This Instagram account is letting us explore Canadian art in a whole new way

Run by Tatum Dooley, "Canadian Art Forecast" offers a new accessibility to art and artists.

Run by Tatum Dooley, "Canadian Art Forecast" offers a new accessibility to art and artists

A piece by Kristine Moran featured on Canadian Art Forecast. (Canadian Art Forecast)

Instagram has subverted art. Not only the vocation of photography, but fashion, too, celebrity, authorship, musicianship, persona, and many, many other realms. Yet, Instagram is useful for discovery—unless the discovery function of the app has betrayed its meaning. Instagram has proven to be a new, important realm for folks who don't normally circulate the art scene, or are intimidated by galleries, permitting them to do so without leaving the comfort of their own phone. 

Enter the Canadian Art Forecast Instagram account. From Tatum Dooley, a Toronto based writer and critic, and sometimes contributor to CBC Arts, Canadian Art Forecast is a personal project that has come to have real-life implications. The Instagram account provides a new accessibility to art and artists, as Dooley tells me.

"I think historically the gallery and museum space has been a very hostile environment for people to enter. If you're not within this art community, if you're not within a certain class, it's very intimidating walking into a space and these paintings are thousands of dollars. You feel like maybe you don't belong or that you're not allowed to come in if you're not going to buy anything. And that's completely not true."

Instagram, Dooley says, makes the art experience a lot less intimidating, a pillar of what Canadian Art Forecast aims to accomplish. It introduces an audience to (potentially) new artists and provides a resource to explore art. Canadian Art Forecast can be an entry point. In truth, for a person like myself who is wildly overwhelmed by art spaces, this provides a sense of relief. It gives us, or me, permission to discover, research, and learn about art at a specific pace outside of what the art world has designed. 

Dooley recently curated her first art show at the east end Toronto Dianna Witte Gallery, where I met her for our interview. The show, titled Summer Forecast,  featuring seven artists, many of whom she has shared on the Canadian Art Forecast Instagram account.

Canadian Art Forecast was born just over seven months ago and has amassed over 4500 followers since. Each day, once a day, Dooley will post an image she's found from crawling around online to find. She's included artists like Darby Milbrath, Keiran Bennan Hinton, Kristine Moran, Nina Bunjevac, and many, many more. She's unconcerned with an artist's follow count, their statement, or biography. "I almost shy away from just posting people that I know are universally popular in the Canadian art scene," Dooley says. "I really did want to highlight people that weren't getting the attention I thought they deserved." 

In an interview with FASHION, Dooley said that the initial purpose of the account was meant to redefine what Canadian Art is, exactly, to her and branch out of her comfort zone. "I have to branch out from my own personal taste and start to question what I consider to be good art," Dooley told FASHION

A huge component of that has been the Instagram takeovers where artists and curators joyfully inundate the account with their art picks and discoveries. Dooley gives artists and curators (even the programmer of the Contact Festival) free rein to post as many times they want, whatever they want. The only rule is that there are no rules. (Except that the artist must be alive and Canadian, and Dooley's definition of Canadian is loose.) For example, in a recent takeover by Nikki Peck, the artist posted a painting of an important reality tv moment (The Hills' Lauren Conrad and her mascara soaked tears) by Karin Bubaš. Tastes vary and expansion of what good art is or what is good Canadian art is increases. 

When asked whether or not she believes that Instagram could, in its own way, erode galleries entirely, rendering it obsolete, Dooley remains sure it is an extension of the art experience. "No one is ever going to be able to replicate the physical experience of looking at art in real life. There is something to being able to see the brush strokes."

Dooley points to a Heather Goodchild piece behind us. "This is just so gorgeous. You can see the sheen of the oil. It's full of life. There is an energy behind the brush strokes."

For the limitations Instagram has, there is, too, an openness; of being able to participate in a conversation or experience from the comfort of anywhere but that location. Dooley's curation of Canadian art came from a genuine place of interest and curiosity in Canadian art. Her enthusiasm and affection toward both art and artists is palpable. Dooley maintains she isn't precious about the Instagram account, like whether or not she should post at a certain time of day or how often. Because preciousness may act as unintentional ruin of a project so clearly formed out of passion.   


Sarah MacDonald is a music and culture writer whose work has appeared in The Walrus, Flare, NOW, and many more. Previously, she was an associate editor at Noisey Canada. She's happy to be here.