Culture  Making art matter

Concordia's eleventh annual fine arts festival amps-up its profile in the city's art scene

Art Matters is an annual student-run non-profit arts festival showcasing the work of Concordia University’s artists, along with that of the festival’s curators, producers, and volunteers. While Art Matters has always had a “by students, for students” ethos, the bigger idea is to provide the student body with professional opportunities.

The festival itself is big. In its eleventh year, the 2011 edition will host work from over 200 artists, running until March 19 in over 12 venues throughout Montreal. Co-producer of External Relations Stephanie Laoun wrote in an email that this year, Art Matters has “seen an overwhelming amount of both interest and responses from galleries, artist-run centres, and other important local organizations.” More than ever, this edition of the festival goes beyond Concordia’s fine arts scene and matters for the Montreal art community at large.

Sophie Edell, a fourth-year double major in studio arts and art history at Concordia, is showing for her second time at this year’s Art Matters at Alive and Kicking, a collective painting exhibition curated by Simon Larivière. When asked if there is a gap between the Concordia and the Montreal arts scene, Edell responded that they are “intertwined.” This interconnection is apparent in the way that Art Matters has developed over the past decade, expanding from simply being known as a Concordia “thing,” to a city-wide event.

According to Co-Producer of Publicity and Media Relations, Helen Adilia Arceyut-Frixione, Art Matters was initially created “as a way for student artists to share their work with a large public that is not necessarily associated to the field of fine arts.” In the midst of the undeniably elitist art world, Art Matters provides a more democratic venue, enabling student artists to network and meet other artists and curators. In an email, Arceyut-Frixione explained that the festival is about showcasing “the creative, ambitious and professional nature of Concordia’s student body.” For Edell, the festival is an opportunity for exposure and a “good way to talk to people outside of [her] classes and group of friends about [her] work, and to meet other artists.”

Past years have left Art Matters with a party rep, but it has always been more than the cliche of students drinking PBR in a gallery loft in the Plateau. Arceyut-Frixione confirmed the festival’s professionalism, stating that that “the past ten years have cemented the Art Matters Festival as part of the Montreal art scene.” Even so, attendees are bound to have a good time. The opening party features a DJ set from Andrew WK (he’s also speaking at Concordia earlier that day), as well as live performances by Pat Jordache, Grimes, Cousins, and others.

What about this year’s exhibitions? Edell is looking forward to seeing how the various shows at the Eastern Bloc (7240 Clark) – “Enter the Foam,” “The Closer We Are to Death,” “The More We Feel Alive,” “The Receptacle” and her own show, “Alive and Kicking” – interact with each other. Another one to watch out for is “PUSH-PULL,” at La Galerie ESPACE (4844 St. Laurent), an exhibition that unpacks the intricacies behind the design process in fields including fashion, furniture, industrial and graphic design. Many of the exhibits gain their appeal by taking common art themes and making them their own: “Home, Paralleled” at Ctrllab (3634 St. Laurent), upsets traditional notions of home; and “Beauty in Obsession” at Galerie Rye (1331A Ste. Catherine E.), co-presented by the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, examines our habitual beauty rituals.

With such diverse programming, it’s no surprise that Art Matters has garnered more and more praise since its inception. According to Laoun, the festival’s innovation has gained considerable feedback from students and universities around the world, and has even been a source of inspiration. The University of Gothenburg in Sweden, for instance, is looking to build a similar festival for its own fine arts faculties. Laoun reflected on the festival’s bright future, saying that “perhaps in 10 years from now, the Art Matters Festival ‘model’ can be shared with many other education centres and perhaps even form partnerships with other universities, both locally and internationally.”

The Art Matters opening party is March 4, 9 p.m. at Espace Reunion, 6600 Hutchison.  Tickets $10 on the door.  For more information on ievents across the city, visit