CEI Grant: What We Take – Exhibition of Emerging Toronto-based Artists

Written by Hannah Johnston (exhibition co-curator)

What We Take was a juried contemporary art exhibition featuring 8 emerging Toronto-based artists: Shabnam Afrand, Ahmed Babolly, Ioana Dragomir, Joon Hee Kim, Michelle Lewin, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, Asma Sultana, and Polina Teif. The exhibitionexplored how the things we take with us from one place to another both confirm and disrupt our understandings of home. Feelings of displacement are common for many people in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Globally, we’re in the midst of a refugee crisis resulting in huge amounts of immigration worldwide; locally, high rent prices in the GTA are forcing people out of the downtown core. ​This exhibition showcased works of art that deals with themes of transience, home, and migration. It was a valuable and important opportunity to showcase new and different voices in Toronto and surrounding areas.

The exhibition was curated by three students from the Master of Museum Studies program at U of T: Eleanor Howell, Hannah Johnston, and Aline Zara. It was located at the John B. Aird Gallery in downtown Toronto. The gallery rotates art exhibitions on a monthly basis, and frequently hosts independent curators. Planning What We Take began in October 2018. We wanted the exhibition to be welcoming to visitors – even those who might be uncomfortable or unfamiliar with contemporary art. We focused our interpretive efforts on creating dialogue, situating the artists as individuals, and encouraging interactivity.

As emerging professionals ourselves, we are committed to supporting fellow emerging youth and immigrant artists in our community by not only providing them with with a platform to showcase their work, but with programming opportunities that allow them to network and gain valuable skills. With the support of the Community Engaged Initiatives Program, our curatorial team was able to offer additional educational programming during the exhibition’s run.  On March 7th, we hosted an artist panel with three of the eight exhibiting artists: Ioana Dragomir, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, and Polina Teif. We discussed the works on display, shared insights about the curatorial process, and answered attendants’ questions about the exhibit, the artists, and the overall themes.

We are so grateful to received support from the Centre for Community Partnerships at U of T, as the project would not have been the success it was without their amazing support!

Images from the Opening Reception, February 28, 2019:

Co-curators from left to right: Eleanor Howell, Aline Zara, and Hannah Johnston

Click here learn more about our Community-Engaged Initiatives Grant

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