The Art Matters Festival is the first and only non-profit, student-run festival in North America. It enters a new decade this year as it presents its most professional edition yet.
Showcasing works in galleries across Montreal for more than two weeks is a lot of work, but the 11th edition of Art Matters wants its viewers to look beyond just the art. “All of the shows this year will really question our notions and our understandings of what art is and what it can do,” co-producer Stephanie Laoun explained.
According to festival co-producer Helen Adilia Arceyut-Frixione, this year the festival aims at achieving global greatness. “We want to expand and eventually include collaborations with other universities. There’s a whole world outside Concordia and we want to bridge some of those connections.” Other universities have started taking notice of their work and Art Matters has created great relationships with many galleries.
What started out as a 25th anniversary show for the Fine Arts department has become one of the biggest celebrations of student art in the world. This year, a tight 123-page retrospective publication was created featuring works, quotes, and reactions from the last 10 years.
With 400 artist applications from students in Fine Arts and every other program, cutting the talent down to 200 wasn’t easy. “We feel we have the best of the best this year,” explained Arceyut-Frixione. “If an artist’s work wasn’t chosen, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t good enough, it just didn’t fit a certain theme,” she said. With 16 different shows planned for this year, there wasn’t enough room for every artist’s sculpture or painting.
Carla Sifoni, a curator for the show The New Abstraction: The Rebirth of Abstract Painting in Contemporary Art, explained that painting has become underrated. “You will be absorbed by the movements and colour,” Sifoni explained. “Visitors will experience a variety of feelings induced by this sublime element,” explained co-curator Eliana Stratica.
Evan Stanfield, a fine arts student originally from Vancouver, was accepted as part of The New Abstraction. Stanfield’s pieces are acrylic paintings of found vintage fabrics. Colourful and large in size, “it’s difficult to tell what’s been painted, and what the fabric is” in his paintings, he explained.
Laoun mentioned that this is the first professional experience for many of the artists. “These emerging artists are the big artists of tomorrow,” she said. This is the case for first-time participant fine arts student Annie Burgess. While Stanfield’s paintings are calculated, Burgess’s are not. “My artwork is very spontaneous. It’s reflective of the process and pleasure of the act of painting,” Burgess said.
Beyond the hard work is the partying. This year, a special Nuit Blanche event took place shortly before the launch party in order to make this 11th edition a memorable one. The official launch party takes place March 4 at l’Espace Reunion. A live concert with five bands, two DJ sets and free alcohol is enough to get anyone into the art scene.
If paintings are not your thing, don’t worry. From theatre acts and music to dance and experimental works, the festival has something for everyone. Not only does the art challenge the viewer, but the spaces where it will be displayed have been chosen to compliment the message of the works. As Arceyut-Frixione explained, “there is something about seeing art first hand. [You’re] close enough to touch it, and you know you can’t.”
Art Matters runs from March 1 to 19 in venues such as Articule, Les Territoires and Eastern Bloc. The launch party takes place March 4 at l’Espace Reunion, 6600 Hutchinson St. Student tickets are $5 and are on sale in the FOFA atrium in the EV March 1 and 2. For more info, check out www.artmattersfestival.com.