Pierre Richardson's exhibit will be open to the public at city hall until Sept. 24. Photo: Rame Abdulkader.
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U of O MFA students showcase their thesis exhibits throughout August and September

At the end of most degrees, students are faced with the daunting task of writing a paper and defending it in front of a room of experts. However, some masters students will have an extra step in getting their degree this summer.

For Pierre Richardson, a master of fine arts student in his final year, he has had to set up and maintain an art exhibition on top of writing a report that has been presented to the University of Ottawa’s top artistic scholars.

“It’s kind of strange, because we do have to write a support paper and that paper’s due in April. So we have a thesis support paper for a thing that we don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,”  Richardson explained. “So it’s kind of (a) disjointed, strange experience. It’s kind of good for me because (my work) is always in flux.”

Richardson’s exhibition, “What’s Big and Small at the Same Time,” will be open to the public and showcased at Ottawa city hall from Aug. 16 to Sept. 24, and will feature a constantly changing collage of artwork.

Visitors are welcome to walk in, engage with the work, and talk to Richardson if he happens to be working on it. “For the viewer, I hope that they are finding their own little stories and their own little connections in the work and creating something that they can engage with.”

Indeed, Richardson has taken an unconventional approach to his gallery—viewers are encouraged to interact with the artwork however they best see fit.

“It’s an unguarded space so people can let go and interact with it the way that they want to or need to,” said Richardson. “I want people to come to the work and experience it, and take from it what they will.”

So far, visitors of his exhibit have used the film that Richardson has provided, taken small pictures that he has laid out, or simply viewed it from afar.

“The crux of my exhibition is dealing with my own mental health issues,” he explained. “Trying to connect those ideas and those weird little drawings and paintings and things that I’ve created and form a narrative that I don’t know and that I don’t have an idea of going in.”

To accomplish this daunting task, Richardson will routinely check in on his work and make changes that build off one and other. “I’ve gone in five or six times … in a week and just been there for about five hours, laying more things (on the floor), adding things, rearranging things and adding to this video loop of me being in the space, so people are aware that it’s in flux and its being reconfigured,” he explained.

“I want to build upon it, get new ideas from it and feed back into what I’m feeling and trying to express.”

So, despite the pressure and monumental amount of work that go into the creation of a thesis, Richardson has found his creation to be a rewarding experience. “It’s just been a nice, fun, free place to show what I’ve been doing for the past few years.”

For more details and locations for other thesis exhibitions like Pierre Richardson’s, check out the U of O’s Arts Live website.


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