Friday, October 11

Career Day/Student Night at the Power Plant

On Wednesday evening, The Power Plant hosted an evening (Career Day/Student Night) for students to get to know artists and to begin thinking about next/alternate steps they may take on the way toward becoming artists professionally. The artists who came, all of whom were represented in the Micah Lexier show I wrote about recently, were at different stages in their careers but were all willing to hear out students and answer questions about their practices.
I wasn't sure what the format of the night would take and much to my chagrin, it was set up like speed-dating. There were two concentric circles set up with artists sitting in one circle and students rotating around the circle of facing chairs. Each conversation was to last three minutes.
I skipped the first round because as soon as the prospect of sitting and speaking to these people came up, my heart began to race and my stomach churned. I need to learn to stop having such visceral reactions to meeting new people. I reminded myself that the artists who volunteered to do this knew what they were in for, and many probably felt just as "on the spot" as I did. I also knew that this may be a once in a lifetime experience and it would be foolish to pass it by.

I came up with a question to pose to each one. Since I'm studying curatorial practice in school, I wanted to get a better understanding of the curator-artist relationship. I asked each one about that and got quite varying answers. I got a few negative reactions: an artist to told me he hated "being told what to do". Most answers, however, were quite positive. I got a good understanding of how collaborative the artist-curator relationship needs to be, and how most artists just wanted a curator who speaks to them and respects them. That sounds reasonable - isn't that what everyone wants?

All in all, I'm glad I took the chance. It wasn't easy, but if working with artists is part of the career I'm working toward, what better way than to jump in with both feet?

image taken from @ThePowerPlantTO


This was the first year that I participated in Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. In the past, I've generally avoided the night because much like Halloween and New Years, it's generally an excuse for people to get drunk and make a spectacle of themselves. At the end of the day, I'm an introvert through and through so it's hard for me to venture out into the drunken art school masses to view art projects. In theory, however, Nuit Blanche is a beautiful concept: from dusk 'til dawn, the city is transformed and taken over by art installations, all of which encourage interaction with the people who come to see it.

This year, I decided to volunteer. One of the most important decisions I made when returning to school is that I would get involved in any way I could. This is the only way to meet people and start forming connections so it was crucial for me to branch out. What better way than being part of a Nuit Blanche installation? This is the project I helped out with. There was a camper van set up with a projection about the project, called Carl Wagan, in the window. It was created by artist Shannon Gerard. My level of involvement was to dress in a scout uniform and hand out "participant" badges and information about the project. There was also a campfire with marshmallows to roast.

This is where I spent the evening! 

My "uniform" (I chose the sash that had this badge on it specifically)

The badges we were handing out to the people who stopped by. 

I was there helping out from six until midnight, after working seven until four at my day job. It was a long day, but I still wanted to walk home so that I could see a few things on the way. I was, however, physically and mentally drained from the day and just wanted to curl up in bed. This sign on the ground pointing to nothing wrapped up my night perfectly.

Ancestry & Artistry (at the Textile Museum of Canada)

I love the Textile Museum of Canada. It's very close to where I work and they have an amazing permanent collection in addition to their exhibitions. I have a fascination with artifacts and I love looking at one of a kind objects from the past. My dream job would probably be a conservator or other such career that would allow me to interact with museum objects. 
The other week I made a point of stopping by the Textile Museum and I checked out their current exhibition, Ancestry and Artistry. The exhibit features traditional dress from Guatemala's indigenous communities. The description on the website does a much better job of explaining context of the displayed items than I can, but I can talk the impact the show had on me. 

The first thing to strike me was the colours. The intricately woven and embroidered garments were thick with threads of many different colours and it was incredibly tempting to reach out and touch every item (I didn't, of course). Everything was beautifully displayed and descriptions were given for each item, providing information about how the fabrics were crucial to religious ceremony, political statements, and the tourism industry.  

Some examples of masterful embroidery stood out in their simplicity. The image below also shows the loom still attached, giving insight into the simple process that yields such beautiful fabrics. I used to study textiles, a long time ago, before starting university (the first time). I was lucky to be part of a very hands-on textile program and so I'll always have a soft spot for craft. Natural materials, the smell of wool, and the methodic process of hand weaving are things that I'll always feel lucky to have learned about.

Finally, this image was of a pair of child's pants - look at that embroidery! Is it wrong for me to geek out a little bit about that blue jay? These were beautiful. 

As I said above, I have a real love for objects and artifacts from the past. Even when I go running through neighbourhoods with old homes I get distracted looking at details like the brickwork and stained glass windows. I delight in looking at hundreds year old mundane objects like combs and pens. My mind wanders to the people who may have used them and the journey that object had to go through to get to a place where I could view it. None of the textiles in the Ancestry and Artistry exhibit are quite that old (all twentieth century, and even some more recent) but they still have the same appeal of being hand made and of having a history that led them from the maker's hands to Toronto (and me).