Art Matters takes over 

By Karen Herland

It may not be the greatest show on earth, but it is the most ambitious Art Matters Festival to date.

Over 200 artists will present more than 150 works coordinated by 42 curators in 35 different exhibits or shows. The festival will last nearly a month, with the support of about a dozen coordinators, all wrangled by a trio of co-producers.

Over 1,000 people attended the opening night party for the eighth Art Matters Festival at Studio Just for Laughs on Feb. 29. Magnifying glass

Over 1,000 people attended the opening night party for the eighth Art Matters Festival at Studio Just for Laughs on Feb. 29.

“This is really a collective process,” said Joshua Barndt, one of the co-producers, about the immeasurable volunteer energy that goes into an undergraduate production of this magnitude. Students gain experience in production, fundraising and publicity — in a whirlwind few months, on top of their regular course load.

The curators were selected in December, based on submissions outlining their vision.

John Naccarato worked with Sarah Nesbitt to curate Intimacy in Public Space. Naccarato met Nesbitt in a performance class and wanted to build on that momentum. “We wanted to take art outside of the white box of the gallery.”

Their show includes performances on- and off-campus. Some are confrontational for passersby; others provide an unusual diversion within a familiar location.
Shereen Soliman was working in IT when she decided to return to school. Initially interested in the Studio Arts program, she drifted into Intermedia /Cyber arts because “there’s a lot of promise in new media art. It is not as confined, and the rules are still being written.”

She is hosting Electric Carnaval Électrique at Eastern Bloc, a relatively new gallery. The huge venue is ideal for new media work. Besides the expense of the equipment involved, “there’s a lot of set-up and babysitting of the work.” The final evening of her show will incorporate some of the performances from Intimacy in Public Space. “It’s important to have work shown outside of school walls.”

This year the co-producers decided that each student could only submit one work to allow the broadest range of students to participate. They received 290 applications. All of the curators met over a weekend in mid-January to decide which of the submissions would fit within their theme, venue or capabilities.

“We got work that we had solicited ourselves. But later, there were negotiations to decide which of the other pieces would go in which show,” Naccarato said.

Barndt added that the co-producers stepped in to make final decisions when needed. “We wanted to make sure that the shows were balanced.” Curators then had to juggle the needs of their artists, venues, festival scheduling and resource allocation.

For some students, like Cassandra Witteman, the challenge is easily met. “I’m good at organizing things. I used to program a lot of spoken word and poetry events.”

This year, she took on a performance extravaganza in the Belgo Building. The annual Nuit Blanche has been integrated into Montreal’s Highlights festival and extended through Art Matters, who hold their own parallel, overnight event. Besides the more formal performance evening, shared with local art duo, she single-handedly coordinated nine different works, some of which were performed in stairwells and corners around the building.

David Raver spent the <em>Nuit Blanche</em> constructing <em>Open Mode/Edit Mode</em> as part of In Progress, at Studio 413, curated by Charmaine Bynoe Magnifying glass

David Raver spent the Nuit Blanche constructing Open Mode/Edit Mode as part of In Progress, at Studio 413, curated by Charmaine Bynoe

Art Matters is funded primarily by a per-credit fee levy from all undergraduate students, and organizers were able to raise an additional $15,000. Anyone can submit ideas, but Barndt said most students who participate are in a Fine Arts program.

Sacha Miller is a political science student curating her first show with Adèle Flannery. Both of them are involved in the publication of The Void magazine and wanted to have the publication host a show. Miller said the show developed around its venue, Le Cagibi café, so domestic work using fibres, ceramics and beading that echoes its eclectic “grandma’s kitchen” aesthetic was chosen.

Besides the experience and the exposure, participation in Art Matters teaches one other skill. “It’s nice to be able to promote other students’ work instead of just talking about your own,” said Anne-Marie Proulx, co-curator of On Line/Sur la ligne.

For more on the festival, please go to:


Concordia University