• Geoff Farnsworth and the Small Walker Press, launch Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the MIWSFPA

    Stockholm Interior, 2023. Oil and acrylic on panel, 30 x 24 inches. Image: Geoff Farnsworth.

    Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture presents

    Geoff Farnsworth: Blurs and Vagueness – An exhibition of small paintings
    Sept. 26 to Oct. 22, 2023
    Opening reception – Sept. 26, 2023 from noon to 2 p.m.
    Museum in the Hallway/Boîte-en-valise
    (2nd floor by the Theatre entrance)
    Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts
    15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines
    Ontario Culture Days event

    In partnership with 13th Street Gallery’s exhibition of larger paintings by Geoff Farnsworth running Sept. 23 to Oct. 21, 2023.

    Demonstrating a spirit for process, experimentation, and colour exploration, Geoff Farnsworth’s small-sized paintings offer a meditative reflection between figurative and abstraction. They are presented here with small drawings.

    Rarely shown to the public, Farnsworth’s drawings form a significant part of his work. They often – although not always – represent a more tightly structured environment. When seen together, his paintings and drawings evoke a fluctuating world of everyday realities and the dreamy fantasies of our imagination.

    Geoff Farnsworth studied with the Federation of Canadian Artists (Vancouver chapter), Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Capilano University (Graphic Design & Illustration Program), and the Art Students League of New York. After five years in New York City, Farnsworth relocated to Toronto. 4He currently lives and works in downtown St. Catharines. His paintings have been shown in New York City, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Niagara Falls, Norway, Sweden, and Trinidad.

    Curators: Catherine Parayre and David Vivian
    Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture

    Small Walker Press book launch:

    Photo credits: Annette le Fort; Bernhard Cella

    Books and Archives
    Presented by the Centre for Studies in Arts & Culture and  Walker Cultural Leader Series

    Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 12 to 2 p.m.
    Museum in the Hallway/Boîte-en-valise
    (2nd floor by the Theatre entrance), MIWSFPA
    Ontario Culture Days event

    In conjunction with exhibition opening of Geoff Farnsworth: Blurs and Vagueness

    Four book designers publish their reflection on Books and Archives:

    • Annette le Fort / Brandon Labelle, Touch and Tender Readings. Books As Archives, a sensory experience at the local library.
    • Seth Weiner, Bernhard Cella, Handmade, an illustrated catalogue of books that do not exist.

    Small Walker Press Catalogue Fall 2023

    Small Walker Press Book Launch two-pager Fall 2023

    A Walker Cultural Leader event.

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  • STAC collaborating artists exhibit at PARALLEL VIENNA

    Installation view at PARALLEL VIENNA in September, 2023. Photo by Bernhard Cella. Used with permission.

    The PARALLEL VIENNA Art Fair takes place every September in Vienna Austria. Installation view at PARALLEL VIENNA in September, 2023. Photo by Bernhard Cella.PARALLEL VIENNA presents young and emerging as well as established artistic practices and brings together art initiatives of every kind – art associations, galleries, project spaces, off spaces and artist spaces – both Austrian and international, all under one roof. It thus combines local artistic creation with international trends and contributes to building networks and fosters exchanges between artists, curators, collectors and exhibition visitors.

    Installation view at PARALLEL VIENNA in September, 2023. Photo by Bernhard Cella.This year from 5-10 September, 2023 the event takes place in an architectural and historic landmark known locally as Steinhof: the huge, old psychiatric hospital designed by Otto Wagner, built in 1907 and the site of a memorial to the crimes committed by the Nazis during before and during World War II. It is also the site of a magnificent Jugendstil theatre (of the Vienna Secession movement, closely related to Art Nouveau).

    Bernhard Cella, the author of one of the Small Walker press volumes this year, Handmade, and lead designer of the SWP catalogue, and Seth Weiner, a Walker Cultural leader for 2022-23Installation view at PARALLEL VIENNA in September, 2023. Photo by Bernhard Cella. and author of a STAC-produced online tutorial in zine-making, are presenting at PARALLEL VIENNA in 2023. Bernhard and Seth’s project at PARALLEL VIENNA is Handmade (our SWP book). This is a Handmade project, a collaboration between two artists. Some of the posters at Steinhof show images that the Small Walker Press editors did not include for the final SWP publication. Copies of Handmade will be available at the art fair.

    The Catalogue PDF. CLICK to read.

    For more information about the Parallel Art Fair see the website and read the catalogue.

    Images included in the article show installation views at PARALLEL VIENNA in September, 2023. Photos by Bernhard Cella. Used by permission.

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  • An excellent year of learning for students in Studies in Arts and Culture

    Faculty and instructors teaching courses in the STAC program are planning for an exciting year of courses in the fall/winter 2023-24 sessions, including those offered by the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture and those offered by affiliated programs, namely Canadian StudiesCommunication, Popular Culture and FilmDramatic ArtsGeography and Tourism Studies, Goodman School of BusinessHistoryModern Languages, Literatures and CulturesMusicSociology, and Visual Arts.

    If you are seeking full-time or part-time learning opportunities beginning in September, please reach out to the academic advisor Elizabeth Maddeaux or the Director of the Centre, David Vivian for more information.

    Many of the courses on offer have minimal prerequisite requirements, and in every case we are happy to provide permission to register for students who bring appropriate alternate learning and experience to the courses.

    We look forward to meeting our students in September!

    Spectating the arts in Niagara – Fall 2023

    STAC 2P93 Critical Practice in the Fine and Performing Arts, is an interdisciplinary approach to key ideas about music, art, dance and drama through critical readings and guided exposure to selected public fine and performing art events. 2023 brings an exciting return to the galleries, theatres and concert halls in St. Catharines, the region and online.

    A blended course, with online and onsite events.

    Prerequisites: Prerequisite(s): one credit from CANA 1F91, DART 1P91, 1P92 (1F91/1F93), IASC 1F01 (1F00), STAC 1P50, VISA 1Q98,1Q99 or permission of the Centre.

    Crosslisting: also offered as CANA 2P93, IASC 2P93 and MLLC 2P93

    When? ASYNC online in D2 and with onsite programming Thursdays at 1900-2100

    Calendar link:

    STAC 3P01 Media Transformations in The Creative Arts
    The trajectory and influences of new media on the development of and discourses in the 20th and 21st c.

    Prerequisites: Prerequisite(s): two STAC, COMM, ENGL, IASC,MLLC, VISA, WRDS (WRIT) credits or permission of the instructor.

    Crosslisting: also offered as IASC 3P01, MLLC 3P01 and VISA 3P01

    When? ASYNC online in D3.

    Calendar link:

    STAC 4P01 Creating Social Value from Material Culture
    Theory and practice of creating social value from material culture.

    Restrictions: students must have a minimum 10.0 overall credits or permission of the instructor.

    Crosslisting: also offered as IASC 4P01, MLLC 4P01 and VISA 4P01

    When? At the MIWSFPA in D2 on Wednesday at 1000-1130 and with ASYNC online content.

    Calendar link:

    STAC 3P41 Approaches to Curatorial Practice
    Practical application of curatorial methods.

    Prerequisites: Prerequisite(s): VISA 1Q98 and 1Q99, one credit from second- or third-year VISA or STAC courses, or permission of the Centre.

    Crosslisting: also offered as VISA 3P41

    When? At the MIWSFPA in D2 on Monday at 1800-2100 and with ASYNC online content.

    Calendar link:

    STAC 3P42 Methods and Principles of Curating
    The museum and the role of the curator in society. Critical approaches to the presentation of cultural artifacts, artworks and new forms of media.

    Prerequisites: Prerequisite(s): VISA 1Q98 and 1Q99, one credit from second- or third-year VISA or STAC courses, or permission of the Centre

    Crosslisting: also offered as VISA 3P42

    When? At the MIWSFPA in D3 on Monday at 1800-2100 and with ASYNC online content.

    Calendar link:

    Become a culture producer – Fall 2023

    STAC 3P93 Producing a Performance Event, examines the planning and organization for a performance-based cultural event, such as a festival, rave, poetry-slam or community choral fundraiser. This popular course includes special guest presentations by leaders in regional arts production and management, and fieldtrips to unique cultural events. The highlight of the course is a ‘Dragons Den’ with cultural producers and presenters.  A blended course, with online and onsite events.

    Restrictions: students must have a minimum of 10.0 overall credits or permission of the Centre.

    Crosslisting: also offered as DART 3P93

    When? At the MIWSFPA in D2 on Thursday 1000-1300 and with an ASYNC online lab

    Calendar link:

    click to open PDF

    The beauty of making books – Winter 2024  *NEW COURSE

    STAC 3P97 Publishing: Creative Elements and Editorial Process. Working in publishing encompasses a wide variety of skills, such as editing, design, media relations, marketing, and copywriting. This new course will take introduce you to the facets of editing and publishing in our contemporary world, with experiential learning and skills-rich practice based upon the creative publishing program of the Small Walker Press.
    NEW COURSE, offered online.

    Restrictions: students must have a minimum of 8.0 overall credits or permission of the instructor.

    When? Online in D3, ASYNC and with an online SYNC component Wednesday 1500-1700

    Calendar link:

    STAC 4P41 Arts Management
    Effective management of arts organizations. Programming, Marketing, Financing.

    Restrictions: open to STAC, CANA, DART (single or combined), DART (Honours)/BEd (Intermediate/Senior), VISA (single or combined) and VISA (Honours)/BEd (Intermediate/Senior) majors until date specified in Registration guide.

    Prerequisites: Prerequisite(s): students must have a minimum of 12.0 overall credits or permission of the instructor.

    Crosslisting: also offered as DART 4P41 and VISA 4P41

    When? Thursdays in D2 1300-1400 at the School, and with ASYNC online content

    Calendar link:

    STAC 4P68 Arts, Heritage and Culture:
    Public Policy and Governance Intervention in and support for the fine and performing arts and their cultural production.

    Restrictions: open to STAC, CANA, DART (single or combined), DART (Honours)/BEd (Intermediate/Senior), VISA (single or combined), SPMA and VISA (Honours)/BEd (Intermediate/Senior) majors until date specified in Registration guide. Students must have a minimum of 12.0 overall credits or permission of the Centre.

    Crosslisting: also offered as CANA 4P68, DART 4P68 and VISA 4P68

    When? Thursdays in D3 1300-1400 at the School, and with ASYNC online content

    calendar link:

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  • STAC graduate creating change through art

    Brock graduate Justus Duntsch (BA ‘17) is pictured above alongside Nancy Edmonstone, a local artist and regular participant in the Art Me Up program. 

    [written by Charles Kim for Surgite Magazine, Spring 2023]

    When graduates of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) head off into the world, they do so with plans to make their mark in the arts community. Some have gone on to create successful theatre groups or perform their music in front of crowds of thousands. Others have showcased their work in, or even curated, popular art exhibitions around the globe.

    Justus Duntsch (BA ’17) is using his art to spark difficult conversations and to support some of Niagara’s most vulnerable residents.

    The Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) graduate has developed his career with the wellness and development of the Niagara community in mind.

    He strives to be the change he wants to see in the world. “Where do you start when you want to make the world a better place? It must start with you. It has to be genuine,” Duntsch says. “I think the best way is to speak with your actions.”

    “Where do you start when you want to make the world a better place?
    It must start with you.”
    – Justus Duntsch –

    Along with sitting on and chairing a variety of community arts committees since graduation, Duntsch has spent time working with Start Me Up Niagara, which supports individuals facing significant life changes and provides them with opportunities to stabilize, participate and grow.

    The organization offers services and programming to those facing challenges such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, disabilities, addictions and mental health issues.

    Through the ‘Art Me Up Niagara’ program, Duntsch helps participants to express their past and present through the exploration of multidisciplinary arts in a safe studio environment.

    His work with Start Me Up Niagara has also led to his latest arts project, Before the Barriers, which reflects on the many people who took their own lives at the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines from 2018 to 2019.

    Brock graduate Justus Duntsch (BA ‘17) has used his art to create community change, including through a public art and community beautification project on Robinson Street in Niagara Falls

    Duntsch says the project’s subject matter is difficult to talk about, which has only driven him to ensure those critical community conversations take place.

    “There needs to be a space where this can be discussed without the stigma and that’s really what I’m trying to get towards,” he says.

    Duntsch hopes to adapt the project for an academic space and has been in discussions with his alma mater, and STAC Director David Vivian, about how to do just that given the sensitivity of the topic.

    He says he’s thankful for Brock’s STAC program – which helps students to gain a critical view of contemporary culture – as it provided the skills he’s needed to get to where he is today.

    The instructors are top shelf, the tools, the space – it’s really a world-class facility,” he says of the MIWSFPA.

    Knowing the inspiration that came from his time at the downtown arts school, Duntsch looks forward to seeing where other aspiring artists from the University and beyond take their talents and how they use them to create change in the world.

    “For anyone doing their thing in the arts and anywhere for that matter, just keep on keeping on. Look inside and ask yourself, who do you want to impact? What’s your desired outcome? Find what drives your passion and take the next steps,” he says.


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  • Audio tour explores historic art of Mackenzie Chown Complex

    Lesley Bell (BA ’88), former Learning Commons Co-ordinator at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), has researched the history of Michael Snow’s Timed Images installation at Brock. She is pictured here with Frame Three, which now hangs in the School.

    posted on the Brock News on TUESDAY, MAY 09, 2023 | by 

    Getting lost in Mackenzie Chown Complex is a familiar experience for many Brock students, and it’s easy to miss the artistic significance of the building in the rush to get to class on time.

    A new self-guided audio tour produced by Foreword, a podcast from the Faculty of Humanities, hopes to encourage a new appreciation for a complicated space and the art it contains on the 50th anniversary of its installation.

    The audio tour guides the listener through the various locations of Michael Snow’s 1972-73 art installation Time Images and considers how the building’s unique architecture plays with the space and light.

    Snow was invited by renowned architect Raymond Moriyama to create an art installation as part of the design for Brock’s new Academic Staging Building, now called the Mackenzie Chown Complex. His installation consisted of a series of mirrors, still images and live video situated throughout the building from Pond Inlet to A Block.

    Elements of the installation can still be seen, and the audio tour has an accompanying web page featuring historic photographs, artist sketches and architectural plans collected by Lesley Bell (BA ’88), an artist and retired support staff for Brock’s Department of Visual Arts, during her research on Snow.

    Snow, who died in January, was a widely acclaimed Canadian artist. His many honours included Officer of the Order of Canada (1981), Governor General’s Award in Media Arts (2000) and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Brock University (1974). He is also known for his Canada geese sculpture, Flight Stop (1979), that hangs in Toronto’s Eaton Centre and his piece The Audience (1989) on the exterior of the Rogers Centre.

    The Foreword podcast’s two-part final episode of series four also features an interview with Bell by host Alison Innes, Strategic Initiatives and Outreach Officer in the Faculty of Humanities. Bell became interested in Snow’s art at Brock while she was working with the Department of Visual Arts. She went on to research and produce a short documentary on Snow and his collaboration with Moriyama at Brock with Tracy Van Oosten (BA ’10) in 2021.

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  • Small Walker Press announces the Book Launch of the 2023 publications in Vienna

    Book Launch
    Salon für Kunstbuch and Small Walker Press – Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture are happy to announce the Book Launch of the 2023 publications:

    HANDMADE (Bernhard Cella and Seth Weiner), and
    TOUCH, AND TENDER READINGS. (Brandon LaBelle and Annette le Fort).

    Please join us. We very much look forward to seeing you at the Book Launch to celebrate.

    For more information:

    Opernringhof – Opernring 1 – Passage – 1010 Vienna
    6 / 6
    Group Show
    Black Book
    Image Bank
    Pin Ups
    Three Doubles

    Three Doubles
    “Six in a Pile” is a new series of works Bernhard Cella is showing in three display windows along a shopping arcade in the heart of Vienna, which has the advantage of making his show open and freely accessible 24/7. The small formats, photos, drawings, and objects assembled in these small exhibition spaces all deal with aspects of the “new normal”. The fourth in this series is entitled “Punishment”.

    Bernhard Cella
    Six in a Pile
    7 pm – 8pm

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  • Spotlight on STAC 3P93: Producing a Performance Event

    STAC 3P93 Producing a Performance Event prepares students for careers in business and the arts by focussing on the practises and procedures to produce a professional performance event.  Collaboration through teamwork and adaptability to the creative, dynamic and stimulating conditions of cultural production are just two important skills that students develop in this intensive 12-week course. 

    In a recent capstone event, each student group pitched their ideas to a trio of panellists in a time-limited competition for producing success. The presentations included a conceptual outline of the cultural experience, supported by the planning, operating, funding, marketing, staging and production components of a successful audience and community engagement event.  

    Canadians recognize that the performing arts improve their quality of life and acknowledge the impact of the arts on the social and economic health of their communities. Events that imagine storytelling, music, dance and visual arts in different spaces of community engagement, such as theatres and cafes are often proposed by the students in this course. The students share a concern for improved mental health, sustained housing security and the well-being of the individual and the community, and they propose cultural experiences that will contribute to these outcomes.

    “Do not be afraid of the art!” – Colleen Smith, CEO, First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. 

    pictures of Colleen Smith (FOPAC) and Steve Remus (NAC)

    Colleen Smith (FOPAC) and Steve Remus (NAC)

    The guest panellists, invited for their breadth and depth of experience in their professional fields, share their wisdom learned from many years of successful leadership in the arts and culture sector. In recent years this has included the CEO of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (FOPAC), Colleen Smith, the Minister of Energy, Minds and Resources at the Niagara Artists Centre (NAC), Stephen Remus, and the Director of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, David Vivian.  

    Students conceptualize the events through an examination of the complexities of planning and creating public productions. Each group integrates the technical and business demands with the creative experience. And what was the overwhelming advice from the panelists at a recent presentation? Keep the production – the art – at the centre of the plan. 

    Art is the most important part of an artistic event, and I realized that it’s easy to lose sight of that in all the technicalities and logistics of planning, but it’s important to always come back to it.
    Hannah Cain (Student, STAC 3P93, Winter 2022). 

    Impressed by the enthusiasm and originality of the students’ proposals, the panelists encourage students to further explore their ideas and make suggestions of how to take their work from the classroom into the community. Some students have received invitations to pursue the projects with the community partners.  

    Fleshing out a fully comprehensive plan, and then having the opportunity to pitch our performance event not only created an opportunity to apply my learning from the myriad of lesson materials but also gave me the experience of working with a team of other passionate peers whom I could see myself working with in the future…theory alone cannot teach the valuable life lessons that occur when you get your hands dirty and create something that excites you.
    Skye Rogers (Student, STAC 3P93, Winter 2022). 

    STAC 3P93 Producing a Performance Event will be available for registration in the Fall session of 2023-24. 

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  • The Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture will be at Open House, April 02

    UPDATE April 3, 2023: We had a very successful Open House at the University and at the School.  It was such an excellent opportunity to meet our prospective students and to speak in detail about our programs and your opportunities to learn with us.

    For those of you still hoping to apply, please be aware of these deadlines, copied from this page of the academic calendar:

    Application for admission should be made as early as possible. Application forms must be received by June 1 for most full-time programs and August 1 for part-time studies to ensure consideration for September registration. International applicants intending to study on a Study Permit should apply no later than April 1. Students applying after this date, who are subsequently admitted, may be required to register late and pay the late registration fee.

    Please see this page for more information about application processes, to learn about which programs are still receiving applications, and to submit an application directly to Brock University:

    The Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture is still receiving applications for f/t and p/t studies.
    Contact us at if you have any questions.

    Plan to visit the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and Brock University for this year’s Open House on April 2, 2023.

    David Vivian, Director of the Centre and a professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts will be situated at the MIWSFPA from 11:00 to 4:00 pm, along with the Chairs and other representatives of all the programs at the MIWSFPA, the backbone of the Studies in Arts and Culture program. Because courses in Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Centre for Digital Humanities, English, History, and Canadian Studies, are also an important part of the STAC program, we suggest you also visit those units situated on main campus.

    For all information about Open house visit

    Here is a schedule of our events for Open House:

    11:15-12:45- Humanities Presentation: The First-Year Experience
    South Block 202
    Meet the Dean and Associate Deans for the Faculty of Humanities, and then get a glimpse of a first-year lecture (“Learn How to Read—Again, for the First Time”), have an introduction to MIWSFPA program structures, and engage in a Q&A with the Associate Deans about joining the Humanities communities at Brock.

    1:00- Experience Humanities Walking Tour *This is recommended for STAC applicants, unless you require the shuttle to the MIWSFPA location.
    Meet outside of South Block 202
    Visit each department in the Faculty of Humanities on our main campus. There will be drop offs at Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Centre for Digital Humanities, English, History, Philosophy, Medieval & Renaissance Studies, Canadian Studies, and Classics. Learn more about student spaces, faculty office hours, and how to get involved in special Humanities events.

    Experience MIWSFPA Facilities Tour
    1:00 Shuttle to MIWSFPA
    Meet outside of South Block 202

    1:30-2:30- MIWSFPA Program specific tours (one each for Music, Dramatic Arts, Visual Arts)
    Tour the classrooms, studios and rehearsal spaces that you will be learning in during your time at MIWSFPA. Your program Chair or Director will be available for any questions you may have, as well as current students at MIWSFPA.

    2:45- Shuttle returns to main campus

    3:00-4:00- Tour of MIWSFPA *This is recommended for STAC applicants.
    Tours for those who wish to see the MIWSFPA in its entirety. Parking on site.

    If you are visiting St. Catharines, see this recent article from blogTO about things to do while you are here.









    See you on April 02!

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  • Fentanyl drug crisis focus of free public film screening, naloxone training

    A free public screening of Love in the Time of Fentanyl will take place this Saturday, March 25 at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.  

    The event is expected to run from 6 to 9 p.m. in room MWS 156, beginning with naloxone and harm reduction training from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by the film screening at 7 p.m. and a question-and-answer session at 8:30 p.m. 

    Directed, edited and co-produced by Colin Askey, Love in the Time of Fentanyl follows a group of misfits, artists and drug users who operate a renegade safe injection site in Vancouver’s downtown eastside fighting to save lives and keep hope alive in a neighborhood ravaged by the overdose crisis. 

    Ronnie Grigg, founder of the non-profit Zero Block Society and one of the film’s key participants, will be traveling from Vancouver to present at the screening and participate in the panel discussion question-and-answer period alongside representatives from Positive Living Niagara’s StreetWorks harm reduction program. 

    The event is presented by Brock University’s Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture; Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Department of Sociology; and Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, in collaboration with Positive Living Niagara and Rad Snax. 

    Love in the Time of Fentanyl had its world premiere at the 21st DOXA Documentary Film Festival, where it was featured as the Justice Forum Special Presentation and took home the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director. 

    WhatFree screening of Love in the Time of Fentanyl 

    When: Saturday, March 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. 

    • Doors open at 6 p.m. 
    • Naloxone and harm reduction training from 6:30 to 7 p.m. 
    • Film screening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. 
    • Panel discussion question-and-answer period and refreshments from 8:30 to 9 p.m. 

    Where: Room MWS 156 in Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, 15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines. MWS 156 is located adjacent to the main lobby on the lower level of the School. It is accessible, with accessible washrooms nearby.  

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  • Spirit of Mali: Kosar’s Corner – Part 2

    Professor David Vivian, Director of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) and the students of DART 3F61 Design: Theatrical Design visit Stève Viès and the exhibition. photo: Paul Jams.

    In my previous post, I provided some general information about The Spirit of Mali exhibition, including the backstage production and specific events. In this post, I intend to examine the exhibition critically and discuss its importance and contribution. 

    The Spirit of Mali brought a diverse community together for a celebration of Malian art at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines, from the 1st to the 10th of February, 2023. The exhibition presented textile art, sculpture, puppets, masks, musical instruments, games, and wooden crafts and immersed its audience in the art and culture of Mali. Visitors could enjoy a variety of arts and were welcomed with lectures, individual guidance, live music, dance, food, and an opportunity for socialization in an artistic space. One of the main components of this exhibition was the textiles, some of which are intended to narrate historical and mythological stories which were mentioned in my previous post. Throughout the exhibition, Stève Viès, the curator of this exhibition and a multidisciplinary artist, told the stories upon which the textiles were created. The audience, however, was invited to make their own reading from the works in the exhibition. “Not everyone connects with an artwork the same way”, said Dr. Jean B. Ntakirutimana, a professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Brock University, a lead partner in the production of this exhibition. In the round table discussion on February 3rd, Dr. Ntakirutimana shared the profound feeling he had when he entered the space for the first time and talked about one of the objects in the exhibition, the crocodile mask.  He stated that the aesthetics of the crocodile which was hung on a piece of white fabric stood out for him initially. He mentions that aside from the symbolism of the crocodile, which represents strength, power, and friendship, one can have their own interpretation when seeing the artifact. He encouraged the viewers to see the artifacts and feel. He added that artworks are stimuli to provoke “vibrations”, and the vibrations are different for each person. He later mentioned that for him, the exhibition connected him with a motherly source.

    Dr. Jean B. Ntakirutimana (left) and Stève Viès discuss last minute planning before the guided visit and round table discussion. Photo: Paul Jams.

    Nafée Faigou, a St. Catharines artist, poet and community leader, the former artistic director of SOFIFRAN, talked about the expression of every component of a work of art, saying the process of making a textile from a plant is “itself a story, which is the story of life”. She continued that “life is not just the matter, but also the spirit”. She mentioned that in this exhibition, the spirit was put into a material space. She stated that the spirit of Bogolan art is fluid and can be described in many ways and may resonate differently for everyone.

    Nafée Faigou shares her insight during the roundtable discussion. Photo: Paul Jams.

    For me, the exhibition was remarkable in the range of meaning that it offered. It encouraged the personal and symbolic interpretation of the artworks. It provided its audience with information about the artworks but asked them to reflect upon the artworks. What stood out for me in some of the textiles was the use of patterns as a way of coloring some parts of paintings. Some of the patterns, however, symbolized concepts, values, and elements. To me, the patterns seemed like the creation of an intertext in the artwork that connects it with other stories. By providing visual hints to the viewers, they also seemed to be presenting a lens to see the image, suggesting how to interpret the story that the composition depicts. The work, Spiritualité Bambara, for example, depicts an aspect of Bambara culture –  the idea of care in a community that is not limited only to humans. A community is formed by interactions between humans and other living entities. In this textile, we see patterns that symbolize marriage, a subtheme for this composition. According to Stève Viès, marriage in Mali culture is not just between two individuals;  with the tie of marriage, one becomes responsible for all their new family members. This care and responsibility is not limited to family but can also be seen in the workplace.

    From left, Maman Fété Ngira-Batware Kimpiobi, Justine Djoléi Gogoua and Stève Viès welcome the guests during the opening night ceremonies. Dr. Jean B. Ntakirutimana is seen far right. Photo: Paul Jams.

    According to Stève Viès, some of the objects such as masks and puppets presented in the exhibition are used for storytelling in performing arts traditions in Mali. They contribute to the transmission of knowledge in Malian culture. The puppets presented in the exhibition are designed by Torri Diarra for the play The Legend of Bogolan, a musical that was written and performed by Stève Viès and Isabelle Garceau. Torri Diarra has made hundreds of puppets and masks to educate young audiences on the importance of preserving nature, protecting endangered species, and planting trees.

    In the opening and closing celebrations of the exhibition on February 4th and 10th, 2023, the audience were immersed in the culture of Mali through music, dance, and food. The organizers of the project from Brock University, Dr. Jean B. Ntakirutimana (Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) and  Prof. David Vivian (Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture/Department of Dramatic Arts) engaged the audience in meaningful conversations about the artworks. The group dance exercise was a joyous practice of community building. The celebration ended with notes about collective identity, a sense of belonging, and the importance of the improvement of the self. Community engagement was one of the purposes and outcomes of this exhibition, according to Dr. Ntakirutimana. 

    “After the closing ceremony”, Dr. Ntakirutimana remarked, “I started feeling a separation like the anxiety a child feels after being weaned.” He referred to Africa as a mother figure for him and the arts presented in the exhibition as the spirit of that continent. The exhibition was a moment for individuals of all ages to see art, appreciate it, discuss it, make connections, dance, and play.

    Stève Viès demonstrates a musical instrument in his collection. Photo: Paul Jams.

    In order to share the art of Mali with a larger audience, Stève Viès will continue to tour the exhibition and develop a website at He presents the art of Mali culture with a “positive vibration” and looks forward to bringing the artists, whom he calls brothers and sisters, to future exhibitions so that they may spark intercultural conversations and knowledge transmission.

    Museum in the Hallway / Boîte-en-valise, a project of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, situated on the second floor of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, continues a small exhibit of art and objects from Mali until the closing reception on March 3, 2023.

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