The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
Ordinary space was transformed into extraordinary art last Friday night at Brock University’s third annual Nuit Blanche art show.
From 6 p.m. to midnight, visitors wandering the halls of the university were treated to 20 displays of art created by students in the visual arts and music programs. The exhibits were in common areas around the campus, says Scott Sawtell, professor in the visual arts program and co-ordinator of the show, in the hopes that even people who didn’t know about the show would stumble across it.
“That’s part of the Nuit Blanche tradition,” he said, talking about the tradition of an all-night arts festival that was started in France. “People who don’t necessarily come out to look at art all of a sudden have it thrust into their lives.”
Most of the students’ exhibits were deliberately designed to change the space they occupied to draw viewers in and make them participate in the art. People wandering through one corridor would have to go around a makeshift pond filled with pillows and origami frogs and then walk past a flickering video of animated skulls.
“I love that people have to go through some of the things,” said Katie Zack, a third-year visual arts student whose exhibit was a blanket fort viewers could “chill out in.”
Other exhibits outright demanded viewer participation, like T.J. Charlton’s “Sexual Healing Karaoke.” Charlton created a small karaoke stage in a classroom where participants could sing Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing into a golden microphone, but the lyrics on the karaoke screen had been changed from the originals to include explicit sexual secrets that Charlton had collected from anonymous sites on the Internet.
“[The participant] is placed in a position of vulnerability because they’re saying all these transgressions,” he said, and added that few people had the courage to sing the entire song.
Sawtell said the event allows students the chance to create art that allows them to connect with the community, a prospect not many students get.
“Students make their work differently when they know people are going to be looking at it,” he said.
“Here it’s not necessarily just for them or for their learning; they’re thinking about how they’re altering the space and how their work is communicating to the public.”
“It’s been really exciting,” said Holley Corfield, whose display was a collection of fairy-tale-themed shadow puppets. “All the works are vastly different, but everything stands great on its own.”
“I didn’t even know this was happening,” said Melissa Bikke, 19, who was taking some time to admire an origami frog at one exhibit. “Suddenly the school is so pretty.”
Sawtell said the event has received “overwhelming” support from the community in the three years it has run, and he’s been excited to see community members come out that might not usually go to art shows, like high school students.
“It’s been a very intense process,” he said, “and a lot of hard work, but for the students there’s definitely some gold at the end of the rainbow.”