Fine arts alums share collective wisdom 

By Karen Herland

Struggling in obscurity in a garret is not the only way to be a practicing artist. Several members of collaborative art projects with Concordia connections got together under the theme “One is the loneliest number” to present their take on art communities and networks.

The panel discussion, part of Art Matters and co-sponsored by the Fine Arts Chapter of the Alumni Association, brought four grads and a part-time faculty member together on March 4. Organizer and emcee Joshua Barndt pointed out that the original impetus for Art Matters in 2000 came from students who wondered how they could show their work off-campus and “find places and people to work with.”

Fine Arts Alumni Officer Linda Rice introduced the event by noting that these discussions offer a rare opportunity for graduates to interact with faculty and current students outside of a classroom setting. Each of the panelists had something very specific to share about the role that collective action had played in their artistic practice.

As Art Matters wound down for its eighth year, students continued to perform and exhibit anywhere they could. Above, a performance of Look in my Box in the lobby of the EV Building on March 12. Magnifying glass

As Art Matters wound down for its eighth year, students continued to perform and exhibit anywhere they could. Above, a performance of Look in my Box in the lobby of the EV Building on March 12.

“One is not the loneliest number. All you need is one person with an idea and the drive to see it through. Then you start to meet other people with the same idea.” That was Luke Correia-Damude’s rejoinder to the panel’s theme. Correia-Damude is ending the second year running the Whippersnapper Gallery (

The successful collective project began in Toronto almost as a dare. Frustrated with a gallery system which either required years as an established artist or turning over most of the sales back to the gallery as commission, Correia-Damude tried to come up with a way to let non-established artists show their work.

He found a huge, unused space on Front St. in Toronto and offered to clean it up for the owner if he could use it as exhibition space until the building was sold.

Although that space sold after a few months, the money raised was parlayed into the Whippersnapper Gallery on College St. Correia-Damude and friends now offer the 2,500-foot-square space at cost to younger artists, performers and producers. The gallery is booked almost through this calendar year and they may soon be eligible for funding.

Michelle Lacombe, who graduated in 2006, had a similar if more formal experience as programming assistant at Articule, an artist-run gallery that moved into a Mile End storefront space.

Lacombe spoke of how volunteering at an artist-run centre offers the opportunity to meet artists from a range of practices, “especially in Montreal, where the anglophone community can be transient.” Like Correia-Damude, she was attracted to the project by the opportunity to participate in showcasing others’ work.

For G. Scott MacLeod, who helped found La Raza Group ( the murals produced by the group become both a means to build communities around the world and a fundraising method in that commercial sales support the travel and community-building projects elsewhere. Projects have developed in Ireland, Mexico, Africa and across Canada.

For Jahsun, a musician with the Kalmunity Vibe Collective (, collaborative process and discussion is essential to music creation. The collective grew organically from like-minded people meeting regularly to share work in progress and to jam together.

“Witnessing that effort led other people to gravitate toward that.” Jahsun described the process as very organic. Each performance depends on the mood of the performers who show up, and the audience. “You don’t have to be a singer or a poet. You can talk and you can say something.”

Finally, part-time faculty member Rachael Van Fossen spoke of her experience with the Rights Here! theatre project and the love/hate relationship she has with collective art projects. Balancing an individual and a collective vision within the parameters of funding expectations is both challenging and humbling, in her view.


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