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Artist devises satirical scheme to ‘adopt’ Alberta’s orphaned wells

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Alana Bartol is hoping to find caregivers for hundreds of Alberta orphans, but these charges are not children. They are oil wells across the province abandoned by their owners.

The Calgary-based artist started a fictional non-profit group called the Orphan Well Adoption Agency and will be hosting adoption events at Edmonton’s Latitude 53 gallery every Saturday this month.   

Bartol’s art exhibit is a satirical attempt to find new “owners” for the wells.

Attendees will be greeted by an agent and some paperwork. 

“They can meet with one of our representatives and they will take them through the adoption interview process,” Bartol said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“There is no home visit. Actually, you are not allowed to visit your oil well. You have to sign a waiver if you’re approved.”

Adopted wells may act out during the early days of adoption causing spills or leaks.-Orphan Well Adoption Agency

Potential adoptees must answer a questionnaire, with questions relating to their connection to the oil and gas industry and their past experience as a caretaker.

“Adopted wells may act out during the early days of adoption causing spills or leaks from deterioration or lack of proper upkeep,” warns the questionnaire. 

“Many of our wells have experienced distress from lack of care and attention. If a behavioural problem arises, what steps would you take to address it?”

Approved caretakers will receive an adoption certificate and the location of a real abandoned well which has been ascribed a new nickname.

Adoptees will also be given the option of receiving written correspondence from their oil well. 

The letters are often melancholic, Bartol said. “The letters all different. Some of them are quite depressed or upset.

“Some are angry; some are very confused about their situation.”

‘The orphanage is growing’

The exhibit also features illustrated portraits, videos and photographs of orphan wells and detailed, hand-drawn maps of the roads which service them.

Bartol has also created a seemingly-legitimate website for the Orphan Well Adoption Agency featuring personalized well profiles and online application forms.

“As the oil and gas industry enters rocky times, the orphanage is growing,” reads the website.

Alana Bartol says the exhibit is meant to raise awareness about the increasing number of orphaned wells in Alberta. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Bartol hopes the exhibit raises awareness and allow people to have a different kind of debate about a serious environmental issue.

“We’re interested in exploring people’s connections to oil and gas and also thinking about our relationships to consumption and natural resources,” said Bartol, who teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

“I hope that through this process it allows people to empathize with these sites.” 

As of March 2017, the province’s Orphan Well Association had an inventory of 2,084 orphaned wells.

The wells can contaminate water and soil, leak greenhouse gases and put nearby homes at risk of explosions and harmful gases.

Since moving from Ontario to Alberta, Bartol said she has become increasingly passionate about issues of industrial reclamation —and orphan wells were a natural muse.

“By personifying them, I hope it will allow people to think about this issue in a completely different way.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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