It may not be the common perception of London, but according to a group of Western students, the Forest City was – and still is – the home and artistic hub for artists from around the world.
The coursework for students in Visual Arts professor Kirsty Robertson’s Introduction to Museum Studies class has culminated in an exhibit titled 42° 59′ 81° 14′: Mapping London’s International Legacy.
The exhibition, part of In the Public Eye: A Symposium on Public Art, features a series of maps and archival documents tracing London’s creative influence on artists who may not have been native to London, but at some point visited and worked in the city. It also documents the traces well-known artists left on London’s artistic community.
“The idea was that artists came (here) and were inspired by the city, and then have gone on to leave an artistic mark on a global scale,” said Madalena Kozachuk, one of the students involved.
“The project has really taught so many of us something we hope to share with others – that London has this big artistic mark on the on he global art world, which we’re not really aware of. People think of London as a factory city, or think of Western and think of athletics or medicine, but we actually have a really good art community here. Artists have come in and been able to thrive, grow and then expand beyond the boarders,” she explained.
Kozachuk added London, because of its size and geographical location, has a lot to offer local and international artists.
“Depending on the artists’ desire or need, or what they’re drawn to for inspiration, the city has a wide enough that you can still stay connected but you can still have your own space to create. You can go to the Sifton Bog or surrounding area, the Thames River and get the landscape inspiration, or, if you want to go to a more urban centre, there’s that possibility without having to travel far,” she said.
“It also has the global pull. There are so many different cultures and languages that merge into one here, which is what Canada is known for. You can have the global experience in a city, and that’s what we found.”
The exhibition – along with similar projects in the future – has the potential to shift people’s perception of London as well as its economy, Kozachuk noted.
“London is constantly in search of an identify. As a London native, you want to be proud of where you come from and show the city to fellow artists and the community that we have had an artistic impact. That can really give Londoners a sense of pride,” she said.
“Art is a huge part of our community, no matter what the government thinks or puts money toward. This project is a constant reminder that art is always there and always good for the community. It’s been proven that a dollar that goes into the Toronto arts community puts seven dollars back in parking, restaurants etc. There’s potential for this here.”
The exhibition spans from indigenous cultural production in London to present day artists visiting and working in London. Works from Paterson Ewen, Anna Baker and Norval Morrisseau – among others – are included.
IF YOU GO
42° 59′ 81° 14′: Mapping London’s International Legacy is on display to April 8 at the Concourse Gallery in the John Labatt Visual Arts Center. An exhibition opening and public art walk-about is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, March 30 at the McIntosh Gallery.