AGYU and AMPD talent shines at 2016 Ontario Association of Art Galleries awards

November 29, 2016

AGYU and AMPD talent shines at 2016 Ontario Association of Art Galleries awards

The Art Gallery of York University was once again a multiple winner at the annual awards ceremony of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG), held in Toronto on Nov. 17. The AGYU took home five of the 26 prestigious awards of excellence that were presented to 13 public art galleries from 11 Ontario cities.

Shot of the Ring of Fire procession going down University Avenue in Toronto

The “Ring of Fire” procession on University Avenue, Toronto, 2015

The AGYU won the Public Program Award for its landmark initiative Ring of Fire, curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. A massive, two-year project with Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith, Ring of Fire culminated last summer with a 300-person street procession along University Avenue from Queen’s Park to City Hall that opened the cultural program of the Parapan American Games.

The jury’s citation praised Ring of Fire‘s engagement with civic space and its support for community participation: “This was an inspiring public program and rare in how it invested in communities on a long-term basis and the various communities it reached.”

To create Ring of Fire, the AGYU collaborated the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Capoeira Angola, Picasso Pro, Equal Grounds; spoken word poets from Toronto’s Jane-Finch, Malvern and Regent Park neighbourhoods; and partners SKETCH, Art Starts, The Malvern S.P.O.T., Success Beyond Limits, COBA, and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), where Griffith was the Louis Odette Sculptor-in-residence in spring 2015.

image from the exhibition Symbols of Endurance, works by Marlon Griffith at the AGYU in 2015

“Symbols of Endurance” – An exhibition of works by Marlon Griffith at the AGYU, 2015

AGYU’s 2015 exhibition of  works by Griffith, Symbols of Endurance, also curated by Chhangur, won Monographic Exhibition of the Year. The jury said the show embodied an “ambitious, boundary-pushing, exciting new approach to working with artists and communities, and bridging suburban and urban communities.”

Another exhibition award went to AGYU’s first show in its Curatorial Intensive mentorship program, a partnership with York’s Department of Visual Art and Art History. Vanessa Nicholas, a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Art History and Visual Culture, received the OAAG’s First Exhibition in a Public Gallery Award for her AGYU-sponsored, collection-based 2016 exhibition Starry Stairs – Alma Rumball’s Atlantis.

Visitors look at works in the "Starry Stairs" exhibition

Visitors take in the AGYU exhibition Starry Stairs

Nicolas curated, designed and coordinated the show (which also travelled to the Art Gallery of Sudbury). In conferring the award, the jury said: “Vanessa Nicholas brings together a selection of works on paper in an interesting way, giving a new way to look at the artist. This is a well-considered project by an emerging curator.”

The monograph for Starry Stairs, written by Nicholas, designed by Brett Ramsay and published by the AGYU, won an OAAG Design Award. The jury hailed the publication as “a lovely and intimate reading experience”, heightened by the design’s  “lovely monotone pink approach and the urgent feel it gives to the piece.”

Cover of Phillip Monk's publication Is Toronto Burning?

AGYU Curator Philip Monk took home an OAAG Award for Excellence in Curatorial Writing – Major Text over 5000 Words for his 2016 publication Is Toronto Burning? Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene, produced in 2016.

“This text will have staying power and serve to form later conversations which will be both timely and enduring,” the jury stated. “The work is well researched and articulated, the writing clear and concise, and there is an interesting call to action at the end.”

Several alumni of the Department of  Visual Art and Art History also took top honours at the OAAG Awards

Melissa Bennett (MA ’07), curator and designer of the show are you experienced? at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, won the OAAG award for Exhibition Installation and Design.

Srimoyee Mitra (BA ’04, MA’08), curator and co-designer of the show Wafaa Bilal: 168.01 at the Art Gallery of Windsor, won the award for Exhibition of the Year – Budget over $20,000, Monographic. The show was a partnership with the Esker Foundation (Calgary), Varley Art Gallery (Markham) and the Confederation Centre for the Arts (Charlottetown).

Mitra, the curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Windsor, also won an Art Publication Award for Border Cultures, for which she served as curator, gallery project coordinator and editor.


“Move in Place” – A work in the Brendan Fernandes exhibition “Lost Bodies”

Brendan Fernandes: Lost Bodies, an exhibition curated by Sunny Kerr (MFA ’06) and featuring work by multi-disciplinary artist and York visual arts alumnus Brendan Fernandes (BFA ’02), won the OAAG Award for Innovation in a Collections-Based Exhibition. Kerr, curator of contemporary art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, developed the show in partnership with the Textile Museum of Canada. Fernandes co-designed the exhibition.

Visit full details on the OAAG 2016 award-winners.