New student art society

Students of all stripes connect with art

- April 17, 2007

From left: Emily Jones, gallery education and outreach coordinator, with Matthieu Comeau and Mark Stebbins of the new society. (Marla Cranston photo)

The artistic heart of the university pulsates deep within the Dalhousie Arts Centre, in a thought-provoking forum for the entire community.

The Dalhousie Art Gallery is such a vital part of the campus experience for Matthieu Comeau and friends, they felt more students should connect with the cityÕs oldest public art gallery. So they formed a new group, Students for the Dalhousie Art Gallery Society, open to all academic disciplines. 

ÒThe society and the gallery in general provide a crucial outlet for students who might not otherwise be exposed to art,” says Comeau.

Launched in September, the society encourages students to check out the galleryÕs exhibitions, film screenings and student social nights. Now including more than 30 members, the group also organizes cultural discussions and outings to other galleries. Future goals include talks by visiting artists, and events in conjunction with music and theatre students. University staff and faculty are also welcome to participate in the society.

Black Sun by Shirley Wiitasalo.

Highly recommended 

Painter Shirley Wiitasalo: ÒHer works employ a deceptive economy of means, yet achieve an understated richness. Never declarative, always suggestive: they demand patience from the viewer." Ñ Mark Stebbins, Law student  

Abstract expressionism: ÒItÕs such a celebration of art, and also a kind of interrogation; there is so much to look at and think about. And the colours.” Ñ Heather White, Kings student, combined honours in Contemporary Studies/History

Marsyas, created by Anish Kapoor for the Tate ModernÕs Turbine Hall in 2003: ÒThe piece is somehow overwhelming (and shocking) in its scale, and surprisingly insubstantial. I think it explores the objects we produce and the spaces we live in, demonstrating their concurrent silliness, god-like size, and sometimes frightening origins.”  Ñ Matthieu Comeau, masterÕs student, Social Anthropology 

Vito Acconci's videos: ÒThose things are some of the best art on earth. My other favourite artwork is Andy Warhol himself. He was his own masterpiece.”
Ñ Emily Jones, Dalhousie Art Gallery education and outreach coordinator

ÒThereÕs a great amount of artistic talent here on campus, and consciousness about contemporary art,” says Comeau.

The gallery explores many societal issues that appeal to a much broader spectrum than the artistically inclined. Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate, and its accompanying symposium on art and activism, drew big crowds and many class tours in February. The current exhibitions also appeal to varied interests: Affecting Presence is an interactive experiment in bio-feedback, converting your brainwaves into projected images, while Material Transfer alters mundane objects into less definable modes, with works by artists from Beijing to Amsterdam. Throughout April, the galleryÕs free weekly film series delves into the Italian Renaissance.

ÒWeÕve had students from the environmental science programs, law, history, engineering, even toxicology. ItÕs really been encouraging to see people from so many different disciplines coming into the gallery. ItÕs an amazing resource for the entire university,” says Comeau.

He also works part-time and volunteers at the nationally-respected gallery, which even inspired his own research interests Ð Comeau is pursuing a masterÕs degree in social anthropology, with a focus on museology.

Susan Gibson Garvey, DalhousieÕs acclaimed curator and director, thinks the new society is terrific for enticing all students to feel comfortable with art in a gallery setting.

ÒYou can just come here and É be É and thatÕs important,” says Gibson Garvey, who recently earned the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) award for her extraordinary contributions to CanadaÕs visual culture.

ÒYou donÕt have to say anything or do anything. We had a student who would come here every day during one exhibition just to lie down on the carpet. From this position, he would gaze up at two large carved masks by (Maliseet artist) Ned Bear. He said he found them relaxing."

To learn more about the society or the gallery, call 494.2403, email, or see Or better yet, drop by Ð the gallery is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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