Bringing artful partnerships to the community

With some of the city’s most intriguing works of art – and the fascinating opportunity to see their creation in real time – London’s SATELLiTE Project has become a space for artists of all ages to create what’s inspiring them.

The result of a multi-way partnership that includes Western University, Fanshawe College and Museum London, the project provides a space for budding artists to exhibit their work; an opportunity that might otherwise be impossible because of young artists’ lack of funding.

Artists can organize outreach projects and provide young artists with professional opportunities to participate in the local arts community.

Located at 121 Dundas St. just east of Talbot Street in downtown London, it bills itself as a “testing ground for new projects, partnerships, and performances by students and community members.” The project came about in 2015 when a privately owned gallery, DNA, sought out a culturally rich neighbour to move in next door.

The city clearly needed a space with a “real world quality” in which “students of all kinds can utilize in order to engage with the public,” said Patrick Mahon, director of the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities at Western.

It provides accessibility both to artists and art-lovers, he said.

“While it acts as a gallery, it gives the public the opportunity to encounter exhibitions that don’t necessarily present art in the conventional sense,” he said, noting exhibitions have ranged from poster projects and public dialogues to installations that added a soundscape to the facility.

“SATELLiTE is a great context for creative exchange among students at different levels, and even for recruitment of future students to Western,” added Mahon. With the inclusion of Bealart students from H.B. Beal High School, it also provides a space for students to develop and share professional-level skills in exhibition and display practices.

Gallery coordinator Eeva Siivonen said SATELLiTE is unconventional in its dual function as both a gallery and a ‘laboratory’, with the space often kept open during business hours while artists experiment with various projects.

“This gives the public an interesting opportunity to observe and engage with projects while they are being developed,” said Siivonen.

Mahon added the opportunity to meet members of the London public, or curators and gallery owners from the downtown art sector, is also “a huge benefit to Western’s art students.”

Victoria Stopar is one such person. The Western dual-degree student (Arts & Humanities and Ivey Business) completed an internship there last year. She said the project exists for more than just students and has an impact on the London community as a whole.

“The gallery showcases artists in high school right up to professional artists, which creates a diversity not found in many other galleries,” said Stopar, adding the community, in turn, can see a variety of shows from different groups throughout the year. “The opportunity for learning and collaboration between art institutions is extremely valuable. It is a community space for residents from all over London to participate in and enjoy art together.”