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Student art exhibit curates vision of diversity on campus

 Photo by Chantal Jiang

Curating and organizing an art event can take upwards of a year to complete, but nine student curators put together an anniversary exhibition for the Faculty of Arts in only four months.

The University of Ottawa’s oldest faculty celebrates 125 years since it first opened its doors to students with an art exhibit entitled “125 Years: An exhibition,” on display now.

“We ended up being curators, caterers, promoters, fundraisers, florists, and decorators,” said Anna Paluch, one of the students curating the exhibit. “I have a lot of respect for curators now.”

Paluch is currently completing a double major in art history and art administration and undertook the challenge of organizing and curating this event as part of a course. Having taken up the role of curator, she became a jack of all trades in order to make the exhibition as organized and as representative as possible with a modest budget and very little time.

“It’s no issue getting a call for artists, but after you have to find the space, you have to do promotions and archival work,” she said.

The student curators quickly established that cultural identity had to be a driving force and inspiration in the works for this exhibit. The art needed to be a representation of the artist’s culture and ethnicity but also his or her own personal legacy with which they wanted to mark their years as students at the U of O.

“We noticed in the archives that there were a lot of white men — one specific demographic,” Paluch said. “We wanted to show here our identity 125 years ago and look at what it is now. We wanted to show a mosaic of cultural diversity.”

The archives demonstrate, through art, just how much the U of O has evolved from a predominantly Catholic, white male demographic to a post-secondary institution that is reputed for its wide diversity of races, cultures, languages, and religions.

Last semester, the curators worked to create an exhibit Paluch is proud of. She is especially pleased with how well cultural identity and diversity were portrayed by the pieces in the exhibit.

While she loved the experience, Paluch doesn’t see much curating in her future. Her ultimate goal is to become an art history professor. After she graduates in April, she will attend Carleton University for her master’s degree in the fall.

“125 Years: An exhibition” will be on display until Feb. 17 in the Paradigm[e] Gallery in Simard Hall.


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