Sometimes the most inspiring work occurs while students are still enrolled in university. Consider MFA Connect, an inter-institutional visual arts exhibit that literally connects UVic Visual Arts MFA candidates with fellow graduate students at UBC Okanagan.
Organized by second-year UVic MFA candidate Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect runs November 6-10 in UVic’s Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building; the first part of the exhibit ran October 10-20 in the FINA Gallery at UBC Okanagan’s campus in Kelowna.
“MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”
As emerging artists and creative researchers, it’s essential for MFA candidates to connect with both local and international art centers, and to encounter and share visual methodologies. With that in mind, MFA Connect aims to deepen and challenge graduate student practices, as well as equip the larger academic communities with new records of interdisciplinary understanding.
“The academic community we are temporarily placed in while being in an MFA is perhaps the most valuable part of being here,” she says. “We have an immediate network of support, of individuals striving towards similar goals with a common passion for creative research.”
The first in what’s hoped to be a series of MFA art exchanges, MFA Connect will showcase the work of six UVic MFAs — Conner Charlesworth, Leah McInnis, David Michael Peters, Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, Xristia Trutiak, and Di Maio herself — and five UBCO MFAs: Steven Thomas Davies, Jessica Dennis, Joe Fowler, Crystal Przybille and Meg Yamamoto.
“Conceptually, we are all working in very different ways,” DiMaio explains. “You will find some similarities in the general tendencies of each program toward materiality, craft, and the handmade — the show is filled with objects pointing toward a physical human experience — but this show ultimately finds its affinities in the ongoing conversation of visual art as a form of research.”
Pieces on display will tackle concepts ranging from discussions of labour and conversations with the history of art to investigations into process and material politics, explorations of internal and external gender identity, studies of soundscapes and perceptual experience, the mapping of place and possessions, and an examination of Indigenous rights and truths.
“We’re only in our MFAs for two years,” DiMaio concludes. “That goes by fast and we need to make the most of our time here and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us.”
MFA Connect runs 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, November 6-10 in the Visual Arts Building’s Audain Gallery, with a closing reception beginning at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 9