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.