The Everyday Encounters exhibit: Intertwined connections from mundane threads of life
In conversation with The Medium, Karie Liao, Aidan Cowling, and Stephanie Ivanyshyn speak on the Blackwood Gallery’s recent exhibit of UTM student works—how it aims to capture special encounters amidst an average day in life.
From March 29 to April 15, 2023, the Blackwood Gallery will be holding its Everyday Encounters: Recent Points of View exhibition. The exhibit features the work of graduating students from the University of Toronto Mississauga’s and Sheridan College’s joint Art & Art History program. Since the exhibit’s opening event, held on March 29, 2023, the students’ art pieces have been on display at the Blackwood Gallery in the Kaneff Centre and the e|gallery in the Communication, Culture, & Technology Building.
The Medium spoke to Aidan Cowling, exhibition coordinator for the Blackwood Gallery, to explore the themes of the Everyday Encounters exhibit. “This exhibition really focuses on art that connects back to the everyday encounters that we experience in our daily lives,” explained Cowling. The students’ artworks are featured across a spectrum of visual and auditory mediums, including photography, sculpture, print, painting, audio, and video—all revisiting moments in life that invited artistic expression.
“Not only is there an incredible creative aspect to the work that they’re making, but there is a passion and drive to do the best version of what they can do,” stated Cowling, now speaking about the curators of the show—students of the FAH451: Curating Now: Turning Concepts into Curatorial Projects class led by Dr. Ellyn Walker. He contended that the Blackwood Gallery serves as a learning space for professional development. Student curators learn about the building blocks of exhibitions by dealing with an array of challenges, ranging from coordinating with artists, artwork installation, and time constraints. As a professional that has worked in various galleries, Cowling remarked that student curators’ creativity and ambition for organizing exceptional exhibitions never ceases to impress him.
The Everyday Encounters: Recent Points of View exhibition also marks the first time that the work of graduating Art & Art History program students has been featured in the Blackwood Gallery since the Covid-19 pandemic’s onset. In an email interview with The Medium, assistant curator of the Blackwood Gallery, Karie Liao, explained, “During the mandated closure of our spaces during the pandemic, we implemented strategies that emphasized alternative programming formats and experimenting with new modes of gathering and collaboration.” Liao drew attention to the WISH YOU WERE HERE, WISE HERE WAS BETTER (WYWH, WHWB) project, which ran from October 3 to 9, 2022. During the event, a van—wrapped with a mural commemorating those who have passed away from unsafe drug use—travelled across Mississauga and Brampton to raise awareness on drug overdoses.
Building upon the WYWH, WHWB project, the Blackwood Gallery will be releasing its publication, ORGANIZING OUR GRIEF: A Collaboration in Response to the Overdose Crisis, on April 19, 2023. This publication will revisit the ideas and concepts the culminated in the WYWH, WHWB project. In addition, from April 19 to 20, 2023, the Blackwood Gallery will be presenting the Here, Better, Now public program, which will explore forms of support, advocacy, and political changes related to drug overdoses.
Until April 23, 2023, the Blackwood Gallery is featuring artwork from the second installation of its This Unfathomable Weight exhibition, Movement Two: Ecology. The pieces are displayed in lightboxes around the UTM campus, each exploring the meaning of life after the Covid-19 pandemic and global socio-political crises. The third and final installation of the exhibition will be revealed on May 1, 2023.
Reflecting on the arduous process of curating the Everyday Encounters exhibit as a student, Stephanie Ivanyshyn, co-project manager, told The Medium that she found the class’ work to be inspiring. “We each have different opinions, perspectives, and ideas of how we want the final show to look, as well as how we want to execute everyone’s artistic vision in the best way,” stated Ivanyshyn. She reaffirmed the vitality of respecting every artist’s vision of their work and how their stories are told within the gallery. From something as grand as the gallery’s layout to something as minuscule as fonts used in social media posts, every decision that was made focused on capturing each artist’s unique and irreplicable influence.
“When you look at all the works collectively, you realize that there are so many moments and experiences we all share. This exhibition shows that even for moments we think are mundane or do not matter in the grand scheme of things, we all relate to them and to each other in one way or another,” stated Ivanyshyn. Ultimately, the Everyday Encounters exhibit draws attention to the way we forge intricate connections with each other through the most ordinary and normal aspects of our lives.
You can keep up with upcoming exhibits at the Blackwood Gallery on their website, www.blackwoodgallery.ca.