Activist art attracts crowds

Last week, Concordia students Sabrina Stea, Jesse Purcell, and Marina Tarantini came together and turned the Mezzanine of the Hall Building into a three day long activist art exhibition.
The event took place in collaboration with an annual art exhibit in Concordia’s Visual Arts Building, this year about American Imperialism and Militarism in the 21st century. Stea said her team organized the exhibition in the Mezzanine under the premise that it would be ironic to simply display activist art in a closed gallery.
So, from Tuesday to Thursday, the Mezzanine was filled with art demonstrations ranging from skill-sharing workshops, to an alternative bookstore, to a travelling art exhibit, known as the caravan bookmobile. One table, sponsored by Blood Sisters, demonstrated how to create reusable menstrual pads, while another stand showed students how to make stamps, pins and buttons.
Organizers of the event said the goal of the exhibition was to expose students to the many uses of art. “[It’s about] using art as a tool,” said Stea. “It’s not just something pretty to make people happy, it’s something that has a message and that people get personally involved in the process of making.”
Patch making, for instance, drew in crowds of curious people. The activity consisted of selecting one of the dozens of pre-printed images and reproducing the picture onto a small piece of material by brushing over it with paint thinner.
Christina Xydous, a former executive of the CSU, volunteered her time at that skill-sharing table. “The patches were a big success,” she said. “We had a lot of people showing a lot of interest. At one point there were five or six people at the table and other people waiting behind them.”
Many students who participated in the activities were surprised at how little time making art actually took. And according to Stea, that was precisely the team’s objective. “It’s really quick on the spot and really accessible,” she said. “That’s basically been the point of this week on the Mezzanine. It’s about demystifying art. By making a patch you are making art and sending out a message.”
But skill sharing workshops was not all the exhibit had to offer.
On Thursday night, the Black Cat Cabaret took place at Concordia’s on-campus bar, Reggies. The show consisted of six performers, all of whom offered radically different pieces. Nah-ee-la and Chimwemwe Miller, for example, performed spoken word on being Black, Black history and racism.
On another note, musical performer Annabelle Chvostek focused on queer matters and women’s issues. Artist Melina Bondy presented an interpretive movement-sound piece to express herself to the audience. “People don’t see much dance, especially contemporary improv with sound made by the dancer,” she said. “It’s an exploration of my body and space.”
On the whole, Activist Art Week was a hit. With all activities and presentations free of charge, students didn’t hesitate to jump into the fun. “It’s been great,” Stea said. “We decided to have it on campus because it’s just so practical – and we’ve been really busy.”
Still, Stea refused to let her team take all the credit for the success of the event. “Everyday there’s been different people volunteering, just giving us a helping hand, as far as organizing and making sure everybody’s fine,” she continued. “And that’s the whole point – to have everybody interact and participate and do it together.”


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