Clearing Out the Mould

A Summer Makeover at Concordia’s VA Building Creates New Space for Students to Sculpt

Jonathan Lemieux hard at work on renovations in the VA. Photo Yves Martin Allard
Photo Danica Jojich

The VA building has undergone some large transformations this summer to the delight of sculpture staff and students.

Danica Jojich, a sculpture professor at Concordia for more than 20 years, saw two first-floor sculpture classrooms in the VA building as an opportunity to improve student space.

With the help of two former students, Stelo Combatsiaris and Jonathan Lemieux, the two rooms have been completely refreshed.

“The rooms hadn’t been cleaned in decades, literally,” said Lemieux. “It looked post-apocalyptic.”

Lemieux, who graduated last June, had taken a sculpture class in the classrooms last fall.

Reminiscing on the uninspiring space, he said he was “so discouraged by the state of the classroom. I really couldn’t believe it. The first day of my sculpture class—this was a new school year—and the state of this [room] was just horrible.

“It was difficult to want to be in that space to create,” he added. “But you could see the room had so much potential.”

The initiative to renovate the rooms began at the end of April, with both spaces currently getting their finishing touches—they will be ready for the first week of school.

Lemieux spent up to five days a week for four months this summer painting walls, cleaning the lights and scraping the floors—a task he found to be the most daunting.

“Scraping off paint and gum and whatever else was on the floor with a blade was definitely my least favourite part of the experience,” he said. “I was on my knees for three weeks, eight hours a day.”

Unnecessary lockers have also been removed from the room to provide more space for students to showcase their artistic efforts.

Nearing the end of his hard work, Lemieux is nothing short of ecstatic about the “extraordinary” transformation.

“Before it was impossible [to work], we would go to class and we just wanted to leave. The space was distracting. We need, especially as artists, a workplace that is inspiring.”

The relationship between public and private space is also something that interests Lemieux artistically.

“The impact of any space on people is something that we’re not always aware of. We need to constantly remind ourselves that space has an influence on its users,” he said.

One of the main objectives of the project was to give more room to the students to showcase their work during critiques, a necessity the room wasn’t equipped for.

Jojich is confident that the new setup will motivate students in presenting completed sculptures or works-in-progress. She is also hoping the new space for critique will create an ongoing discussion about art and ideas.

“Making art is great, but promoting a discussion of it is equally important,” Jojich said.

The rooms will be unveiled to the public during Bienvenue/Welcome, an exhibition featuring works from Jojich’s sculpture students.

Bienvenue/Welcome runs Sept. 7 to Sept. 17 in VA 125 and VA 126 (1395 René Lévesque Blvd. W.). The vernissage for the event takes place Sept. 8. The rooms will also host The Sculpture Gala, an awards presentation.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 04, published September 7, 2010.