment for the city, the same as business is,” says Janes.
Perhaps his biggest feat to date has been the development and international success of Visualeyez, the largest annual performance art festival in Canada. Janes founded the festival in 2000 to create opportunities for people to experiment and interact with performance art.
Lately, Janes is trying to step back slightly from all his volunteer commitments to advocate even more on behalf of local talent, and to take some time to explore his own brand of art. Whatever the future may hold for Janes, it’s hard to imagine the Edmonton arts community being where it is today without him. Perhaps that’s why he has already been awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal. “I have no idea how long I will be on this Earth. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be here a long time, but maybe not, so it’s important to make your mark.” Even if it means ironing a stranger’s shirt.