A Matter of Art

Art Matters Festival Celebrates 14 Years of Presenting Concordia Art in a Professional Capacity

Art Matters is ringing in its 14th anniversary this year with a diverse line-up of exhibits, workshops, lectures and more. Photo Brandon Johnston

Art Matters is a testament to what Concordia students are capable of.

Fourteen years ago, university art students banded together to create a festival to professionally exhibit their work to the Concordia community and all of Montreal, flying in the face of the all-too-common sneers about how art majors can’t get “real” jobs or that their passions and crafts don’t actually matter.

Art Matters is now the largest student-run arts festival in all of North America.

The annual fee-levy-sponsored festival will run from March 7 to March 21 this year, proudly exhibiting Concordia talent in the fields of visual art, design, cinema, dance, music, theatre and even sonic, or aural, art.

All exhibits will be free to the public, and this year Pabst Brewing Company will be providing free beverages for the festival’s vernissages.

According to Coey Kerr, outreach coordinator for Art Matters and photography student at Concordia, planning for the festival began as early as last May, with the hiring of this year’s fest’s head coordinators.

“There’s a rejuvenation of undergraduates who run [Art Matters] every year,” she said.

“This year has been so smooth, our team is so good. We seem to work in sync in a really great way.”

Curators are hired in the fall, and artists submit their work for review—this year saw over 360 applications from artists. The curators then review the submissions in a jury weekend and, with their specific exhibition’s theme and curatorial vision in mind, choose the works to be featured.

Claudia Edwards, a third-year studio art student, is curating her first show this year, titled Future Perfect. The exhibition opens a dialogue on the future perfect verb tense, in which the speaker discusses a future event as if it has already happened, and explores ideas of erasing history and the “contemporary artifact.”

“These ideas are of particular interest to me—I think a lot about where we are going in this quote unquote ‘post-modern’ time,” she said.

“I think we have an active role in the ideology of the next generation.”

Future Perfect will feature paintings that blur the space between traditional and digital forms of representation, experimental sculptures and more. A webcam will be constantly streaming the gallery space and the people within it at all times to Width; 700 px, an online-only gallery and digital venue created by Levi Bruce that is new to Art Matters this year.

“Art Matters stands as a very important educational tool for Concordia. The very fact that it’s organized by a handful of undergraduate students, it’s quite essential to the Concordia identity.” — Kevin Leung-Lo, technical coordinator of Art Matters

One of the shows Edwards is looking forward to is another first for Art Matters— Stirrup, Hammer & Anvil, an audio-only exhibition, taking place at the VAV Gallery in Concordia’s VA Building.

“It’s the first time that Art Matters is going to have sound-artwork, and the show is just designated to sound art,” she said.

“We’re so over-saturated with images and we get so much information through that particular sense, but there’s all these other senses that have been, for a long time, ignored,” she continued.

“So I think it’s interesting to open that up more and have some conversations about it.”

In Response to the JMSB’s Fee-Levy Petitions

At the CSU’s latest meeting on Feb. 12, a councillor from the John Molson School of Business put forward two petitions to drastically alter the fee-levy system. The petitions listed numerous fee-levy organizations, including Art Matters, which the petitioners would like to see JMSB collectively opt out of funding.

“It’s important to maintain a community, and I interpret the actions of the JMSB as an attempt to fracture the unity of the community that Concordia is trying to build,” said Kevin Leung-Lo, one of the technical coordinators for the festival and a third-year studio arts student.

“It was discouraging. But at the same time, I’m very curious to hear their rationale behind it.”

Kerr was quick to point out that Art Matters welcomes all students, including business students—some of whom have taken part in the festival.

“A drummer playing at Nuit Blanche and our opening party is a JMSB student; we had a JSMB student on our Board of Directors this year. Art Matters is a rad thing for JMSB students to get involved with, or any student for that matter, because it’s really about developing working experience and getting outside just the Concordia community, and I think that’s good for everybody,” she said.

“I really think this is not reflective of all of JMSB, I think it’s reflective of the people who put together this petition,” she added.

“It’s a shame because so much work has gone into getting these fee-levy groups up and going, and it’s such a small amount of money per person, it doesn’t really seem worth it.”

Undergrads pay eight cents per credit to Art Matters, with the exception of fine arts students, who pay 30 cents per credit.

Why Art Matters

While Art Matters is a Concordia-centric festival, what makes it so beneficial to students is its many connections and interactions with the outside world, providing relevant work experience and more.

As Leung-Lo explains, the festival acts as a bridge between the safe space of school and the unsafe realm of the “real world.”

“There are a lot of entrepreneurial skills that students who are involved begin to learn,” he said. “We become familiar with a professional standard in our field.

“These skills are essential if you want to become a working person in the arts. The nature of the arts, it’s at times very difficult to enter into, or at the very least get […] experience,” he continued. “[Art Matters is] a real gateway into obtaining skills and opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten out of a regular school curriculum. It’s learning through doing.”

Art galleries around the city will be hosting exhibitions for Art Matters and workshops will be led by visiting professional artists, including artists from Toronto’s Whippersnapper Gallery giving a talk on the importance of DIY in emerging art and much more.

The opportunity for discourse to take place between students and professionals in the field is inevitable at the far-reaching fest.

“Art Matters stands as a very important educational tool for Concordia,” Leung-Lo said. “The very fact that it’s organized by a handful of undergraduate students, it’s quite essential to the Concordia identity.”

More information at artmattersfestival.org