The graduating BFA students who are working to put together their final show, Ode. Photo: Courtesy of Martin Golland.
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BFA grads transform VA building into one final exhibit

Although creating art is normal in the University of Ottawa’s visual arts building, it’s rare that the building acts as an exhibit itself. However, on April 22 the building will transform into a massive exhibit for all 43 graduates of the bachelor of fine arts program at the U of O to showcase their tremendous talents all together for the last time.

Ode, this year’s grad show, will be one of the largest ever. An annual tradition, this is the last opportunity for artists in their final year of their undergraduate degree to present their work that has been the product of four years of artistic exploration and self-discovery. The exhibit is run entirely by the students, who organized themselves into groups responsible for fundraising, planning for the opening night, or creating the catalogue.

Sabrina Chamberland, a fourth-year visual arts student and one of three coordinators of the exhibit, says the show is a requirement to graduate for the visual arts program, giving students the chance to experience what it’s like to organize a professional show while still completing their degree.

“There’s no theme. It’s mostly coming together of all these very diverse artists. There’s going to be a lot of different things to see,” says Mercedes Ventura, another coordinator and fourth-year visual arts student. There will be sculptures, paintings, photographs, and video and other media installations. In short, it’s a mix of artistic approaches spread over four floors. 

Planning began in September 2015, when the coordinators and leaders of the various groups were chosen, and things really started getting busy in January. Marla McDougall, another fourth-year visual student, rounds out the coordinators team.

On the morning of the April 19 the massive clean up will begin, turning the building into a place suitable for the exhibits. During the day on April 22, no one is allowed in the building while the professors go around marking the final projects, and figure out who will be winning awards on the opening night. 

“It’s the day we move all the lockers, all the chairs, all the tables, clean all the floors, repaint the floors, patch up the walls, put in temporary walls,” says Chamberland. After that exhaustive list is finished, all in one day, then set-up of the exhibits begins.

“As of seven I’m sure it’s going to be flooded with people,” Chamberland says of the opening night. To help with the crowds, there will also be a live-stream of the awards ceremony that can be watched online or from some of the less crowded parts of the building.

While this night is a busy event, it’s all still centred on the artists and their creations and discoveries over their years at the university. 

“I thought I was going to paint, and now I’m doing installation media video art,” says Ventura, whose changes and self-discovery are likely mirrored in nearly every artist at the event.

“It’s not the professors pushing you. You just come into your own,” explains Chamberland.

Ode will be the best representation of the art of the graduating class. The students are expecting it to be a fun and high-energy event, as it’s not only their chance to showcase their work, but also to celebrate together for the last time.

Ode opens at 7 p.m. on April 22 and runs until April 24. Admission is free. Check out the Facebook event and their website for more information.  


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper