Fine Arts Dean’s Painted Reality

Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Discusses Opening Montreal to Concordia’s Students

Dean of Fine Arts, Rebecca Taylor Duclos. Photo Marie Brière de la Hosseraye

New faculty head Rebecca Taylor Duclos wants to showcase the innovative work students create inside the university to a greater audience.

Duclos started a five-year mandate as the Dean of the Fine Arts faculty in August. She is already familiar with the city, having lived in Montreal between 2006 and 2012 working as a curator, writing, and teaching Art History at McGill and Concordia.

In 2012, she became the Graduate Dean at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “It’s probably one of the most radical art schools in North America,” she said. “Yet it is one of the oldest.”

Despite gaining a lot of experience from the comprehensive job at the SAIC, she didn’t hesitate to apply for the Dean position at Concordia when it opened up this year.

“It’s probably one of the most thrilling times in Concordia’s history,” she said. “We’re at a place where universities can contribute to the artistic and cultural landscape in ways they never used to be involved in.”

“It’s probably one of the most thrilling times in Concordia’s history,” she said. “We’re at a place where universities can contribute to the artistic and cultural landscape in ways they never used to be involved in.”

According to Duclos, the accessibility of the university’s departments offers a giant pool for creative and interdisciplinary partnerships. She added there was an array of possibilities for artists and designers to see other ways of operating within our world.

“Something I’m really interested in doing is having the fine arts faculty be much more porous and open to practitioners in the city,” Duclos said.

She explained that universities could set the pace for collaborative and vibrant thinking. It can impact the way we live in our city and interact with the environment around us, as well as how we deal with each other, she continued.

“There’s this increased sense now that there are some really urgent problems that all of us need to solve, and we can only do that if we start working together on a micro level,” Duclos said.

The faculty recently started the project IdeaLab, which congregates students, alumni, practitioners and faculty members to create a melting pot of ideas. The two-hour long consultation hosts a series of four-minute presentations, followed by a conversation among all audience members to
see where the faculty stands, and where it will go next. It will allow students from all faculties to hear about each other’s projects. The next meetings will be on Nov. 3 and Dec. 1.

A project called FOYER, a cross-faculty research forum for graduate students, is also in the works. A meet and greet is planned for Nov. 16. In addition, for undergraduates, a series of “afternoon teas” is underway.

Duclos wants to activate more physical spaces for students, starting with using the EV building’s junction space of the fine arts department for mass drawing and exercising. Her second main objective is to open the city to the university.

“I want our students to see the city as the rest of our campus,” she said.

This is why the faculty is working towards creating funded internships, while continuing to connect students with artist-run spaces across the city.

Asked about the upcoming strikes, Duclos explained she respects the students’ decision, whatever it may be, and hopes she has established an open environment for discussion since the beginning of her mandate.

The Fine Arts Student Alliance—which represents all fine arts students—has held general assemblies where strike conversations have occurred in recent weeks. FASA went on strike last year.

Duclos was teaching at Concordia in the Spring 2012 and decided with her class not to break the picket lines. Instead, the students worked independently outside of class and met three weeks later to present their respective projects during a symposium.

“There are constructive ways for us to remain active and at the same time act politically and intellectually in time of critical tensions,” she said.