Faculty & Instructors

  • Students showcase video art in local film festival through work-integrated learning

    Image caption: The opening image of Wind Sky, directed by Xudanlei Liu. Liu’s original video art is part of the Advanced Video Art student online screenings at the upcoming Mighty Niagara Film Fest presented by the Niagara Artists Centre.

    Originally published in The Brock News | MONDAY, JULY 05, 2021 

    Brock students have captured their experiences during the pandemic on film and are sharing their insights with the community.

    Exploring themes of identity, isolation and using everyday objects to create art, the project was born from an innovative work-integrated learning course and will see students present their videos during a professional film festival online.

    In Advanced Video (VISA/ISAC/STAC 3P10), students build upon their creative, technical and critical skills for video art production, post-production and critical evaluation, and are introduced to a variety of forms and approaches to video art, emphasizing its creation and contextualization in contemporary art discourses.

    Led by Donna Szoke, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), the project is funded in part by Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada’s Innovation Hub (iHub), through the Government of Canada’s Innovative Work-Integrated Learning (IWIL) initiative, and supported by Niagara Artists Centre (NAC).

    Students created independent video art that is available online until Aug. 15 in affiliation with the NAC in downtown St. Catharines. The videos will also be presented as part of NAC’s Mighty Niagara Film Festival running Aug. 18 to 22. Both events are free to the public.

    This rich educational experience has allowed students to produce quality work in a professional setting while exploring their creativity.

    Thanks to the CEWIL grant awarded to Szoke for the course, students will be paid for their work being showcased in the festival. The project has also helped students to add valuable work to their portfolios and build their resumés for future opportunities.

    Minhal Enam, a third-year Interactive Arts and Science student in the Faculty of Humanities, is among those showcasing their video art.

    Enam said the past year has been difficult because of the pandemic and that participating in the film festival was a welcome and pleasant surprise.

    “When I was creating this project, I didn’t think my work would ever be screened at a film festival,” he said. “This shows me that you never know what lies next in terms of opportunities and open doors.

    “As an international student, I am lucky to be involved in a project like this,” Enam said. “Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, I never thought I would express my thoughts and passion as I am doing now. I am trusting my own journey, and this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to create more.”

    The CEWIL funding also allowed for established artists to virtually visit students throughout Winter Term, delivering presentations focused on their practices as Canadian video artists exhibiting in international film festivals. After receiving advice during the mentorship sessions, students selected their best work from the term for the two public screenings.

    Szoke said it’s important that young artists feel their work, time and creative skills have value.

    “They need to know what they do matters,” she said. “This is a chance to craft their ability to make artwork and grow faith in themselves as artists.”

    Stephen Remus, the Minister of Energy, Minds and Resources at the NAC, has been involved with the artist-run centre in various capacities for the past 15 years.

    “NAC is always interested in what young and emerging artists are creating at the Marilyn I. Walker School,” he said. “There’s a give and take. We learn what their interests and preoccupations are and, in turn, we’re able to introduce them to the NAC and artist-run culture.”

    Remus said Canada can “lay a unique claim to the establishment of a national artist-run network.”

    “It’s unlike anything else in the world. And the NAC is one of the earliest nodes on that network, now more than 50 years old.”

    From Winnipeg to Vancouver to St. Catharines, Szoke has a long history of collaborating with artist-run centres across the country. As a passionate artist who engages with experimental education programs and uses media art as a form of activism, she believes video as a medium occupies a dynamic and vital space in visual arts with great impacts on community.

    Community engagement is at the centre of the Advanced Video course, with a focus on giving students an opportunity to showcase their creative work in a professional setting while earning an industry-standard wage. Educating students about the standards of professional wages in the creative sector is an important piece of the project.

    “Community is the bridge to the future,” Szoke said. “If students can have significant experiences making meaningful work that people in the community value, this real-world labour can change all of our lives and have a big impact on students’ futures.”

    Even though the structure of the NAC is “anarchistic in the best ways,” the centre can be a leader in community and audience engagement, and prioritize support of living artists,” Remus said. “This includes informing students about the professional rates for the payment of artists.”

    The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada or Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, News, Uncategorised

  • Fine and Performing Arts grads poised to shape the future with creative skills

    Image caption: Soo Myung Oh, at her piano, will graduate with a Bachelor of Music and plans to perform professionally in addition to pursuing teaching performance after completing her degree at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Image credit: Photo by Shannon Peebles, Ventures & Vows Photography.

    Students graduating from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) are ready to make their mark in the world.

    From creating innovative art in support of social justice causes, to utilizing professional art practices in the mental health field and pursuing careers in live performance bringing joy to audiences, MIWSFPA grads are drawing on their academic experiences and diverse skill sets to propel them forward on their career paths.

    For Ian Ball, who will graduate Friday, June 18 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts and History of Art and Visual Culture, continuing his creative work in digital media is a top priority.

    Music graduand Nick Braun will continue to write and record his own music after graduation.

    Ball is currently working with Toronto-based [elephants collective]’s Telethon Telethon! This collaborative project is a monthly digital performance experiment that aims to provide aid to various social justice causes and is currently supporting the Anishnawbe Health Foundation.

    Ball is looking forward to the easing of public health restrictions within the arts when it is safe to do so.

    “I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to develop a follow-up to work I co-created in 2019’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto,” he said.

    Combining his interests in dramatic arts and visual culture, Ball will be pursuing a master’s degree in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University in the fall, with hopes of one day completing a PhD and working in the cultural field.

    As Music graduand Soo Myung Oh looks to the future, she reflects on her time at Brock. The busy mother of three pursued her degree during the day, reserving her evenings for family time.

    “My four years in the Music program were about the process of identifying myself as a musician,” said Oh, who graduates Friday with a Bachelor of Music, Concentration in Music Education and Minor in Applied Linguistics. “Although I played piano for years in my youth, I was completely new to public performance and I had to learn how to play music and deliver it to audiences.”

    Oh fondly remembers the experience of performing in the Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, adjacent to the MIWSFPA in downtown St. Catharines. Performing on a professional stage was a defining moment for the musician.

    “I can still recall the way the piano sounded as I played, and the interaction between the sound and the air in the hall on that special day. It was simply an amazing experience,” she said.

    After she graduates, Oh will continue to perform professionally and would like to eventually teach performance, inspired by her concentration in Music Education. Her current interest for further study is therapeutic recreation and gerontology.

    “Since my musical experience at Brock started from my own experience of retrieving memories, and my process for preparing my solo piano recital relied heavily on the cognitive process of music and brainwork, I became interested in the connection between the two and implications of aging,” Oh said.

    “My degree has allowed me to write music and produce my own recordings,” Braun said.Nick Braun, who will also graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, is excited to continue writing music.

    His studies have given him a unique skill set “to make modern, unique and refreshing music,” he said, adding his style fits somewhere in the alternative rock realm.

    Braun will take some time after graduation to work locally, save money and continue to work on his personal music projects.

    “Between me and my network of friends in the music industry, I will be taking on opportunities to work with various people and explore our creative potential as young artists,” Braun said.

    Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture graduand Maya Meyerman is excited to continue her scholarly and creative work in the cultural field and will pursue a graduate certificate in the arts and culture sector at Humber College in September.

    Graduand Maya Meyerman, who will receive her Bachelor of Arts in Studies in Arts and Culture with a concentration in Cultural Management on Friday, discovered her career pathway through diverse experiences within the interdisciplinary program.

    Gaining a critical view of contemporary culture and connecting with the local arts scene led Meyerman to pursue a graduate certificate in Arts Administration and Cultural Management at Humber College.

    “I’m excited to pursue opportunities in Toronto and build upon my experience at Brock,” she said. “The MIWSFPA is such an inspiring place to learn and connect with the arts, and I have made deep connections with the arts community.”

    Meyerman recently produced an arts festival for youth ages 13 to 30 in Kingston and will be spending the summer preparing for next year’s edition.

    “As someone who didn’t want to study just one branch of the arts, the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture and the MIWSFPA provided me with a creative and safe venue to explore my personal interests, introducing me to the many versions of what ‘the arts’ can be,” she said. “I know that it has prepared me to take on the next step towards my career in the arts industry.”

    Visual Arts (VISA) graduand Kendra Bosse has developed her art practice and realized her passion for photography as therapy.

    Bosse, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Psychology and Minor in Indigenous Studies, is committed to engaging with her art to positively impact individuals experiencing mental health issues and addiction.

    “After graduation, I will be attending Canadore College to study mental health and addictions counselling to gain experience in the field before pursuing graduate school,” she said.

    Bosse and fellow VISA graduand Cree Tylee are capping off their final year at Brock with a double exhibition “treasured | (A)part,” currently on view virtually in the VISA Gallery on the first floor of the MIWSFPA until Monday, July 5.

    Relationship as Deep as The Ocean, 2021, Cyanotype on Cotton (24 in x 36in) by Kendra Bosse as featured in the double exhibition “treasured” and “(A)part.”

    The bodies of work were developed under the supervision of Visual Arts Chair and Associate Professor Amy Friend for the students’ independent studies courses in the Visual Arts.

    “The double exhibition of treasured and (A)part was a cathartic way to finish the end of an unconventional graduating year,” said Tylee, who will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Minor in the History of Art and Visual Culture. “Working with Visual Arts Media Resource Co-ordinator Max Holten-Andersen to create a virtual exhibition for our show (including a 360 virtual tour) was an insightful experience that wouldn’t have happened under different circumstances.”

    Even though they were unable to have a traditional gallery opening, the ability to learn and become well-versed in the creation of virtual exhibits is a valuable skill the students will take with them, she said, calling it a “silver lining.”

    Title wall of Cree Tylee’s body of work entitled (A)part. Tylee describes this exhibition as a “very introspective and multi-faceted body of work with multiplicities of concepts I’ll be able to draw on for further graduate studies.”

    Both artists agree that bringing this final exhibition into fruition has been an enlightening process, acknowledging that completing a thesis under the supervision of Friend and having a final exhibition made their final year very fulfilling.After graduation, Tylee, recipient of the Distinguished Graduating Student Award in Visual Arts, will be taking an accelerated studio program in Ceramics at the Haliburton School of Art + Design while preparing for further graduate studies.

    The virtual exhibition and 360 gallery tour of treasured | (A)part can be viewed on the Visual Arts website.

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  • Visual Arts students, alumni unite for collaborative exhibition

    Image caption: Artwork from CODA artists Lillian Pasqua, Curt Richards, Aidan Frenette displayed in the Visual Arts (VISA) 4F06 Honours Exhibition at Rodman Hall Arts Centre.

    Brock’s fourth-year student artists and Visual Arts (VISA) graduates are showcasing their contemporary artwork in a new collaborative exhibition entitled CODA.

    CODA not only features the work of current students, but of VISA alumni who were unable to present their final works to the public due to pandemic-related event closures last spring.

    Through the bodies of work of 14 artists, CODA is an overarching contemporary exploration of individual voices and visual languages. The exhibition considers the engagement of traditional material with unconventional installation.

    Mounted at the Rodman Hall Arts Centre (RHAC), CODA is now available to view virtually through a 360 gallery tour and virtual exhibition. The show is curated by Shawn Serfas, Associate Professor of Studio Art and Chair of VISA and Sarah Martin (BA ’19), Gallery Assistant at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) gallery.

    As no in-person exhibitions were held in the MIWSFPA gallery this past year, Martin understands first-hand the devasatting effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the arts community.

    “Being able to make this show a reality for these students was about celebrating their work and sharing that as much as possible,” she said.

    The capstone studio arts course culminates in a public, professional exhibition historically featured at RHAC. In 2020, Brock University announced the sale of the RHAC property and the formation of a community-based group (RHAC Inc.) whose stewardship has ensured the art collection remains a community asset with a sustainable future.

    Martin acknowledges the significance of CODA being the final exhibition to be held in the space.

    “Having shown my own work in an Honours Exhibition at Rodman Hall, it is easy to say that it was the highlight of my experience at Brock. Now, being able to help put this show together feels very special and fulfilling for me,” she says.

    Student Aidan Frenette expressed how meaningful it is to have her work be part of the collaborative exhibition.

    “Like many of my fellow students and alumni, the VISA 4F06 culminating exhibition means a great deal to me,” she says. “The opportunity to display a year’s worth of hard work within a renowned gallery is a rewarding experience in and of itself. However, to have the privilege of participating in the final show held at Rodman Hall is an honour.”

    Zachary White, an alumnus and CODA participating artist, appreciates the opportunity to engage with his art in a professional setting.

    His involvement in the exhibition had him thinking critically about the production of his work.

    “I had to consider the curation process, installation of the work and how to connect pieces together in a cohesive way to let each piece of art shine individually — and as part of a collection,” he said.

    White added that throughout the studio art program at Brock, he worked through different styles and mediums to build his ‘artistic toolbox.’

    “This exhibition gave me the opportunity to let everything I learned speak through a style that is unique to me,” he said. “Ultimately, this show does more than just exhibit work; it highlights a culmination of the studio art program and provides a bridge between the student and the professional art experience.”

    CODA ran from May 12 to 26 at RHAC (closed to the public) but can be viewed virtually through the VISA website.

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    Categories: 4F06 Honours Exhibition, Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Exhibitions, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Uncategorised

  • Visual Arts grad catches the eye of WIRED magazine

    Image caption: “Three Polaroids” is a piece from Amber Lee Williams’ collection “Tethered” that uses a Polaroid emulsion lift technique. “Through self-portraits, photos of my own children and other mothers with their children, “Tethered” is part observation and part documentation of daily life,” Williams says.

    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, MAY 07, 2021 | by 

    While the look of a classic Polaroid picture is familiar to most people, interdisciplinary artist Amber Lee Williams (BA ’20) is challenging that standard and garnering international attention with her creative use of the iconic medium.

    Among those captivated by the St. Catharines’ artist’s compelling work is WIRED magazine, which recently commissioned Williams’ art for an article about adoption. The international publication reaches 30 million readers each month.

    Originally interested in painting, Williams, who graduated from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) last year with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art,  discovered a passion for experimental photography when introduced to the darkroom in her second-year Analogue Photography class.

    Williams developed her art practice during her degree based on a technique called Polaroid emulsion lifts. In this treatment, the top layer of a Polaroid photo (known as the emulsion layer) is separated from the physical print by soaking it in water. After the separation of the emulsion image has occurred, it is often transferred to other surfaces such as watercolour paper or hard surfaces like rocks.

    Through creative and scholarly exploration undertaken by Williams during her time in the Visual Arts program, she reimagined the Polaroid emulsion lift technique by capturing digital images of the emulsion lift in process. She was excited by how the images looked floating in water and found them to have an “ephemeral quality.”

    Brock alumna and local artist Amber Lee Williams was recently commissioned by WIRED magazine for her innovative work with Polaroid images.

    In her current work, Williams continues to explore the interplay between analogue and digital media, weaving this theme through her pieces.

    “My time at Brock put me on a very experimental path. My professors encouraged me to use unconventional materials, or to invent new ways to use materials. I was never told ‘this wasn’t the assignment’ — even when I handed in some weird stuff,” she said with a smile.

    Associate Professor of Visual Arts Amy Friend, who taught Williams’ Analogue Photography class, said that Williams consistently challenged her studio assignments, and with each critique, brought in a plethora of work that demonstrated a clear commitment to pushing process and result.

    “Her unique approach of blending alternate materials within the folds of photographic practice wonderfully represents the explorative nature of studio-based courses and the progression of her practice as an artist,” Friend said.

    Opportunity called in December 2020 when a senior editor of WIRED reached out to Williams — a connection made through Friend — to commission her Polaroid works for an upcoming article. With that, Williams embarked on her first big job in the creative sector.

    Fuelled by excitement and a touch of nervousness, she began her creative work for Adoption Moved to Facebook and a War Began written by Samantha M. Shapiro.

    “First, photographer Juan Diego Reyes took some photos using colour film of the family featured in the adoption article. The film was developed, scanned and sent to me to print as Polaroids to turn into lifts,” Williams explained.

    The lead image of the article created as a result is one of her favourite images that she has ever made.

    “The way Reyes photographed the family — with these big shadows cast behind them — felt so symbolic of what the story was all about, which was this dark side of adoption,” she said.

    Williams also created her own still life images featuring children’s items. With a toddler and seven-year-old at home, she had what she needed on hand to create original images for the rest of the article.

    Creating original images took her out of her comfort zone and posed an exciting challenge, Williams said.

    “I’m usually just making art about myself (or my own family), and for myself. Trying to make the work fit someone else’s ideas was very different than what I’m used to.”

    Williams, who recently completed her second term in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the University of Waterloo, hasn’t slowed since graduating from Brock. The busy mother of two looks forward to what the future holds.

    “I didn’t think I would be doing my MFA mostly online with my kids home, but here we are. I got through the first year and now I’ll have the summer to make more work and enjoy some time with my family,” she said.

    Williams hopes to showcase her work, “Tethered,” this fall at an exhibition in St. Catharines pending public health protocols.

    As she continues her schooling, she is contemplating what her next moves will be.

    “What I know now is that I just want to make art, and help other people make art,” she said.

    Williams’ art portfolio can be found on her website, amberleeart.com, and on her Instagram page.

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  • Student art exhibition explores isolation, identity during a pandemic

    A word often used in the past year is taking on a different meaning for Visual Arts (VISA) students as they showcase their work in a new exhibition — “unprecedented.”

    In what has been a different academic year for Brock students and faculty, this newly mounted exhibition explores the art that VISA students have created at home during the pandemic.

    Located on the first floor of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) downtown campus, the VISA Gallery is a teaching exhibition space showcasing the works of undergraduate VISA students. While the gallery remains closed to the public due to public health protocols, students have been able to present their works throughout April in the physical space and viewers will have the chance to experience the gallery online in the coming days.

    The concept for the exhibition was born of the challenges experienced by students practicing studio-based art from home.

    Brock Studio Arts graduate and VISA Gallery Assistant Sarah Martin (BA ’19) was inspired to create a digital space where students could share their work in the form of an Instagram page.

    “From some of the incredible Instagram submissions made by VISA students in their year of isolation, I put together pieces that explore themes of identity to display on-site in our MIWSFPA gallery.  This has given students an opportunity to present their work in a professional setting beyond their online classes,” she says.

    The result is “unprecedented” (spelled with a lower case “u” as an artistic choice), a new exhibition curated by Martin that features the work of students in their first to fourth year, ranging across all mediums reflecting the scope and diversity of the students’ art practices.

    For third-year Studio Art major Taylor Elliott, participating in the exhibition has been an honour and he is appreciative he has been able to share his work, even if the public cannot see it in person at this time.

    “I’m very grateful for opportunities to see and be seen in this unique way,” he says. “This is the first show of any kind I’ve submitted to since the pandemic started, and it is great to feel connected to the art community in such unprecedented times.”

    Cree Tylee, a fourth-year Studio Art major with a minor in History of Art and Visual Culture, agrees that continuing to show work and share creative ideas with peers is critical given the current climate of the world.

    “If there is ever a time where the need for artistic expression peaks, it is during times of unrest,” she says. “I feel it’s important to keep creating and viewing new work, and so I was happy to have an opportunity to share my work in a gallery space.”

    Drawing on themes of isolation, Tylee was inspired by returning home.

    “Through the collection of natural materials from that landscape, using acrylic and photographic mediums, I chose to allude to a metaphysical version of ‘home,’” she says of her work featured in unprecedented.

    While the student artists welcome the chance to get back to an in-person studio environment when it is safe to do so, participating in this exhibition has been a meaningful experience for them.

    “As someone trying to break into the art scene, even just at a local level, this exhibit means the world to me,” says Eden Rioux, a second-year Studio Art major whose pieces in unprecedented explore self-reflection and the notion of daydreaming. “It’s always an honour to have your work displayed alongside others. It is a cumulative experience working towards a larger impact.”

    Rioux also points out that many artists turn to their art as a coping mechanism, allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings beyond the spoken or written word. While isolation can be lonely, artistic discoveries can still be made, they add.

    “It’s really amazing to see what everyone else is struggling with, thriving with and creating with,” says Rioux.

    Elliott also acknowledges key lessons learned during the pandemic about the importance of community, and not taking it for granted.

    “I think when things open up again, people will be so much more ready to be active and involved in the art world — I know I will be,” he says.

    The unprecedented exhibition runs until Friday, April 30. While currently closed to the public, the VISA Gallery will take over the MIWSFPA Instagram “stories” starting Monday, April 26 so viewers can virtually explore the gallery space.

    The works in unprecedented (and other student works) are available to view on an ongoing basis by following the @brockvisagallery Instagram page.

    Follow the @MIWSFPA Instagram page to view the unprecedented exhibition takeover.

    To learn more about the VISA Gallery, please visit the web page here.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Exhibitions, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Uncategorised

  • Brock welcomes Indigenous artist, curator and scholar to MIWSFPA

    Originally published in The Brock News on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 03, 2021 | by 

    Caption: Suzanne Morrissette has joined the Department of Visual Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, where she is teaching Studio Art. (Photo courtesy of Red Works Photography)

    First and foremost, Suzanne Morrissette is an Indigenous artist. Métis by way of the Red River Valley and Interlake regions in Winnipeg, Man., the artist, curator and scholar is a transplant to the territories of southern Ontario.

    She vividly remembers the work of Indigenous artists on the walls of her childhood home and in her father’s office space, as well as the murals on buildings in her community.

    “Growing up and being surrounded by this creativity was an exciting part of my everyday experience,” Morrissette says.

    She always knew that working in the arts is where she would land professionally.

    Working across disciplines in Indigenous and curatorial studies, Morrissette is the newest member of Brock’s Visual Arts Department, teaching Studio Art at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA). A trained artist, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, a master’s degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University, and a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University.

    Morrissette has worked extensively in the field with Indigenous artists curating diverse shows with focuses ranging from perceptions of Indigenous political thought to relationships between land and place.

    As a studio-based artist and scholar, Morrissette is deeply engaged in research creation, committed to exploring how creative work can be used to find solutions to research questions or problems. Her identity as an Indigenous artist and curator has a lot to do with the type of research she is involved with, and also shapes the way she participates in projects.

    Engaging with Indigenous methodologies, histories and knowledge systems will be critical to her teaching and continued research work that she now brings to the Brock community.

    “At Brock, I see a great opportunity to continue the research and work that I am doing alongside colleagues who share a commitment to rigorous visual arts and studio arts-based research, and in a strong program and facility that is incredible for student research and work,” she says.

    Morrissette is currently working on a project close to her heart and personal history,  a research study with collaborators Richard Hill of Emily Carr University of Art + Design and Jamie Isaac of the Winnipeg Art Gallery entitled “Social Histories / Indigenous Art: Curating Social Work’s Influence on Winnipeg’s Indigenous Art of the ’80s and ’90s.”

    The project examines the relationship between the early developments of Indigenous social work that were taking place in Winnipeg in the ’80s and ’90s, and how these efforts supported concurrent developments in Indigenous arts.

    Even though it wasn’t necessarily in the mandate for these organizations, they supported the arts and creative practice in the community, Morrissette says.

    “My father and uncle were two of the people really involved in growing Indigenous social work capacity,” she says. “Our research team wants to learn about how this unstated but nonetheless important support of the arts came to be at that time.”

    In addition to work on the study, Morrissette is currently taking part in an exhibition out of Kingston’s Agnes Etherington Gallery featuring Métis artists, and is involved in ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art, a new initiative reflecting the city’s renewed commitment to public art.

    While she uses different mediums in her studio practice, Morrissette has recently been working with video and image projection in conjunction with audio recordings to create interactive experiences. As part of ArtworxTO, she aims to take over the walls and facades of Toronto’s trendy Junction neighbourhood at night throughout 2021.

    Ultimately, the motivation for Morrissette’s research and creative practice is born of her work as a Métis curator and artist.

    “I am working to address concerns that not only interest me and make me curious, but also to understand how I can contribute to healthier Indigenous communities in the future,” she says.

    She plans to develop a course at Brock over the next few years centred on Indigenous representation that will enrich the educational experience for all students at the MIWSFPA.

    “Issues of representation for Indigenous people are very important considerations for anyone with a creative practice, in any genre,” she says.

    Morrissette is strategizing long term with her goals at Brock, acknowledging the history of the University and ongoing moves toward Indigenization.

    “I bring a speciality in Indigenous art and I am mindful of the work done before my arrival. I am excited to learn what have my colleagues been working towards, who are the students, and how I can support Brock in its commitment to inclusivity and decolonization through my teaching and research practices.”

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  • Art kits allow VISA students to hone skills at home

    Caption: The VISA Art Stores at Brock University has been providing access to course materials to students for more than 37 years.

    Half the battle in creating a beautiful piece of art is finding a spark of creativity and having the skills to bring it to life. The other half, however, is having access to the right materials and equipment to turn that vision into reality.

    Aspiring artists and scholars studying Visual Arts (VISA) at Brock University have continued to hone their skills despite the pandemic thanks not only to dedication to their disciplines, but also to staff and faculty who have made it possible.

    Studio Art instructors at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) have been challenged to reimagine drawing, painting, sound and video courses to suit an online setting. That has also meant ensuring students have access to the materials and equipment necessary to continue their studies.

    The results have been overwhelmingly positive, resulting in experiences that might not have been encountered by students in a pre-pandemic semester.

    The extensive efforts of the VISA faculty have been supported by two key players: Max Holten-Andersen, Instructor, Media Resource Co-ordinator, and co-ordinator of the VISA Equipment Kiosk, and Arnold McBay, Instructor and VISA Department Facilities Technician, who manages the VISA Art Stores.

    Central to the course work of Visual Arts students, the VISA Art Stores have provided Brock students access to art materials related to drawing, painting and sculpture courses since the mid-1980s. The Equipment Kiosk, established in 2015 after the move to the current MIWSFPA downtown campus, provides students with access to digital and analogue photography, sound and video equipment.

    Both outlets are usually staffed by student assistants during the day and evening, six days a week. Students visit for their materials and equipment needs, as well as for advice and mentorship from the managers, who are also both VISA instructors.

    With the switch to online course delivery, McBay and Holten-Andersen were met with the challenge of facilitating materials and equipment support for students in a manner that met provincial and Brock pandemic protocols, and without the students being on site.

    Fourth-year student Rea Kelly knows first-hand how important access to creative tools are for her degree.

    “Having the VISA Art Stores at the MIWSFPA has become a necessity for my four years at Brock as a Studio Art major,” she says. “I cannot count the number of times myself or my peers have run out of paint or drawing materials mid-class and have had to run to the art store for materials. I can’t imagine the school without it.”

    Answering the call for a solution, McBay developed kits in consultation with faculty that include all of the art supplies and materials students require to complete their course work and develop their art practice.

    The kits are available for convenient curbside pick up for local students and are shipped to those outside of the Niagara region. For students wishing to remain in their hometowns while continuing their educational experience, the kits have been essential.

    Similarly, Holten-Andersen, aware of the necessity of audiovisual equipment for supporting photography, sound and video courses, has added to the initiative.

    McBay and Holten-Andersen have established a central distribution point in the MWS151 Foundation Studio at the MIWSFPA. The room is large enough to allow for required physical distancing and is staffed by one student monitor during weekdays.

    Access to the room is limited to one student at a time using all pandemic protocols including required personal protective equipment. As a result, students can safely visit the distribution centre and access art materials and digital equipment, all in one place.

    “Despite the limitations of not being able to access the usual range of materials available in the VISA Art Stores and Equipment Kiosk, students have been able to meet all their project objectives through the distribution of materials kits at the pickup centre,” McBay says.

    Students have had to get creative with the supplies they have available to them.

    “These are real-life challenges that artists might face in their career, and circumstances students would not usually encounter in an academic experience prior to the pandemic,” McBay says.

    For audiovisual equipment, students are able to submit online equipment requests that are fulfilled within 24 hours, using MWS151 as the pickup hub where items get loaned out and returned. This method has shifted the equipment consultations from an in-person approach to a remote approach via email, phone or video conferencing.

    “At times, consultations are extremely necessary as I am able to provide expertise on what is the most suitable equipment for a production; and most importantly, what accessories are needed to properly support a production,” Holten-Andersen says.

    Although students have gained new experiences from the current circumstances, the two instructors look forward to resuming their previous mode of operation once it is safe to do so as per University and public health protocols.

    While the new system is working, Holten-Andersen says conversations had during in-person occurrences of the past are simply irreplaceable and certainly missed.

    “It is a precious moment to notice the realization in a student’s eye as they tap on the creative opportunities that professional equipment can grant,” he says.

    McBay echoes this sentiment.

    “We very much look forward to when the VISA spaces come back to life with the vigour, curiosity and vibrance students bring into our campus.”

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  • Jan. 18, 2021: Walker Cultural Leaders Series features artists Jamelie Hassan & Ron Benner

    The Walker Cultural Leader Series continues in 2021, beginning with an engaging talk from artists Jamelie Hassan and Ron Benner on Monday, Jan. 18. The series continues in a virtual format for the 2021 season.

    Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at 7 p.m.

    View the presentation premiere and join in the chat on the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts YouTube channel.

    Jamelie Hassan, born in London, Ontario, of Arabic background, is a visual artist and long-time member of CARFAC who is also active as a lecturer, writer, and independent curator. She has organized both national and international programs including Orientalism and Ephemera, a national touring exhibition, originally presented at Art Metropole, Toronto and most recently Dar’a/Full Circle for Artcite Inc. Windsor, ON. She was one of the founders of two artist-run centres in London, Ontario: the Forest City Gallery (1973-present) and the Embassy Cultural House (1983-1990). Her work is represented in numerous public collections in Canada and internationally, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Morris & Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC ; and the Library of Alexandria ,Alexandria, Egypt. Other recent projects and group exhibitions where her works have been featured include, Here: Contemporary Canadian Art, curated by Swapnaa Tamhane, Aga Khan Museum (2017); Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971 -1989, curated by Wanda Nanibush, Art Gallery of Ontario (2016 – 2017); In Order to Join: the Political in a Historical Moment, organized by Museum Abteilberg in Monchengladbach, Germany (2013-14) and Mumbai, India (2015). Receipient of numerous awards, in  2001 she received the Govenor General’s Award in Visual Arts and in 2018 an honorary doctorate from OCAD University, Toronto. For more information visit:www.jameliehassan.ca 

    Ron Benner is an internationally recognized, London, Ontario – based artist whose longstanding practice investigates the history and political economy of food cultures. Benner originally studied agriculture engineering at the University of Guelph 1969/70. Finding himself ethically opposed to industrial agriculture and bioengineering, he began to travel and research the politics of food. In 1995, he began working with Rural Advancement Foundation International, Ottawa (RAFI). In 2000 he was awarded the Canada Council Studio in Paris. In 2005 he participated in Art, Geography and Invisibility at an international geography symposium in Olot, Catalonia, the University of Barcelona, Spain. In 2010 he was appointed Adjunct Research Professor in the Visual Arts Department, Western University, London, ON. Ron Benner’s mixed media installation works, including commissions of  photographic-garden installations, have been shown in solo and group exhibitions at Museum London, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Western University, London, Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario and many other galleries, museums and cultural institutions in Canada and internationally. His work is included in numerous public collections both in Canada and internationally including the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He has recently been appointed artist in residence in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, 2020-2023. For more information, please visit:www.ronbenner.ca

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  • Brock Mitacs award winner takes a closer look at online conspiracy theories

    Originally published in  The Brock News  FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020 | by 

    The images we encounter in everyday life have always had an important role to play in our lives. Now, as many daily activities have moved online, these images have the ability to reach a global audience thanks to digital technology.

    But how has this online shift affected the visual culture of conspiracy theories, and what are the implications for society during a pandemic?

    Brock University fourth-year student Ian Ball is examining these questions as part of his research on visual culture and online conspiracy theoriesBall is pursuing a double major in the History of Art and Visual Culture and Dramatic Arts and is a recipient of a Mitacs Research Training Award which he received in the summer.

    Guiding the research project is Linda Steer, Associate Professor in Visual Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    In his research, Ball has been collecting and analyzing visual images associated with online conspiracy theories. His interest in the subject stems from his area of study, a deep interest in folklore as well as being a fan of the science fiction genre.

    Through the examination and analysis of the images used in relation to conspiracy theories on popular social networking sites, including Facebook and Reddit, Ball has discovered some of the effects these images have on viewers and the emotional responses produced.

    According to Ball, this is especially timely given the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting uncertainty people have been experiencing.

    “A world event that is disrupting the status quo, a lack of control socially, politically, intellectually or in our personal lives, all have the potential to make us feel uncertain,” says Ball. “Research has shown that these factors might play a significant role in conspiratorial beliefs.”

    Ball had originally considered writing an essay on this topic, but Steer suggested a blog because of the accessibility it offers readers.

    “It has been great to supervise Ian’s fascinating and timely research project,” Steer says. “In a world that feels unstable, where we are isolated and looking to social media for answers, images have a lot of power.”

    Ball’s research has uncovered themes relating conspiracy theories to collective experiences of fear, society’s want for protection, and the instinctual desire for control. His project is adding to the discourse on the visual culture of conspiratorial beliefs, a research area that Steer says is fairly new and still developing.

    “It is important that we understand how visual images create meaning: how and why they become attached to certain ideas and how those ideas circulate,” she says.

    Graduating in 2021, Ball plans to use this research project as a foundation for his master’s thesis, looking at the relationships between folklore, visual culture, social messaging, critical thinking and misinformation.

    Visit Ball’s research blog to learn more about the outcomes of his work.

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  • Brock students create innovative video art in the age of COVID-19

    Caption: Pictured above, Brock students create pandemic video art for class VISA/IASC 2PN7 “Video Art”. Clockwise from top left: Lindsay Liboiron, Isolation; Ama Okafor, A Little Adjustment; Christy Mitchell, Saudade; Jamie Wong, Screen Recording 2020-11-04 at 1.46.14PM.mp4

    As most learning this fall has happened through a screen, Brock arts students have picked up their cameras to explore the new look of video art during a pandemic.

    Students taking Video Art (VISA/IASC 2P97) are virtually screening their reflective and experiential videos in a new series entitled “Video Art in the Age of COVID-19” that can now be viewed on the Department of Visual Arts website and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) YouTube channel.

    This project is led by Donna Szoke, media artist and Associate Professor in Studio Art at the MIWSFPA and supported by an Experiential Education grant from the Centre of Pedagogical Innovation at Brock University.

    As part of the creative and academic process to create the videos, students considered how the pandemic has changed video art and how new visual interfaces have marked this shift. They critically examined the new video aesthetic of the COVID-19 era, and how this has changed perceptions of individuality and collectivity.

    To watch the student-created videos and learn more about their research, please visit the project webpage Video Art in the Age of COVID-19.

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