Art thrives here

A fine arts education offers students a chance to develop skills that move off the page into the world. Whether they’re working with paint, textiles, or code, fine arts at Waterloo means hands-on discoveries, creativity, and problem-solving. And it often means engaging with and exhibiting for the public. Waterloo’s Department of Fine Arts based in East Campus Hall offers more ways for community members to experience art, on and off campus.

UWAG: bringing Canada’s art scene to Waterloo

When Ivan Jurakic looks for artists to exhibit at The University of Waterloo Art Gallery (UWAG), he’s thinking beyond the gallery’s four walls. As curator of UWAG, Jurakic considers how a visiting artist’s work might relate to the work of current Fine Arts students, or to larger issues at play on campus.

Founded in 1974, UWAG shows earlyand mid-career Canadian and international artists and hosts the Fine Arts senior undergraduate show and MFA thesis exhibitions. It’s also a hub where students can network with professional artists and gallery visitors. Visiting artists give artist talks or studio visits at Waterloo’s Fine Arts department. Jurakic himself does studio visits with undergraduates and consults with graduate students as they develop their thesis exhibitions.

"My role as a curator is to keep my eye on what’s happening internationally and nationally and try to find a way to represent that locally," says Jurakic. "Our students get to see exhibitions up the hallway from their studios that they might have to travel out of town to see otherwise. It’s important to me that the shows we present are high-calibre, progressive, forward-facing-because that’s what the university represents, to me."

SAIL: Waterloo’s artmobile

The Student Art Innovation Lab (SAIL) is a combination gallery and art studio on wheels housed in a classic Airstream trailer. Through spring and summer, Tara Cooper, a professor in Fine Arts, and a crew of students hitch SAIL to a pickup truck and get the show on the road to bring fine arts programming to schools and public events.

For Cooper, it’s a way to give Fine Arts students hands-on experience in curation and arts education. With her guidance, students curate shows to be displayed inside the Airstream, and design high quality, free art experiences for visitors of all’ages.

"There’s something about SAIL-it is magic. It’s that spirit of grassroots and community," says Cooper.

Since 2017, SAIL has travelled around Waterloo Region delivering free pop-up art labs and exhibiting some of the many talented artists at UWaterloo. "I think we’ve worked with thirty different city partners over the years," adds Cooper. "I’m always trying to up the ante and elevate the experience a bit! We’ve done linocuts and monoprints, we’ve made handmade paper. And our students are very excited to do the curation-to showcase their peers or bring in artists they love, to do all the marketing and write the statement."

The Longhouse Labs: space for Indigenous artists

UWaterloo’s newest space for art is the Longhouse Labs (LLabs): a project to celebrate, learn from, and build Indigenous arts leadership through hosting Indigenous artists and their work. Longhouse Fellows are visiting artists withádedicated studio and gallery space at LLabs and offer mentorship and knowledge-sharing with Waterloo’s fine arts community.á

LLabs is directed by Logan MacDonald, a professor in Fine Arts and a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Indigenous Art. A visual artist of mixed European and Mi’kmaq ancestry, he belongs to the Elmastukwek people of Ktaqmkuk territory (Bay of Islands, Newfoundland).

The Longhouse Labs "reimagines what collaboration and community intersections can look like within an institutional setting," says MacDonald. "The project is about empowering and creating dedicated space for Indigenous-led experiences and learning."

Learn more about MacDonald’s art practice and vision for the Longhouse Labs.

Visit East Campus Hall for Reunion 2024 when all three gallery spaces are open - Saturday, June 1, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. UWAG features MFA thesis exhibits by Charlie Star and Ashley Beerdat ; Longhouse Labs exhibits a beaded map of the Haldimand Tract by Bead the Tract ; and the SAIL Airstream is open in the East Campus Hall parking lot.