Date: May 19th, 2021
Partner: Art Museum at the University of Toronto
Sponsors: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Manulife, University of Toronto – Faculty of Information
Project Members: Jaime Meier, Delaney Sweep, Erika Serodio
The University of Toronto Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition is an annual exhibition celebrating the diverse artistic excellence of undergraduate students enrolled in visual studies programs across the University of Toronto’s three campuses. The intent of this project is to support emerging artists and provide them the opportunity to showcase their work outside of the classroom to a wider public. The exhibition this year was impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. While the exhibition was previously a physical exhibition, this year’s showcase came together through an entirely virtual process, with the curators, professors, and artists involved only communicating through screens, meeting across multiple time zones.
The call for submissions was launched on January 12, 2021 and virtual portfolio reviews were conducted with the artists and curators to gain insight into their artistic styles and processes. Applications closed at the beginning of February 2021 with an outstanding 120 applications covering a wide variety of artistic mediums and messages. While reviewing the works, the curators noticed common themes that centered on how students were dealing with the pandemic and contemplating topics that were important to them individually as well as re-evaluating their artistic approach.
The major themes that emerged became the organizing structure for the layout of the exhibition. The twenty selected artworks use a variety of mediums to tell a story of a collective psyche, a cohort of students forging their way through a global pandemic. Pieces such as Veronica Spiljak’s Thinking About How the Future Feels and Freia de Waal’s Renewal convey the monotony and repetition of our present confinement. Others, like Rika Nakane’s Ochazuke お茶漬け, focus on the comforts and memories of home, like home-cooked meals. Matthew Kieffer’s Three Portraits of John Brown and James Legaspi’s magnolia make allusions to grandparents that subtly tug on our subconscious to remind us of the vulnerable people in our lives. These reflections on our relationships with others shift to reflections on ourselves, with societal norms around gender and sexuality being resisted in Gabriella Yan Bai’s School of the Orient and Jamie Katrina Harris’s Strawberry to allow for more authentic versions of the self to emerge. The exhibition concludes with connections to place and the natural world, a world waiting for rediscovery once the pandemic subsides, as seen in Sylvie Stojanovski’s Grandfather (Atlin Lake 2019) and Natalie Chiovitti’s Resilience. It is our hope that the exhibition will be a reassuring recognition of disrupted presents and uncertain futures to allow for solidarity and hope to grow.
Prior to the release of the exhibition, the artworks will be adjudicated by Adelina Vlas, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, who will select three winners. In addition to a monetary prize, the winners will be highlighted in a series of videos that will follow the release of the exhibition.
We wish to acknowledge the support of Liora Belford, our curatorial mentor, as well as our campus contacts Alexander Irving, Sue Llyod, and John Armstrong, and Master of Museum Studies Professor Agneiszka Chalas.