2019, Art, Exhibition, John B. Aird Gallery
art gallery, art museum, contemporary art, emerging artists, photography, sculpture
About This Project

Date: February 26 – March 22, 2019

Partner: John B. Aird Gallery

Location: John B. Aird Gallery

Project Members: Eleanor Howell, Hannah Johnston, and Aline Zara

What We Take is a contemporary art exhibition exploring how the things we take with us from one place to another both confirm and disrupt our understandings of home. Home is not only tied to the place where you are, but to the memories, experiences, relationships, habits, and objects you bring with you. We carry this “home” with us wherever we go: the things we can carry, the things we can’t leave behind, the things we have to leave behind, and the things we wished were left behind. What We Take brings together artists who are mediating their own experiences of dislocation. They use their artistic practices as means to process, respond to, document, and, at times, celebrate their

Shabnam Afrand is a multi-disciplinary artist, born and educated in Tehran, Iran, currently based in Toronto. She obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree from Azad University in 2001, with a thesis that examined the interpretation of women in art history. Her practice consists of painting, installation, performance, sculpture, and goldsmithing.

Ahmed Babolly is a Kurdish Iraqi artist, currently living and working in Toronto. He studied fine arts at the Erbil Fine Arts Institute in Iraq, and graduated from the Department of Plastic Arts at the Salahaddin University. He continues creating new ceramic works out of the Gardiner Museum ceramics studio, exploring history and language. Ahmed is a participant in the City of Toronto Art Connections program, which provides support to recent immigrant professional artists.

Ioana Dragomir is a Romanian born interdisciplinary artist based in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo, Honours BA Fine Arts Studio Practice with Distinction. She is interested in mining personal lived experience and the objects that mediate relationships, becoming aware of routine in order to transcend it to ritual.

Joon Hee Kim is a South Korean artist currently living in Toronto. First trained as a graphic designer and chef, she achieved an MA in Fine Arts in the UK. Her ceramic practice is focused on creating contemporary objects of record and communication conveying the persevering burden of human relationships, behaviours, and emotions, and aspects of life.

Michelle Lewin is a Canadian artist born in Toronto, where she currently maintains her studio practice. She has a BA in English from Dalhousie University, a BFA from Concordia University, and an MFA in Glass from Ohio State University. Her work explores glass and a variety of materials, evoking subtle narratives.

Yasmeen Nematt Alla is an Egyptian-Canadian artist with a BA in Fine Arts and Business from the University of Waterloo. Her artistic practice centers around the notions of empathy and exchange. Through her work, she positions herself as empathetic listener and translator of refugee and immigrant experiences.

Asma Sultana is a Bangladeshi born British freelance visual artist, currently living and working in Canada. After completing her BA in Drawing and Painting in Bangladesh, she was trained in London and Toronto in Fine Arts and Art History. She uses her body and hair to create mixed media works that explore her identity in time and place.

Polina Teif is a Belarus born photographer and filmmaker living in Toronto. She has received a BFA from the University of Toronto and completed an MFA in Film Production at York University in documentary and experimental film. Her work largely stems from a photo-based and video practice, woven with political and ecological undercurrents.

The exhibition is intended for all members of the public. Didactics and wall label text were kept minimal, and written for a grade six level. We also made the decision to feature artist statements on the labels, in order to give the artists a voice in explaining the themes present in their work.

The exhibition was located at the John B. Aird Gallery in downtown Toronto. The gallery rotates art exhibitions on a monthly basis, and frequently hosts independent curators.

Planning What We Take began in October 2018. At the beginning of November, we launched a website to receive submissions for our open call for artists. The theme of home, displacement, and dislocation were loosely defined at this point, and we solicited works of art from local, emerging artists that dealt with these topics. We selected artists with the assistance of a jury in January 2019, and began writing the process of exhibition design, interpretative planning, and production of marketing materials. We wanted the exhibition to be welcoming to visitors – even those who might be uncomfortable or unfamiliar with contemporary art. We focused our interpretive efforts on creating dialogue, situating the artists as individuals, and encouraging interactivity. This included development of a feedback station, which allowed visitors to write and post responses to the exhibition on a wall near the gallery exit.

Our marketing strategy involved reaching out to local news agencies and arts organizations to share details about the exhibition. We also posted in several relevant newsletters, and created social media pages to advertise. The exhibition also had a brochure catalogue, which was made available at the gallery and distributed to local businesses to reach local audiences. The exhibition was attended by close to 500 visitors over its month long run, and we received positive visitor responses at the opening reception, educational programs, feedback station, and via the exhibition guestbook.

We would like to thank our sponsors for their generous support of this exhibition. Our project was funded through grants from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, School of Cities, and Centre for Community Partnerships, as well as donations from the UTGSU and private donors. We also received in-kind donations from KKP Printing and Kensington Brewery.