By Alicia Ward
University is the perfect place for artists to hone their craft. Surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals, they are able to flourish and grow in skill and confidence. But what happens when they finally leave school and enter the potentially unforgiving world of the professional artist?
To help prepare art students for life after graduation, the University of Calgary’s visual arts department is helping to prepare PUSH. This student-run exhibition at the Virginia Christopher Fine Art Gallery gives students a chance to exhibit their work, while learning about the intricacies of running an art show.
“[Push] was created as an opportunity for senior students to get some experience with curating and piecing together a professional show,” explains U of C art student Amanda Hu.
Applicants submit their curriculum vitae, an artist statement and a proposal for their work. This mimics the process that is undertaken with professional artists when applying to display their work at an art gallery. Each student’s application was reviewed by a jury before being chosen.
“We had probably over 30 submissions, which was quite an increase from last year,” says Hu.
With the large number of submissions, there is more preparation and a larger body of work to transport and organize. Last year’s reception was held in Craigie Hall. It was a smaller exhibition in an intimate space, which created a relaxed atmosphere.
This year, with the increased amount of submissions, the push team is taking the display off campus. The organizers had to deal with the art galleries on a professional level instead of working internally on campus, a challenging and exciting experience that prepares the artists for life outside university.
“In Calgary I think we have a very welcoming art scene in general,” notes Hu. “[People] are so friendly and they’re willing to give you the knowledge.”
Hu, like many artists, craves advice and feedback on her work. Push offers the chance to see some astonishing talent while helping students out by offering them valuable input on their pieces.
“It’s art that is from people who are still developing their artistic direction. I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are willing to talk about their work, and get feedback on their work,” explains Hu.
Although Hu is excited to have her artwork displayed, she also remarks that it’s nerve-wracking to hear what people think. Hu takes a unique approach, incorporating her educational background into her pieces.
“A lot of my work incorporates knowledge of psychological practices that I’ve learned from my psychology degree. It’s a lot about catharsis for people who are in the photos, because I often have models in the photos who do some sort of action or process that is supposed to give them a sense of relief. I also explain my own perspective on things through my work so that’s a sense of catharsis for me as well,” says Hu.
Hu admits that her art is a “work in progress” but that is why push is exciting. The artists whose work is on display are just beginning their careers, yet the skill residing in the arts department is already monumental.
Additionally, Hu believes that being able to talk to the artists gives spectators a chance to learn more about the piece, the artist and art in general.
“One of the best things when you go to an opening is that you get to go out and talk to people about what they’re trying to put out there and get a new perspective on it.”