Many visual artists dream of attending the opening of an exhibition of their work or of curating their first gallery show.
At North Toronto Collegiate Institute grade 12 visual arts students will get to experience both.
Instead of an exam, the students are running the show by dividing themselves into distinct groups who will curate, install and publicize their own work. They’re even raising money to put on the show through various fundraisers.
“This is a real-life exercise they go through in preparation for the real world,” says Lise Marquis, North Toronto’s visual arts teacher. “They start to realize how much work goes into preparing and curating and funding.”
The final exhibit, titled “HELLO my name is…” will run from May 15 until May 31, and feature work from over 30 students.
“It’s a huge project,” Marquis says. “You’ll see experimental printmaking techniques. You’ll see acrylic painting. You’ll see three-dimensional sculptures. You’ll see photography. You’ll see video.”
In addition to funding, planning and running the event, each student contributes a minimum of two final pieces to the exhibition.
The students learn new techniques throughout the semester, with students in one course invited to select the types of media and themes they wish to focus on.
“One student might be working on social justice issues,” says Marquis. “Another student might be working on how society sees beauty. Another student might be looking at how identity is formed in society … How they interpret these different foci comes out in the artwork.”
Right now the students are collecting artwork, writing artists’ statements, photographing themselves, creating a catalogue layout and contacting printers, Marquis says.
“All of the preparation that goes into putting together a big show.”
Many of North Toronto’s students go on to enroll in postsecondary art programs.
“I have quite a few actually going off to [Ontario College of Art and Design] interviews,” Marquis says.
The school has a very long tradition of hosting exhibitions by graduating students, she says, with its visual arts program developed by Marquis’ predecessor Susan Brown and Bob Phillips in 1989.
Student Lauren Grammer, who is helping get the word out about the art show, said that while she is not planning on studying art after she graduates, working on the show will help her with her career goals.
“I chose this role because I love working with the media,” she wrote in an email to Town Crier. “I find that I enjoy piecing together how something is going to be perceived.”
Grammer says she’s also excited about the exhibition itself and is currently working on an abstract painting of a Ferris wheel as a part of her contribution.
“I love being able to participate in this show,” she says. “It is an amazing feeling knowing that I am creating art that is not just for me to take home when I am finished.”
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