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CHARLES DARWIN AND THE ARTS: So what does Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory have to say about your love of Emily Carr’s paintings, Paul Durcan’s poetry or the music of Rita MacNeil? This is the question at the heart of a fascinating new book by Dennis Dutton. In The Art Instinct (Bloomsbury Press), Dutton argues human tastes in the arts are evolutionary traits. The Atlantic Monthly has named the book among its top 25 picks of 2009. Dutton, a professor of the philosophy of art at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, is also founder and editor of the immensely popular Arts & Letters Daily.


TALKING WATCHES AND OTHER DOODADS: A new Toronto store that caters to the visually impaired opened its doors in early December. The store, which is run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), carries more than 200 items to make life easier for people with visual disabilities. Beside the obvious standbys of white canes and magnifiers, there are talking watches, talking book players and talking thermometers. There is an electronic wand ($150) called “Pen Friend” you can affix to any item you need identified. There is talking and beeping cookware, a colour detector and a host of board games.

CNIB opened 18 new outlets across Canada in 2009. The retail stores are back by popular demand, after the institute closed the stores three years ago in favour of mail order and Web-based businesses. Source:


CELEBRATING DAPHNE ODJIG: The National Gallery of Canada launched a solo exhibition by First Nations’ artist Daphne Odjig last October. The exhibition covers a 44-year period and contains about 60 paintings and prints. The show includes examples of the artist’s legend paintings, murals, landscapes, abstractions and erotica.

The exhibition opened in the Art Gallery of Sudbury two years ago and has been travelling North America. The 90-year-old artist, who lives in Penticton, B.C., is a leading figure in the larger aboriginal art movement. In 1974, Odjig helped establish the New Warehouse Gallery in Winnipeg. It was the first native-run art gallery in Canada. Odjig is a recipient of the Order of Canada. She has also received the Governor General’s Visual Arts Award. Source:


TRAVEL TIPS: If you are in need of assistance the next time you travel, Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities contains important information. It offers useful resources for people planning a trip by air, rail, bus or ferry, whether within Canada or internationally. It opens with suggestions to consider as you plan your route and make reservations. From there, the guide moves on to look at your journey from start to finish. It comes with a handy reservation checklist. The guide is available through the Canadian Transportation Agency website. (Click on: Persons with Disabilities.)

Finally, we want to thank our wonderful readers and contributors. We wish you many blessings for 2010. – Ruth Dempsey, Editor