Ambition Matters

Art Matters Fest Looks to Gain Board, Expand to New Genres

  • Clinton Glenn in the Art Matters offices. Photo Erin Sparks

Montreal has a love affair with the arts.

That, combined with the fact that the city’s downtown core is mostly populated with university students, fosters a unique environment for young artists—something that has been taken full advantage of over the past 13 years.

Every March, Concordia University hosts Art Matters—a festival dedicated to helping student artists transition into working ones, by either displaying or curating shows at venues around the city usually reserved for more established artists.

“Inclusivity is something which is really important. There are certain departments within Fine Arts that were underrepresented last year—for example, theatre and music,” said Clinton Glenn, exhibitions and special events coordinator for this year’s festival.
“What we’re trying to do is reach out to these communities to make sure this festival is inclusive of the fine arts community as a whole rather than just being specifically toward a more visual medium.”

When dealing with arts that can go from paintings on a wall to interactive games, from theatre performances to sound engineering projects, it takes a significant amount of organization to secure venues that are either multi-purpose enough to host several exhibitions, or ones that can work perfectly for one medium.

With the added difficulty of finding spaces that will work for the newly added potential theatre and sound-based exhibits, the festival coordinators have a lot on their collective plates.

“A lot of the new venues that we’ve booked—and we’ve booked a few of them—have already heard of us, so Art Matters has a reputation within the arts community in Montreal,” said Glenn.

“So when we talk about the festival they’re often like ‘Oh yeah, we’ve heard of you, let’s talk.’ They seem to definitely want to engage with us, so that is one thing that has been pretty easy.”

In keeping with their views on wanting to embrace all facets of the fine arts community at Concordia, organizers say that this year’s focus will be on inclusivity—meaning not only including artists from different programs, but making sure that the whole Concordia community can be involved, even non-arts students who historically haven’t made up a large part of the festival.

“There were a few different things [I wanted to change] but the biggest thing I could say, being a curator in the past, was that I wanted to do something a little more involved for volunteers,” said Glenn.

“We have a lot of volunteers who come out and help at these events and are quite involved in everything that’s going on. I wanted to make it less intimidating for them.

“I feel like I didn’t meet them beforehand; they would come to the events and they wouldn’t exactly know what was going on, so we are doing an orientation this year at the gallery so they are a little bit more informed, and when people approach them, they can have the ability to respond to questions they otherwise might not have been able to,” he said.

Organizing a festival of this scale is a big undertaking. As of Monday, the call for curators has been closed, but it’s still open for artists, and the executives will have to review those applications later this month. This, as well as the countless other tasks organizing a festival entails, all have to be done before the beginning of March.

On top of that, the organizers are looking to form a Board of Directors—something that the festival has never seen in its 13-year history. While it might be seen as a bureaucratic addition to some, the executives hope it will add a more diverse set of voices to the organizational team.

“There were a few different things [I wanted to change] but the biggest thing I could say, being a curator in the past, was that I wanted to do something a little more involved for volunteers.”
—Clinton Glenn

“We need everyone’s opinion to address the mandate. […] We need people to feel involved. We need people to feel like the festival is for them because it is for Concordia students,” said Carolann Shea, outreach coordinator for this year’s Art Matters.

Shea said that currently two or three students have expressed the desire to stand as directors on the Board, however they’re still looking for double that number.

“We are in a little bit of a rush right now because we really want the Board to be up and working before next semester because the festival’s going to happen very fast,” she said.

The Art Matters general meeting, where students would be able to get involved by being a part of the BoD, was set to be on Nov. 28, but has since been postponed due to failure to book space.

Shea said that it should happen in the next week or two.

Although the general meeting has yet to be planned, Shea and Glenn are confident that their hopes for the festival are feasible and that their optimism for an all-inclusive festival is going to appeal to the student body in a very real way.

“Clinton and I were both involved as curators and for both of us it was a really amazing experience. So we decided to take on the festival as organizers this year,” said Shea. “We really hope that it’s going to be as much of a great learning and fun experience as it was for us [last year].”

From their previous participation in the festival, they are approaching this year’s edition with a set of ideas already in place. But there are still some roadblocks.

“I think for the majority, yes, there are a few unknowns there, and a few projects that we want to work on and, whether we can implement those or not—to be honest—a lot of it has to do with bureaucracy and red tape,” said Glenn.

“But I think, given that we have ideas of what we want to do and know how to do them, I think that we will accomplish everything we want to accomplish. Art Matters sort of reinvents itself every year; the whole look of the festival is different from year to year.”

Art Matters Through the Years

2001:
The Faculty of Fine Arts celebrates 25 years at Concordia University—and Art Matters begins. The festival, designed to bring awareness to the oft-ignored faculty, wins the Quebec government’s “Forces Avenir” award for student initiatives.

2002:
In its second year, Art Matters receives double the proposals, 120 to the previous year’s 60, and lasts 14 days instead of 11.
“Far too often, Fine Arts are the first thing to be cut, in both education and in grant funding […] We’re trying to send the message that art does matter.”
—Katherine Harris, 2002 Festival Coordinator

2003:
Art Matters expands to include venues outside of the university, while the Concordia Student Union turns the Hall Building mezzanine into an activist art space, holding teach-ins on displaying political art.

2004:
“Fine Arts students aren’t the only ones who make art––they just happen to be doing a degree in it.”
—Rachel Dhawan, 2003 Co-Producer
Art Matters attracts a record 250 artists—and now includes students studying in philosophy, anthropology, mathematics and the liberal arts.

2007:
“This festival is a clear declaration that what students are exploring, creating and contribution is relevant—and very much matters.”
—Jim Verburg, 2007 Co-Producer and Artistic Director

2008:
Art Matters runs over a two-week period, expands to 11 new venues and doubles the exhibitions from 2007, to 35.

2010:
Art Matters turns 10!
“I think that Art Matters can prepare student artists for—I hate saying it—the real art world. Although, at this point, I do feel we’re part of the real art world.”
—Patrick Lloyd Brennan, 2010 Co-Producer

2012:
120 Montreal-based undergrad artists participate in 13 exhibitions, now held in different boroughs around the city.

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