The BFA graduating class of 2020. Photo: Sara Allegrini/Provided
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Online exhibition set to go live on April 30, will feature video and audio clips highlighting graduating artists

Every April, the graduating bachelor of fine arts class fills the University of Ottawa’s visual arts building with a huge exhibition of their work. It’s a chance not only to show what they’ve been working on in their final year, but what their entire four-year degree has been leading them towards.

This year, however, things are a bit different. When the U of O moved classes online for the remainder of the semester and shut most of campus down in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual grad show was cancelled too.

The decision to cancel the event was made by the department on the last day of classes on March 13, said Laurena Finéus, a fourth-year visual arts student. Finéus served as head organizer of the show, this year entitled Eunoia, along with fellow graduating students Laura-Anne Zaporzan and Portia Young.

“I think everybody is coping differently,” said Finéus on her classmates’ reactions. “A lot of us have been very supportive of each other and just talking to each other everyday about how we’re feeling.”

Finéus also confirmed that as of now there are no plans to reschedule the grad show, but they are staying in touch with the department.

The grad show opens with a celebratory opening night and awards ceremony where members of Ottawa’s artistic community come out to support developing artists. It’s also a chance for the BFA students to meet gallery owners and get their foot in the door.

“It’s a way for us to bridge our practice from school to the arts community in Ottawa,” Finéus said. “We get to meet a bunch of people like art dealers, collectors, future buyers, family and friends.”

The show also acts as the students’ final graded project.

Even though the show and accompanying celebratory opening night are cancelled, the class is still working to create an online version of the exhibition.

“We’re looking to concentrate on the catalogue and launching a website, some type of gallery online where we can showcase … what we have as a practice in general and just showcase what we’ve been doing until now,” Finéus said.

Reine Tejares, a graduating fine arts student, is in charge of the online transition. According to Tejares, the website will be similar to the catalogue, but will feature more pieces by the graduating artists, including video or audio clips. This way, each student will get to showcase their overall artistic practice online.

“I think the point of this online show is less on new work and more on exhibiting together,” Tejares said in an email to the Fulcrum. “We did our whole degree expecting to be able to stage this group show together, so even if it’s not the one we were expecting to have, I think it would still be great to have this show that culminates our program and hopefully gives us a sense of closure.”

The graduating class began organizing the grad show at the beginning of January. The entire class participates, and it’s the job of the three head organizers to help the various committees where needed.

This year’s class was only 24 students. “We’re a very small class, which is great because we’re very close,” said Finéus.

In terms of what you can expect from the virtual exhibition, Finéus said many of her classmates were exploring “political and racial matters” and the idea of “mapping individuals and the human experience.”

Of course, COVID-19 hasn’t just had major impacts on art students at the U of O.

Finéus brought up that MFA students at Columbia University are demanding refunds for studio courses, and while she hasn’t heard about any similar demands at Ontario universities, she described the movement in the United States as “encouraging.” There are similar petitions at major universities like Yale and the Tisch School of the Arts.

The Eunioa curatorial text describes the show as capturing “the unbridled talent of a new generation of artists” and that it “will be remembered as the beginning of bright artistic futures.” Even without a physical event bringing everyone together, the ideals of Eunoia hold true as a new crop of young and talented artists begin the next stage of their artistic careers. 

The Eunioa grad show website will go live online on April 30.