Creating space, taking time to make art in the information age

Finding ways to teach art in the academy by narrowing the gap between theory and practice

By Shelagh McNally

Has fine arts lost or gained in the Age of Information? While it’s undeniable that art and technology are converging, what does the future hold?

The Creating Space For Art symposium, held Oct. 14 and 15, explored the challenges facing fine art education. Artists, architects, professors and administrators were invited to explore a wide range of topics connected to studying and creating art in the 21st century.

The underlying theme was collaboration, so it was fitting that the event was co-sponsored by both Concordia and McGill and held in their exciting new spaces for art.

Day One was at Concordia’s Integrated Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Complex and Day Two took place at McGill’s new Schulich School of Music.

Art was explored in academic, virtual, industrial, physical, personal and global spaces. Provocative discussions focused on the segregation between artists and scholars, how emerging technology is changing our experience with art, and the need for universities to stay in step.

Opening remarks were made by Concordia’s new Dean of Fine Arts, Catherine Wild, former dean Christopher Jackson, President Claude Lajeunesse and Don McLean, Dean of McGill’s Schulich School of Music.

Bernard Shapiro, O.C, the Ethics Commissioner of Canada, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of McGill University, suggested that universities become more dynamic or run the risk of becoming outmoded.

A second panel with composer and former McGill dean John Rea and Concordia Provost and Vice-President Academic Affairs Martin Singer looked at art in the academic space. Rea discussed how the gulf between theory and practice has widened, creating a dangerous division between university-based studies and art colleges. Singer warned that we must find ways of creating graduates who are culturally fluent.

A panel on Virtual Space and the IT Reality was hosted by Lynn Hughes, Associate Professor and Concordia Research Chair in Studio Arts of Concordia University, and Stephen McAdams, Director of CIRMMT (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, McGill University).

Luc Courchesne, Université de Montréal, Sean Ferguson, from the Digital Composition Studio at McGill, and Sha Xin Wei, Associate Professor, Fine Arts and Computer Science, Concordia University, gave demonstrations of their research defining the new relationship between art and technology.

The final panel at Concordia was a visual tour of the new Integrated Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Complex by the architects, Bruce Kuwabara and Marianne McKenna.
Day Two included a tour of the New Music Building, and a panel on physical space for art was moderated by Phyllis Lambert, Director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and featured presentations from lead architects of both buildings.

Thomas Waugh, Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, explored how multiculturalism and globalization affect fine arts studies.

The final keynote speaker was heavy metal maverick and visiting scholar at McGill Sandy Pearlman. Pearlman has been a producer, creator, songwriter, manager and theorist for a number of successful bands, and he shared his views on the music business. A performance by the students of the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble and Digital Composition Studio completed the event.

For a live webcast of Day One’s speakers, visit: