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Akimbo: We the Centre at Patel Division Projects, Toronto

January 13, 2020 — 

The following piece from Terence Dick appeared on Akimbo, an online source for visual art information:

We the Centre at Patel Division Projects, Toronto

The Saturday before Christmas I took a walk along the West Toronto Railpath with my daughter and a friend of hers who is graduating from the visual art program at the Etobicoke School of the Arts and wanted to talk about post-secondary art schools. In addition to the usual concerns about applying to university – distance, money, size – she had doubts about the hoops a fine arts degree would expect her to jump through and wondered whether she might be better off just making art on her own. I never went to art school, but I spent a lot of time at university and still feel giddy when I wander across a campus. There is something utopian about academia and its dedication to enlightenment. I’m fully aware I’m idealizing things here, but the combination of youth, stimulation, stimulants, the whiff of freedom, and a delayed entry into adulthood can create a fertile site for inspiration. It can also be disastrous. Or leave one with only a decade or so or crushing debt. But when it works, there’s nothing like it. My advice in the end had nothing to do with faculty or facilities. All I said was the possibility of a community of like-minded artists is greater at university. The problem is you can’t make your decision based on this because your peers aren’t even there yet. It’s a roll of the dice.

If only I’d had the forethought to veer off north of Bloor and drop in on Patel Division Projects where a group exhibition called We the Centre made my case for me. All of the artists attended the University of Manitoba’s School of Art, though not at the same time. The collaborating duo of Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber were part of a larger collective called the Royal Art Lodge that came together when they were undergrads and exemplified the power of interpersonal chemistry to generate something greater than the sum of its parts. They also lucked out by having an ambitious curator like Wayne Baerwaldt around to spin their insular practice into something that the world could appreciate. Other artists in the exhibition like Sarah Anne Johnson, Simon Hughes, and Karel Funk headed south to American grad schools where their reputations were established, but they moved back to Winnipeg to continue their work. Of the two remaining artists – Wanda Koop and Micah Lexier – the latter is the only one who isn’t still in Manitoba. But, as was evident in his curation of a hundred other artists into his solo exhibition at The Power Plant in 2013, he’s done plenty to foster community elsewhere. There must be something in the river water that runs through the city because Winnipeg continues to provide a home for new artists. Or there’s the theory that the harsh winters keep everyone indoors making stuff.

Read the full piece here.

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