BFA has ‘lots to say’

Fourth-year BFA students organize a new exhibition

Lianne Suggitt, BFA ’12, had her oil painting Lingering exhibited at Union Gallery in November last year.
Lianne Suggitt, BFA ’12, had her oil painting Lingering exhibited at Union Gallery in November last year.

This year’s graduating BFA class is taking matters into their own hands.

In previous years, fourth-year BFA students have exhibited their work at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in a show called BFA Select. In September, students were told the campus gallery wouldn’t host the event this year.

“It was less about money and more about time,” said Heather Smith, BFA ’12, adding that she understood the Agnes’ chief curator Jan Allan had numerous other commitments.

In response to the gallery’s decision, Smith and 13 of her peers organized a surrogate art show called Prologue at a new venue on Princess Street. Keystone Property Management donated the off-campus space to the artists.

Though the unavailability of the Agnes inspired the development of Prologue, Smith said it has become an entirely different event from the original show, BFA Select.

“I don’t see it as our replacement Agnes show,” she said. “Maybe we lost this opportunity that we thought we were going to have at the Agnes but … it allowed for us to be a bit entrepreneurial and find our own ways to show our work.”

The appropriately-titled initiative is similar to the Agnes show in that it precedes the graduating class’ annual end-of-year exhibition. One difference between Prologue and BFA Select is the type of experience the artists gain, Smith said.

This year’s presentation of BFA students’ final works, Suspend Your Disbelief, will be held in Ontario Hall.

“From what I understand,” Smith said of BFA Select, “it was a lot about working with a curator and on a much more professional level. So that’s a very different experience than what we’re having now, trying to put something together ourselves.

“They’re both valuable experiences, but they are very different.”

The slogan for this year’s Prologue is “We’ve got lots to say.”

“We like to promote our class and our program as this vibrant and worthwhile thing — that we’re not just sitting back in Ontario Hall where we’re isolated and no one can reach us,” Smith said.

Although the exhibition only offers paintings and prints, thematically and stylistically it showcases a diverse collection of works.

“It’s a show that is supposed to highlight the diversity of our group. We’re all saying a lot of different things in these works of art,” she said.

Though Smith and her peers won’t get mentorship from a curator at the Agnes, she said they have support from a University technician — who generously brought over tools and lent advice on installation. Smith said professors have also encouraged organizers of the upcoming show.

The venue — an unoccupied storefront near the corner of Princess and Clergy Streets — was donated in January and Queen’s supplied the insurance to rent the space.

“I would like to see if younger years continue to do it. If the graduating class next year wanted to do a similar thing, I’d hope that they also have the same opportunity and I think that they easily could,” Smith said. “Even if there was the BFA Select show at the Agnes, I think that this could also happen.”

Agnes Etherington representatives were unavailable for interviews with the Journal but director Janet Brooke sent a statement via email.

“The Art Centre has been happy to work with the BFA program in past years, for example through staging the BFA exhibition, but shrinking resources have meant that, like others at Queen’s, we’ve had to revisit our programming decisions. We’re delighted that the BFA students have found a vibrant downtown venue for their exhibition,” she wrote.

Prologue is at 275 Princess St. until Feb. 16 from noon to 4 p.m.

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