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By Kristine Power

The walls of the First Space Gallery in the Queen Elizabeth II Library currently showcase a quarter of a century’s worth of work from Memorial University visual arts graduates.

The gallery’s latest exhibit is titled 25 Years of Graduates from the Visual Arts Program at Grenfell Campus.

The program, created in 1988, has produced 360 graduates. The pieces on display at First Space are as varied as the 29 contributing artists themselves. Video installation, acrylic on plywood, needle felted wool, intaglio . . . the list continues as you wander the perimeter of the gallery.

1/ Lines

Leanne Ward, chalk on wood panel

Photo: Chris Hammond

2/ Rrose

Dale Roberts, needle felted wool on foam

Photo: Chris Hammond

3/ Lake and Cabin II

Mike Gough, acrylic, pastel and graphite on panel

Photo: Chris Hammond

4/ Last Row

Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara, acrylic on plywood

Photo: Chris Hammond

5/ Unexpected Visit

Linette Oates, acrylic on canvas

Photo: Chris Hammond

6/ Ablaze

Jennifer Armstrong, digital art

Photo: Chris Hammond

Lasting confidence

Despite the wide-ranging mediums and styles, there is a unifying principle. Each artist spent a pivotal period early in their creative careers immersed in the studio-based visual arts program at Grenfell, gaining technique, creating valuable networks and building lasting confidence.

“My time at Grenfell gave me the backbone to defend my work out in the real world,” said Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara, artist and a Memorial fine arts alumna.

“Being a full-time artist, especially on social media, having a thicker skin makes putting my work out there easier. Having my fine arts degree in my back pocket has given me extra confidence that is sometimes lacking in artists who are self-taught.”

Creative intent

The visual arts program aims to enhance technical skill but also to nurture the more abstract concept of creative intent through a robust program that includes 10 different visual arts focus areas, ranging from new media and digital imaging to the well-established and traditional methods of printmaking.

“My painting style today is based on what I learned in silk screening.” — Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara

Ms. Pye-Beshara says her practice was shaped by her exposure at Grenfell to mediums that took her out of her comfort zone.

“I probably would have never tried sculpture, mixed media or printmaking, if it wasn’t for this program,” she said. “My painting style today is based on what I learned in silk screening.”

“Love and passion”

Show curator and fellow fine arts graduate Jennifer Armstrong also notes the important influence of the program in helping her land her dream job, which happens to be at Memorial.

“The visual artist program was the foundation for my career as a medical illustrator and photographer, a job I love,” said Ms. Armstrong. “It also fostered my love and passion for the arts and encouraged me to find my own voice through my artwork.”

The show marks an important and proud milestone for Memorial University and Grenfell Campus itself.

“We can look ahead with confidence: our future graduates will be in good company.” — Dr. Todd Hennessey

“Our visual arts graduates make a significant contribution to the cultural life of the province and beyond,” said Dr. Todd Hennessey, dean, School of Fine Arts.

“In addition to continuously impacting our notion and understanding of ‘art,’ they influence developing fields, such as art therapy, animation, forensic illustration and even video game design. Twenty-five years ago, we graduated our first class of visual artists. As we celebrate their accomplishments, we can look ahead with confidence: our future graduates will be in good company.”

For Gallery hours, please visit here.

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