Articles tagged with: VISA

  • Visual Arts students get creative career advice from international artists

    Visual Arts students in Assistant Professor Amy Friend’s Introduction to Digital Photography class were given the chance to interview six successful, creative professionals from around the world thanks to an Experiential Education Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant. The class is pictured engaged in discussion with Dornith Doherty, a Texas professor who documents and collages seeds and tissue samples.


    (From The Brock News, April 25, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    What’s it like to create a photographic archive of plant seeds and tissue samples that could one day ensure humanity’s very survival?

    What about travelling the world to capture award-winning images of the rapidly melting polar ice caps or soldiers in conflict zones?

    Students in Brock’s Introduction to Digital Photography class learned all of this and more, directly from creative professionals this past semester.

    Thanks to an Experiential Education Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant, Assistant Professor Amy Friend was able to invite six professionals in the field of photography from around the world to visit her class via video chat.

    British-American artist Phillip Toledano, pictured on screen, was one of six artists who participated in student-conducted interviews as part of Assistant Professor Amy Friend’s Introduction to Digital Photography class. The Visual Arts students were given the opportunity to interact with these creative professionals thanks to an Experiential Education Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant.

    Visual Arts students researched and subsequently interviewed guest speakers one-on-one, before ending each session with a group discussion.

    The exercise provided valuable insight into the artistic process and the challenges involved with working in different areas of photography, Friend said.

    “The students responded quite well; you could see a sense of excitement,” she said. “They heard interesting stories about how artists work through their processes and different insights about how and why specific choices are made, and the methods used to get this work out into the world.”

    Participating artists included Dornith Doherty, a professor and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow from North Texas who documents and collages plant seeds and tissue samples in her Archiving Eden project; Cig Harvey, an artist whose work has been exhibited at major museums and collections in the United States and Europe;  Spanish artist Alfonso Almedros; award-winning photojournalist Louie Palu, whose work has been featured in National Geographic and numerous international collections; Jacqueline Bates, Photography Director of The California Sunday Magazine; and British-American mixed-media artist and author Phillip Toledano.

    Fourth-year Visual Arts student Rachel McCartney was tasked with interviewing Toledano, whose work is similar to what she aspires to create herself one day.

    “Interacting with visiting artists in a classroom setting was an extremely useful and gratifying experience,” she said. “It allowed for direct one-on-one communication and to dissect the brain of someone who is a successful future version of what I aspire to be.”

    The grant was one of 18 that were awarded in 2018-19 to support the development of new experiential learning courses and experiential opportunities within existing courses.

    The Teaching and Learning Innovation Grants were supported financially by Experiential Education at Brock and external funding through the province’s Career Ready Fund.

    Sandy Howe, Associate Director, Experiential Education, said the new interview series went “above and beyond” expectations and offered a “highly impactful” experiential learning opportunity for participating students.

    “It’s always amazing to me to see faculty members trying something new in their courses and how this impacts their own learning and engagement with their teaching,” she added. “This is an excellent example of how different types of experiences can be used to improve both teaching and learning.”

    Friend said the calibre and range of artists who participated also exposed students to the range of career opportunities that exist for someone with a Fine Arts and Photography background.

    “It was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my teaching strategies,” she said. “I was stunned by how much information the students were able to learn in a short period of time.”

    For McCartney, the experience armed her with more confidence as an artist and a wealth of advice for ensuring success in her future career.

    “I find it really important that we constantly look for new ways to teach and learn because it promotes better student engagement,” she said. “Actively changing the curriculum to integrate new ways of learning creates a more personalized education that is beneficial to students. I’m very thankful to the artists who participated and immensely thankful for Professor Friend for organizing this experience.”

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    Categories: Current Students, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • MIWSFPA faculty, alumni nominated for 2019 St. Catharines Arts Awards

    Visual Arts alumna Kylie Haveron (BA ’18) is among the nominees selected for the Emerging Artist category for the 2019 City of St. Catharines Arts Awards.


    (From The Brock News, January 31, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    Congratulations are in order for the numerous faculty members and alumni of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) nominated for the 2019 City of St. Catharines Arts Awards.

    The awards recognize and celebrate excellence in all areas of artistic creation and seek to increase the visibility of St. Catharines’ artists and cultural industries, honour cultural leaders and their achievements and cultivate financial and volunteer support for the arts sector.

    Visual Arts alumna Kylie Haveron (BA ’18) is among the nominees selected for the Emerging Artist category, while Dramatic Arts Chair Joe Norris and Assistant Theatre Professor Danielle Wilson were both nominated for the Arts in Education award.

    Nominated in the Established Artist category are Wayne Corlis (BA ’05, MA ’12), who majored in Visual Arts and earned a master’s in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts, and Colin Anthes (BA ’14, MA ’16), who completed a combined Psychology/Dramatic Arts degree with a minor in Philosophy and a master’s degree in Philosophy. Anthes currently works as a part-time instructor in Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts.

    Nominated in the Making a Difference category is alumna Emma German (BA ’14), who majored in Visual Arts and worked as a curator at the City of St. Catharines and Brock’s Rodman Hall Art Centre.

    Also nominated in the same category is the Willow Arts Community, a non-profit arts organization based at Rodman Hall that provides free artistic training and exhibition opportunities to community members with lived experience of mental health and addiction.

    The recipients of the City of St. Catharines Arts Awards will be recognized at a reception on Friday, May 3 at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Tickets will be available in March.

    A full list of nominees is available online.

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    Categories: Alumni, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Artistic alumni to host vacation-themed exhibition downtown

    Brock grads Katie Mazi (BA ’16), Jenn Judson (BA ’16), Matt Caldwell (BA ’16), Ben Mosher (BA ’15) and Alex Muresan (BA ’16) make up the art collective Permanent Vacation. The artists will be exhibiting new work in All Expenses Paid, opening on Thursday, Jan. 31.


    (From The Brock News, January 29, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    The Permanent Vacation art collective is inviting the public to experience the sights and sounds of a tropical getaway – without spending a cent.

    The group, made up of Brock alumni, is presenting its second exhibition, All Expenses Paid, at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) beginning Thursday, Jan. 31. An opening reception for the showcase will be held Thursday, Feb. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m.

    All Expenses Paid is a multimedia exhibition featuring photographs, videos, an installation and a zine. The artists will also create a studio space inside the exhibition, where emerging local artists can work if they cannot access their own studio space due to economic barriers.

    The collective, which includes artists Katie Mazi (BA ’16), Jenn Judson (BA ’16), Matt Caldwell (BA ’16), Ben Mosher (BA ’15) and Alex Muresan (BA ’16), were all Studio Art majors at Brock who first worked together to restructure the Brock Art Club into the current Brock Art Collective.

    The name Permanent Vacation stems from the idea that you don’t need to ‘vacate’ an area to find work and fulfilment. The collective’s goal is to create working space for emerging Niagara-based makers in a way that promotes seeing home anew.

    “The exciting part about this exhibition is that it is fully collaborative within our collective and interactive with local artists and community members,” said Mazi.

    The artists encourage visitors to embrace the theme and wear their best vacation attire to the opening, where they can expect to find themselves surrounded by inner tubes and piña coladas.

    “It’s practically a vacation,” said Judson.

    Permanent Vacation’s All Expenses Paid is on from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28 at the VISA Gallery and Student Exhibition Space within the MIWSFPA. The opening reception, also at the gallery, takes place Feb. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.

    If you would like to book studio time during the exhibition, please email the artists to make advance arrangements at permanentvacationcanada@gmail.com

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    Categories: Alumni, Events, News

  • Join us for an Artist Talk with Phil Irish Jan. 30

    Artist Phil Irish


    The Department of Visual Arts is pleased to welcome Phil Irish to the MIWSFPA for an artist talk on Jan. 30.

    Irish, from Elora, Ontario, makes paintings that are both fierce and beautiful. He is known for cutting paintings into fragments, and installing those pieces to make architecturally scaled collages that engage your senses and your mind.  His new work is influenced by his time on an icebreaker in the Canadian arctic, with Canada C3, a 150-day expedition from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage that took place from June 1 to Oct. 28, 2017.

    He has shown in commercial galleries, artist-run centres, and public galleries, including the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Guelph, Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, Whyte Museum, Lonsdale Gallery and Angell Gallery, and was twice shortlisted for the Kingston Portrait Prize.

    He holds degrees from Guelph (BA) and York (MFA) and teaches studio at Redeemer University College.

    Irish will present at 1 p.m. on Jan. 30 in room 416 of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    The talk is free and open to the public.

    Registration is not required, but space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Events, News

  • New research shows empathy can shape drug policy

    Brock Visual Arts Professor Linda Steer’s research on drug photography has been published in the March edition of the International Journal of Drug Policy.


    In 2016, Ohio police released a photo of an American couple overdosing in their vehicle while a young child sat in the back. The image quickly went viral and attracted international attention.

    The predominantly negative conversation surrounding the image, and others like it, left Brock Visual Arts Professor Linda Steer wondering if viewing these photographs with more empathy could be key to changing discourse on drug users and altering drug policy in North America.

    Chosen for publication in the International Journal of Drug Policy, Steer’s article “Entangled empathy, drug use, and photographs of suffering” examines contemporary drug photography in the hopes of encouraging people to think outside of the box about drug use and users.

    “This research is very timely because every day we’re seeing a news story about the dangers of fentanyl or some other opiate,” said Steer, who teaches art history at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA). “There is a lack of understanding about what people that use drugs go through, and about drugs in general. It’s a kind of hysteria.”

    In the article, Steer examines the work of two contemporary photographers: Chris Arnade and Tony Fouhse. Both are middle-aged, white men, who photographed female drug users they met on the street.

    Steer looked at the artists’ work through the lens of ‘entangled empathy,’ a concept developed by American Philosophy Professor Lori Gruen. To Gruen, empathy is about more than simply being understanding and compassionate about another’s situation. Rather, it entails being responsive and responsible to that person in a way that promotes agency and positive change.

    Drawing from that idea, Steer studied how Arnade‘s and Fouhse’s photographs were created, circulated and received by viewers and compared how different settings, locations or mediums impacted the viewer’s engagement with empathy.

    “I found photographs with captions or text that worked to create a narrative had a better chance of creating empathy,” she said. “I also found that we can still have empathy when the power dynamics are quite uneven and that photographs shared on Facebook can sometimes provoke people to engage with their own experience of addiction in relation to the photograph.”

    Steer hopes the article will create dialogue about the role photographs of drug use play in shaping public opinion, and the opinion of policy-makers and government agencies.

    “Overall, photographic projects that show drug use have the potential to engage viewers with empathy and can be very useful in creating drug policy,” she said. “Policy-makers might see these kinds of photographs and notice how they can elicit empathy for people who are misunderstood or maligned. That can have a positive impact on policy.”

    Steer said having her work published in the journal is especially meaningful as this marks her first peer-reviewed article in a new field of research. The interdisciplinarity of her work is also important, she noted, as the journal typically publishes research from science-based disciplines.

    “I was really honoured for this work to be chosen as I think it speaks to how important photographs are and that we need to look more closely at the relationship between science and culture,” she explained. “Even scientific research is culture – so we’re bridging the gap between humanities and the sciences with this type of work.”

    She added that this research also showed her that “a lot more work has to be done” in this field of study.

    “Not just on empathy,” she added, “but on how it is related to politics, policy and how images create ideas about how we see others.”

    “Entangled empathy, drug use and photographs of suffering” is currently available for free download on the International Journal of Drug Policy website.

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Brock grad returns to MIWSFPA for first solo exhibition

    Brock alumna Kylie Haveron (BA ’18) is hosting her first solo exhibition, Not Dark Yet, at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) beginning Wednesday, Jan. 9.


    (From The Brock News, Thursday, January 3, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    As Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

    His message encapsulates the inspiration behind the first solo exhibition of Brock alumna Kylie Haveron (BA ’18), opening at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) this month.

    Running from Jan. 9 to 26, Not Dark Yet reflects on the dichotomy between lightness and darkness and the struggles we face in our daily lives.

    The exhibition is on at the VISA Gallery and Student Exhibition Space at the MIWSFPA, with an opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 10.

    “I look at how we believe day can bring a purpose, a connection and sense of certainty, while nightfall can bring anxiety as it signals the end of the opportunity for the day and a sense of waiting for the light of the next day to bring us answers,” Haveron explained.

    Haveron’s exhibition consists of a combination of drawings, sculpture and installations that explore the way that physical lightness and darkness can impact the lightness and darkness we experience within ourselves.

    She said the timing of the show is ideal, as the lack of sunlight during the winter months can trigger symptoms of depression in some individuals, often known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

    While many of her pieces are gritty and gloomy, the Brock grad hopes her work will inspire viewers to “let the light into their lives.”

    “Although I look at how extended periods of darkness can make us feel the darkness inside of us, I do have some pieces that give us ways to find the light,” she said. “We must not let the darkness determine our fate and our life, because the light can bring opportunity to have better outcomes.”

    Haveron is also looking forward to returning to her alma mater to showcase her first professional exhibition.

    “Hosting a solo show is a good learning experience and I’m happy I get to do it at Brock, where I have a lot of friends and am part of a supportive community,” she said.

    Not Dark Yet runs from Jan. 9 to 26 in the VISA Art Gallery and Student Exhibition Space at the MIWSFPA. The gallery is open to the public Tuesdays to Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

    An opening reception, also in the gallery, will be held Thursday, Jan. 10, from 5 to 8 p.m.

    This event is free and open to the community.

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    Categories: Alumni, Events, News

  • Hamilton Now series highlights Brock art instructor

    Brock instructor Donna Akrey is part of the exhibition Hamilton Now: Object at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until May 20. (Photo by Taien Ng-Chan.)


    (From The Brock News, Wednesday, December 19, 2018 | By: Jaquelyn Bezaire)

    As Donna Akrey knows all too well, art is woven into the fabric of any strong community.

    The textile work of the Brock University Visual Arts instructor is part of a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) that celebrates an influx of new artistic talent in the city.

    Akrey’s work Hamilton Yards will be on display at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until May 20.

    The Hamilton Now series, curated by Melissa Bennett, began in June with Hamilton Now: Subject, which focused on the culture and creativity in the city and spoke to who the artists are as individuals. The exhibit ran until Nov. 18, with artists using different mediums to explore aspects of their own identity.

    The series’ second exhibition, Hamilton Now: Object focuses mainly on sculptors.

    Hamilton Now: Object, which is now on display at the AGH and features Akrey’s work, emphasizes material exploration and awareness of the physical environment. The exhibit also features an interactive digital project that incorporates a sculptural map of Hamilton.

    Akrey recently moved from Montreal, where she found herself a part of a very strong arts community. Once she arrived to Hamilton, she was pleasantly surprised by the welcome she received.

    “The community is very strong, supportive and positive,” she said. “I’m honoured to be showing work alongside other amazing Hamilton artists.”

    Akrey’s piece, Hamilton Yards, is a series of fabrics digitally-printed with a custom-made repeating pattern of photo images. Akrey spent time wandering the neighbourhoods of east end Hamilton and documenting the spots that interested her.

    “I have wanted to make textile work for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity,” she said. “Through these works, I continue to address mapping, place and location in Hamilton specifically.”

    Alongside Akrey, the exhibition includes pieces by Christopher Reid Flock, Destiny Grimm, Hamilton Perambulatory Unit, Svava Thordis Juliusson, Carmela Laganse, Laura Marotte, Taien Ng-Chan and the collective art group band Persons.

    On Thursday, Jan. 17, Akrey will be joined by Thordis Juliusson and Ng-Chan in the first of two panel events. The artists will lead guests through a series of sculptural activities, “object-oriented storytelling” and mapping exercises.

    Hamilton Now: Object runs until May 20 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The official opening is Sunday, Feb. 3. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday.

    For more information, visit the Art Gallery of Hamilton website.

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Brock prof unveils Invisible Histories at Toronto exhibition

    Invisible Histories, by Brock researcher and Visual Arts Chair, Professor Donna Szoke, is installed at the John B. Aird Gallery and CONTACT Gallery in Toronto until Nov. 23. Her work is pictured above: Donna Szoke, Invisible HistoriesGeo-loactive smart phone/tablet app, 2015


    (From The Brock News, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 | By: )

    The work of Brock Professor Donna Szoke on the hidden history of nuclear waste is being featured in a Toronto group exhibition that opened last week.

    Szoke, a researcher and Visual Arts Chair, has her work on display as part of Digital Animalities — a two-venue exhibition of artworks that examines how human-animal understandings and relationships are changing through the use of ubiquitous media and new technologies.

    The exhibition is part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada(SSHRC)-funded research project titled “Digital Animalities: Media Representations of Nonhuman Life in the Age of Risk,” led by Jody Berland of York University.It brings the work of artists and researchers together to highlight the challenges and opportunities for new understandings of animals in contemporary digital culture.

    Co-curated by Giovanni Aloi, Matthew Brower and Curatorial Assistant Seb Roberts, Digital Animalities divided the works into two exhibitions: Mapping (at the James B. Aird gallery) and Rendering (at CONTACT Gallery).

    Szoke’s Invisible Histories (a geolocative smartphone/tablet app she developed in 2015) is featured in the Mapping exhibition.

    The free app maps nuclear waste at a Niagara Falls, N.Y., storage site, where more than 270,000 mice used in radioactive experiments have been buried.The app brings public awareness to the fact that there is radioactive evidence of secret atomic testing that took place during the infamous Manhattan Project in Niagara.

    Users are guided through the app to the rodent burial site through the leadership of green, glowing 3D mice that become more prevalent on-screen as the site grows near.Szoke said it’s ironic, because no one actually wants to go towards nuclear waste, but the mice guide users to their graves to reveal their tragic end.

    Szoke was awarded the 2017 Faculty of Humanities Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.

    Her artistic work includes media art, interactive animation, installation, drawing, experimentation and printmaking.

    Digital Animalities runs at the John B. Aird Gallery and CONTACT Gallery in Toronto until Nov. 23.  The Invisible Histories app is available for free download at the iTunes store (OsX) and Google Play (Android).

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    Categories: Announcements, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Public talk and exhibition explore selfies and homeownership

    In his exhibition running until Nov. 7, Alejandro Cartagena has curated a selection of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s vast collection of publicly shared selfies. (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena, from the official website of the office of the President of Mexico)


    (From The Brock News, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 | by Sarah Moore)

    While acclaimed artist Alejandro Cartagena’s work focuses mainly on suburban life in Mexico, the themes expressed in his photographs bear uncanny resemblances to issues also currently impacting Canadians.

    Brock Visual Arts Professor Amy Friend said it’s that universality that made Cartagena’s work so appealing and was why she invited him to this year’s Walker Cultural Leaders Series at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).

    Alejandro Cartagena, an international award-winning artist, self-publisher and editor who lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico, will present a lecture and exhibition as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena)

    “I’ve seen Cartagena’s work making an impact in how he is able to question political issues, mostly focused in Mexico, but I think there is a really universal message in what he is presenting,” she said. “It’s also important for students and the public to interact on a personal basis with a successful, working artist. To see that these are real people making real work in the real world — and it’s creating a dialogue.”

    Cartagena is presenting an exhibition, Presidential Guide to Selfies, and giving a public lecture titled Visualizing space and some ideas of homeownership 2006 to 2018.  The exhibition opening reception and the lecture both take place on Wednesday, Oct. 17 and are free and open to the public.

    Hosted in the VISA Gallery and Student Exhibition Space, Presidential Guide to Selfies asks people to question the motives behind Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s vast collection of publicly shared selfies.

    Cartagena has curated a selection of these selfies (currently posted to the President’s Official website) as a means to examine whether these images are being shared to show the Mexican President’s engagement with the people of his country, or whether it is merely an exercise in vanity as he ‘poses with his fans.’
    Cartagena has also created an accompanying photobook for this exhibition in which he details the events surrounding each selfie.

    Friend noted that in an age of cell phones and social media, and with Canada’s own Justin Trudeau often affectionately and critically called ‘Prime Minister Selfie,’ the exhibition’s exploration of politics, social media connectivity and celebrity culture is exceptionally timely.

    Following the gallery opening, Cartagena will explore the interdependence of humans and landscape in the face of urban expansion in a lecture drawing from his own body of work.

    Carpoolers, for example, is comprised of a series of photographs taken of migrant workers travelling around Mexico in the beds of pickup trucks.

    In his public lecture on Oct. 17, Alejandro Cartagena will explore issues of home and ownership through the use of his work such as Carpoolers, which documents migrant workers riding in the back of vehicles. (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena)

    The images of hardworking labourers travelling from job to job during the harvest season can conjure connections to Niagara’s own large migrant worker population.

    In Ontario alone, tens of thousands of migrant workers come to farms, orchards and greenhouses as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program every year. They work and live in communities in the Niagara Fruit Belt, often spending six to eight months working in the agricultural hub of the province.

    “The idea of ownership floats around in Cartagena’s work, looking at suburban Mexican homes, border issues, migrant issues, issues of poverty and wealth,” said Friend. “It’s quite poignant now, in particular with what is happening with migration issues worldwide, and it also makes us question how we treat our own migrant workers. How do we decide how housing is built? Do we even know what is happening here in Canada?”

    The lecture is being held in the Robertson Theatre at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

    Steve Solski, Executive Director, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, said hosting the event in conjunction with the MIWSFPA is another example of the close community partnership between the two establishments.

    “The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and our neighbours at the Marilyn I. Walker School have together truly become the cultural hub for our city and region,” said Solski. “The synergy between bringing together the very best artists from across our country and world paired with nurturing and developing local artists and young creative minds, is key to our thriving arts community.”

    Tickets to the lecture are free, but registration is required by visiting the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre website.  The exhibition runs until Nov. 7.

    Presidential Guide to Selfies
    Exhibition opening: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 5 p.m., VISA Art Gallery and Student Exhibition Space, MIWSFPA
    Exhibition runs: Oct. 4 to Nov. 7

    Visualizing space and some ideas of homeownership 2006-2018
    Wednesday, Oct. 17, 6 p.m., Robertson Theatre, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre

    The Walker Cultural Leader series brings leading artists, performers, practitioners and academics to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University. Engaging, lively and erudite, these sessions celebrate professional achievement, artistic endeavour and the indelible role of culture in our society. Please join us. This education program is generously founded by Marilyn I. Walker.

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    Categories: Events, Walker Cultural Leader Series

  • Beloved Visual Arts staffer inspires Art History award

    Lesley Bell, right, sits with Visual Arts Chair Donna Szőke, one final time in the Learning Commons at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts before Bell’s retirement. The department marked her retirement with the creation of the Lesley Bell Award, to be presented to the Art History student entering third year with the highest average.


    (From The Brock News, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018 | by Sarah Moore)
    When you walk into the Learning Commons at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), you are greeted by the always-smiling face of Lesley Bell.

    The long-time Co-ordinator enthusiastically helps students, staff and faculty alike on their quests for knowledge, is always eager to explain how a piece of software works and has no shortage of stories to share about art, the University or life in general.

    It is her passion for the work that she does, and for the people she works with, that inspired the Visual Arts Department to pay tribute to Bell’s legacy with a student award named in her honour.

    Created in recognition of her retirement at the end of August, the new Lesley Bell Award will be presented annually to the third-year History of Art and Visual Culture major with the highest average.

    Donna Szőke, Chair of the Visual Arts Department, said the award is a fitting way to recognize student accomplishment as well as Bell’s time with Brock, both academically and professionally.

    “Lesley has been an invaluable resource to our department,” she said.  “Her constant generosity of spirit, curiosity and kindness has touched the lives of the many students, instructors and staff of Visual Arts, as well as Brock as a whole. We celebrate Lesley with this award.”

    Bell, who has been employed with Brock for 34 years, is the longest-serving staff member in the Visual Arts Department.

    She remembers her journey through the ranks at Brock fondly, starting from her decision to enrol as a student in 1983.

    While working part time as a waitress, Bell would always share her love of the arts with her coworkers. As a mature student in her 30s, however, she was skeptical about going back to school.

    After some prodding from coworkers — and realizing there was a night class at Brock that she could attend which wouldn’t interfere with her work schedule — she decided to enrol.

    “I started an art history class with Sylvia Osterbind, a fine arts librarian who also taught the Art History course for a fledgling program in History and Studio Arts at Brock,” Bell recalled. “Sylvia was a formidable teacher. I sat at the back of the class and watched her stride in front of two projected images of ancient art in her sensible shoes, waving her pointer and lecturing with her succinct German accent.”

    From that point on, Bell was “hooked.” She would close down the bar, working until the wee hours of the morning, and then wake up for early morning seminars.

    “I suddenly noticed ‘classical’ architectural elements on the buildings on St. Paul Street when riding the bus home from Brock, and I met some people who are still important friends,” she recalls fondly. “I started Brock thinking I was not smart enough for university, but that course showed me that I had a mind that could ask questions, and I had eyes that could see the creative world around me.”

    After graduating with an Honours B.A. in Visual Arts from Brock University in 1988, Bell then continued her studies and earned a Master of Library Science degree from Western University in 1993.

    From there, she returned to the place where it all started and began working at Brock as a Visual Arts resource co-ordinator.

    Over time, her job would evolve to include oversight of the Brock University Art Collection and the former Sean O’Sullivan Art Gallery on the main campus.

    Bell would eventually conceive and help design the Learning Commons in the new MIWSFPA building in downtown St. Catharines, where her duties expanded to include managing the equipment kiosk and supervising student monitors. She constantly worked to develop opportunities for the space to further benefit students and the community, and never stopped striving to make it a more inclusive place to study and congregate.

    Bell is not one to boast about her accomplishments or bask in the spotlight, however. Especially, she says, when she was simply “doing her job.”

    But when it comes to the student award in her honour, she is proud that her legacy will serve to inspire future students to also pursue their passions.

    “I don’t know if I can say this emphatically enough: this award means more to me than the decades of service to Brock and is a legacy that actually stuns me,” she said. “We are all here because of the students that we train, nurture and mentor.  However, we seldom get a chance to know that we ‘make a difference.’ So, it is deeply significant to me to be given this gift from the department.”


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    Categories: Alumni, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, News