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Students overcome hardship to curate MAD art show

By Joseph Quigley [6]

BELLEVILLE – Through all the trials and tribulations, the students of Arts and Design Foundation were able to curate an art showcase.

But several students in the program said it was a struggle, one that that began in September when a student in their program attacked a teacher during class [7].

“It really upset some people. It kind of freaked others out. That really set us back emotionally and mentally,” said Shayna Reid, a student in the program. “We missed classes and had to have counsellors meet with us.”

Chrissy Poitras, one of the teachers of the program, said it was not something that could be prepared for.

“It was shocking. I don’t know any other way to really say it. Never had anything like that happen before. And you don’t know until a challenge like that comes about, how you’re gonna face it,” she said.

But students said the difficult experience really brought their class together.

“We recovered from that,” said Reid. “We’ve really become a close knit family because we are all there for each other. In the long run, for that one student, it might have really been terrible. For everybody else, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us.”

“It definitely brought us closer as a group,” said Samantha Hein, another student in the program. “Because we had all experienced that, and we all were there for each other after that happened. It was traumatic to deal with something like that, but we got through it.”

Poitras said the class wanted to help each other after the incident.

“I think that,  in a kind of odd way, it brought the students together. Because they really bonded after that, they became this little unit that wanted to make sure that everyone was supported, could talk to one another,” she said.

The process of curating an art show was also challenging, according to the students of the program. The entire show was built from the ground up. Students had to come up with the name of the show, which is an anagram for the School of Media, Arts, and Design.  They also had to design the logo, communicate with the local artists who had their work featured, promote the show, create prints to sell, document the entire experience and more.

“It was very hectic at first,” said Reid. “None of us had ever done anything like this. So we were kind of scrambling and the teachers kind of realized it and stepped in and helped us. Certain students took charge, and other students like me supported them. It’s been moving on since then. It was a lot of teamwork, a lot of writing up, a lot of correspondence between teachers, students and artists. Being like ‘Hey, we gotta get this done. Squabbling and putting it off isn’t an option, like let’s do this.’ And that was the biggest thing about it.”

Poitras said she demanded a lot from her students, but they stepped up to the challenge and impressed her.

“I think I’ve seen a lot of growth in the last week of putting this show together. I was really demanding a lot of their time. They were constantly having to answer my emails quickly, be where I needed them to be. Take time, on their off time, to come and help me do things, and help each other. So that was a huge element of the show that impressed me. Their willingness to commit to it one hundred per cent,” said Poitras.

She also said that the incident that brought their class together played a big part in the project.

“When you put on an exhibition, you need to be accountable. And when you are disconnected from each other as classmates, it’s harder to make each other accountable. There’s an awkwardness in saying, ‘You didn’t do this project, you were supposed to be here’. Because they had this sort of, bringing-together incident, they were much more accountable to one another. Nobody wanted to disappoint the faculty or the other students,” she said.

In the Arts and Design Foundations Program [8], students learn about making art in a number of different mediums. The curation part of the program is done to help students learn how to sell their work.

Reid said the project provided taught her a vital lesson.

“I think it’s very important because in the arts it’s all about promoting yourself. Somebody’s not going to hire you because you can paint a pretty picture, because guess what, there’s hundreds of people that can paint a pretty picture. It’s what can you do for that pretty picture. Can you sell it? Can you market it?” said Reid.

Poitras said that being able to market your own work is an asset for every creative artist.

“The reality is, most of these students won’t actually go into curating. It is a very small group of people that get into that field of study. But as people that are interested in the creative field, they’re gonna have to start understanding how to curate their own work. It’s valuable in every field of studying in the creative arts,” said Poitras.

Reid said she was relieved to be able to sit back and appreciate the work her and her classmates put into the gallery.

“It’s a huge relief to actually be here now and just have it behind us and just sit there and enjoy and look at what we did,” she said.

During the opening speeches on Wednesday , Kathleen Bazkur, dean of Media, Arts and Design, said the class has performed tremendously.

“To the students, a small, but mighty and dedicated group. And (you) really overcame a challenging semester and you’ve done a marvelous job curating this exhibit,” she said.

The MAD Showcase will be open in the link lounge until Dec. 10.