Articles tagged with: FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre

  • FACULTY FOCUS: Amy Friend on the art of visual storytelling

    Amy Friend, associate professor in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, works hands-on to experiment with both digital and analogue images. She poses beside her piece Our Little Dancing Girl, Evelyn, Age 9 at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

    (Published TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2020| by The Brock News {Michelle Pressé})

    Note: Faculty Focus is a monthly series that highlights faculty whose compelling passions, innovative ideas, and various areas of expertise help weave together the fabric of Brock University’s vibrant community. For more from the series, click here.

    It’s not often that Amy Friend goes out and photographs what she calls ‘the real world.’

    Instead, the associate professor in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts works hands-on to interrogate a medium, experimenting with both digital and analogue images.

    One of Friend’s signature styles is hand-manipulating vintage photographs in a way that rescues and revives them, exploring what’s visible and what isn’t, such as in her series Dare alla Luce. She likes to think of photography as a material that is alive with possibility.

    Her work has been selected three times as one of the top 50 photographs in the juried Critical Mass International Photography Competition, and she’s exhibited in more than a dozen countries, including Spain, Greece, and Korea.

    The inspiration for her Vestiges series can be traced to being surrounded by family possessions, the outcome of being from an immigrant family who lived through the Great Depression, and threw nothing away.

    “The deceased occupied a place in our home and everything had a story,” Friend wrote in her artist statement for Vestiges, a hauntingly beautiful photograph on the fabric of her grandmother’s — to her, nonna’s — nightgown in the Algoma Central Lobby of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC).

    Friend looks on at Vestiges, which was inspired by a lifetime of being surrounded by precious family possessions.

    Her grandfather’s (nonno’s) dreams of becoming a professional dancer never materialized due to life’s circumstances, instead of working in construction to help provide for his family, who left northern Italy for Canada. Her family history and the stories passed among them is a reoccurring source of inspiration.

    “The nightgown appears to be dancing, so I found it suitable for the space,” says Friend of Vestiges in the downtown St. Catharines location. “I think of this space as a makerspace of stories. My grandparents danced together; this was a small part of their history, so I touched on that secret history. Theirs is one little story among many in the space.”

    She says one of the most fulfilling things about her work is developing pieces for specific locations. A particularly rewarding experience has been Rodman Hall, where she experimented with new materials, including a 40-foot long photograph on silk.

    That work became part of the stage design for musician Diana Krall’s world tour.

    “Having the intimate setting of Rodman Hall and working with curator Marcie Bronson provided fertile ground for this artwork to develop, which ended up on the world stage,” says Friend. “This creative process in your own community format says something about where seeds start and offers a spotlight to what we are doing as artists here in Niagara.”

    Another one of her pieces, Our Little Dancing Girl, Evelyn, Age 9, is the product of collecting photographs on the internet that strangers pawn off for next to nothing. The photograph had “Our little dancing girl, Evelyn, Age 9” scrawled on the back, evoking curiosity about an unknown, individual history.

    “Even though I wouldn’t say my images tell a concrete story, they are constantly referencing things we don’t know,” she says. “It’s the unknown aspects of making an image that directly intrigues me.”

    Amy Friend poses outside of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

    “In this series, I’m not only interested in making artwork, but making and thinking about what it means to take a photograph, to lose a photograph; an image that belonged to someone else,” says Friend. “It’s a conversation I’m constantly having through photography: making and investigating what it can and cannot express.”

    Another thing Friend considers paramount to her work as an artist is teaching.

    “I’m engaging with the idea of creative practice and getting students to dig into the act of play,” she says. “It gets us out of what I call the treadmill of production. Some of my best work has come out of completely screwing things up.”

    While she loves seeing her students succeed, the most important lesson she hopes they learn is to embrace “epically failing.” Without it, Friend says, we lose the imperative experience of disappointment and working to solve creative problems.

    “My experience at Brock has been wonderful,” says Friend. “I’ve had incredible opportunities. We continue to have a vision in what the School could and should be, and the potential is incredible.”

    One of the biggest changes with working she’s noticed isn’t just within Brock, but the art of photography itself.

    “It’s much more immediate,” says Friend on integrating photography into our everyday lives. “We always have images close by. We scroll through photos on phones and other devices. There is a different type of interaction. It still has a place in our lives.”

    One thing that will never change is the human ability to respond to art in a unique way. She was reminded of this in February when taking her young daughter to the PAC for Family Day, which included various activities, such as crafts and therapy dogs.

    “I pointed to Vestiges and said, ‘You know, your mama made that,’ and she glanced at it and said, ‘Yeah, okay. Where are the dogs?’ It was humbling and funny, but there was also a sweetness to her response,” says Friend. “Maybe at some point this image will be significant to her and maybe it won’t. We all have reactions to art and each is a unique interaction that tells us something about ourselves and who we are at that moment.”

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News, Uncategorised

  • Brock prof unveils civic art

    (Source: Brock NewsMonday, May 07, 2018 | by Alison Innes)

    Visual Arts Professor Amy Friend’s piece “Vestiges” was unveiled at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on Wednesday, May 2. The work, a photograph on fabric, was commissioned by the City of St. Catharines for its civic art collection and hangs in the lobby of the PAC. Friend is flanked by Kathleen Powell, Acting Supervisor of Cultural Services, left, and Olivia Hope, Culture Co-ordinator, right.

    Below, Vestiges, 2018, by Amy Friend, in the Algoma Central Lobby of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, Media Releases, News

  • Speaker provides chilling reminder of Canadian slave history

    Charmaine Nelson, far right, spoke on Colonial Print Culture and the Limits of Enslaved Resistance on Oct. 19 as part of the Walker Cultural Leader Series. She is pictured here with Department of Visual Arts Professors and event organizers, pictured from left, Keri Cronin, Linda Steer and Amy Friend.

    (Source: The Brock News, Thursday, October 26, 2017 | by: Alison Innes)

    Charmaine Nelson worked to paint a picture for the audience, one that detailed the experiences of Canadian slaves and the horrors they endured throughout history.

    The renowned scholar, known for her groundbreaking contributions in the fields of black Canadian studies, visual culture of slavery, and race and representation, delivered the first 2017-18 public lecture of Brock’s Walker Cultural Leader Series on Oct. 19.

    Her address drew more than 150 people who gathered at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines to listen to her presentation, Colonial Print Culture and the Limits of Enslaved Resistance: Examining the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century Fugitive Slave Archive in Canada and Jamaica.

    A professor of Art History at McGill University, Nelson has published seven books and held a number of prestigious research chairs across North America. She is currently the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University for 2017-18.

    As the first and currently only black professor within the discipline of Art History at a Canadian university, Nelson, through her website, is an advocate for the field of Black Canadian Studies.

    Her latest research, which she shared in her talk, attempts to understand the black experience in Canada by examining fugitive slave advertisements for details about the process of creolization in slave minority (temperate) and slave majority (tropical) locations in the British Empire.

    Nelson explained how she reconceptualizes fugitive slave ads — once produced by slave owners seeking to recapture their runaways — as portraits of enslaved people. The ads can provide information on a group of people who often leave no record of their own, she said.

    These portraits, however, are imperfect, since the subject is an unwilling participant and the depiction is written by the white slave owner. In addition, only slaves considered sufficiently valuable were pursued through advertising.

    Fugitive slave ads provided detailed racialized descriptions of enslaved people, including complexion, hairstyle, clothing, language, accents and bodily marks. In some cases, the ads offered rewards for the recapture of a fugitive slave, encouraging white participation in the criminalization of fugitive slaves.

    While the ads provide a portrait of enslaved people, they are also a lop-sided truth, Nelson explained. Some owners maligned fugitives with sweeping generalizations about their character, while others detailed specific crimes the enslaved person was alleged to have committed. Such descriptions helped associate blackness with slavery and criminality.

    Nelson draws on a variety of archival sources in her research to flesh out these portraits, tracing fugitive slave stories through estate ledgers, bills of sale, poll tax records and workhouse and jail ledgers.

    Nelson’s talk also explored the link between print and slave culture. Printed newspaper ads in the 18th and 19th century permitted white slave owners to assert their ownership over long distances.

    Although printers facilitated slavery by asserting rights of white people to own slaves, the abolitionist movement eventually used the same fugitive slave ads, with their references to injuries, scars and branding, to show the horror of slavery.

    As Nelson pointed out, many Canadians are unaware of Canada’s history of enslaving black and indigenous peoples.

    “Slavery is not a black history,” she explained, “but a multi-racial, transatlantic history. Who were the slave owners, the ships’ captains, the printers, the jailers?”

    The narrative of the Underground Railway, which Canadians eagerly embrace, spanned a period of about only 30 years, Nelson explained. She went on to challenge listeners to consider why the preceding two centuries of slavery in Canada have been erased from history.

    In concluding her talk, Nelson encouraged the audience to change the lens through which they see history. The opportunities in the field of Canadian slavery history are immense, she said, while directing her words to students. Since so few people are studying the black Canadian experience, there are many contributions to be made.

    The talk is part of the 2017-18 Walker Cultural Leaders Series, organized by Professors Keri Cronin, Linda Steer and Amy Friend the Department of Visual Arts and funded by the generous legacy of Marilyn I. Walker.

    The author, Alison Innes, has assembled her live tweets about the lecture at Storify.

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    Categories: News

  • Celebrated scholar Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson visits Brock University

    Walker Cultural Leader Series and Canada 150 present:

    Colonial Print Culture and the Limits of Enslaved Resistance: Examining the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century Fugitive Slave Archive in Canada and Jamaica, 

    a public lecture, reception and book signing by Dr. Charmaine Nelson

    Dr. Charmaine Nelson is a Professor of Art History at McGill University. Her current research project juxtaposes fugitive slave advertisements, portraiture, and genre studies from Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Jamaica, to examine differences in the visual dimensions of creolization between slave minority and slave majority sites of the British Atlantic world. In 2016, she was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Most recently, Nelson has been appointed the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University for the 2017 – 2018 academic year. Dr. Nelson will present her research in a public lecture as a part of Visual Arts’ Walker Cultural Leader Series programming.

    The lecture abstract and presenter’s bio is available at Eventbrite.

    See the article in the Brock News.

    Thursday October 19, 2017

    Lecture Time: 7:00 pm.

    Note: The lecture will be followed by a reception and book signing at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Location: The FilmHouse, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, 250 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines

    This is a free community event. Reserve your seat with tickets available at Eventbrite.

    Groups are welcome! Contact Professor Linda Steer lsteer@brocku.ca for orders of more than 10 tickets.

    The event is presented by the Department of Visual Arts for the Walker Cultural Leader Series, generously founded by Marilyn I. Walker.

    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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