University art gallery hails submissions for pandemic-themed exhibit Halted
The Fifth Parallel Gallery, “run by students for students,” has an open call to University of Regina art students for submissions to their exhibit Halted. The deadline for submissions is October 1.
Until I noticed this call advertised on Facebook, I had no idea we had a curated art gallery here at the University – not only am I a fourth-year student, but I also used to be an Arts Education minor! Emily Setor, The Fifth Parallel’s gallery director, had a chat with me this week about the gallery and their mission. At The Fifth, (as Setor calls it), all the staff are currently Visual Art department or Media, Art, and Performance faculty students. They obviously seek to exhibit the work of Visual Arts students, but Setor says that occasionally, they “expand that to include the larger faculty of arts and performance,” including UR improv and “students from music or film.” The work they exhibit is not limited by medium.
The upcoming exhibit Halted seeks to show the ways in which people in the creative arts were affected by the pandemic. The main idea is to “give a clear perspective and show how the pandemic has affected the arts,” and that “might mean tenacity, that might mean physically, that might mean through mediums.” How one interprets the theme is up to them because the experience artists have had during the pandemic is diverse, yet largely shared.
“Whether you are a musician, or a filmmaker, or a visual artist,” Setor says, “you, [for] one, have lacked an audience, but also if you were in school or you were just a practicing artist, [exhibitions were put on hold] and you were kicked out of studio spaces. So that meant that a lot of projects never came to fruition.”
This combination of what is effectively creative exile and forced abandonment meant that artists “are forced to sort of rethink their art practice.” Setor gives the example of “a printmaker that used to rely really heavily on printmaking tools like a press or a screen,” who might have had to shift to “using natural dyes and print[ing] at home instead” because of supply shortages or spatial availability.
The expression of the theme may also be topical, says Setor, in that “sometimes that means that people have started creating work about life in isolation, or about sickness, or about the pandemic just generally.” The theme can also be taken literally, in that ideas one was really passionate about are simply abandoned, or “left on pause for the moment.” This means that The Fifth is open to exhibiting work such as “sculptures that are not fully worked out, or prints that are half done, or paintings that were sort of left in the midst of the pandemic and being kicked out of class.”
Setor notes that The Fifth tends to mostly get submissions across more traditional visual mediums, meaning “painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, and photography.” Setor wants potential exhibitors to know that they “are open and always accepting those mediums,” but would love to explore and “accept more sort of experimental mediums.” According to her, artists “that work in sound art,” or “that are doing experimental video art or film” are particularly underrepresented. Setor would also love to showcase more performance art when it’s feasible. This representation comes, in part, from the university “favouring” traditional mediums, but Setor notes that “there are students [here] that venture beyond those and work in more experimental [forms]” and the Fifth would love to showcase that.
Seton has been with the gallery since COVID-19’s inception and says that submissions have been “hit or miss,” largely because students have seemed hesitant to display or submit work. This is likely because, as Setor says, “as artists we always like, want people to be able to come in and interact, and have our families come into our shows, and our friends, and talk about our work” when it’s right there. “It’s really unfortunate that so many of us have missed out on that in this last year and a half,” she says, “but that the reality is that this is what we’re living in now.”
The art community has dealt with a lot of hardship over the course of the pandemic, but Setor argues that there are some bonuses to the virtual system The Fifth has adapted to. “One of the pros is that more people see your art when it’s online,” Setor says. “I had a student who did an exhibition last year who had an article written about him in the Estevan journal because someone shared it on Facebook and a journalist saw that his work was in the show. So, it’s that sort of thing where if that show wasn’t exhibited online, that wouldn’t have happened. It opens the door for different people – and you never know who’s going to see your work, or who’s going to share what on what social media platform – that will lead to something else.” There are pros to exhibiting online that students should be “more keen or excited about, even if they’re sort of missing the in-person interaction.”
In the future, Seton hopes that “people continue to get involved with The Fifth.” Her best advice to artists is “always, always put work out there. It should never be an intimidating thing, because even if you submit for this and it maybe doesn’t 100% fit what we’ve called for, at least we know the kind of work that [students are doing,] so that we can plan and program according to the work that’s out there.” More importantly, “students don’t necessarily know what we have programmed,” so if someone submits work about “the climate crisis and the pandemic,” for example, “that’s a great topic that [The Fifth] might have a program for in three months from now.”
“The University of Regina is a small school,” Setor says, “but our visual arts program is great. We have lots of talented student artists and it’s a great opportunity to engage with our community in Regina.” The Halted exhibit in particular, she hopes, will draw more prospective exhibitors into their orbit. For Setor, the exhibit has large potential as many artists may have work fitting the criteria, and then from there artists may continue to submit to the gallery as the school year progresses.
Additionally, Setor hopes she can soon welcome visitors back into The Fifth in person. Currently, only the gallery staff is permitted in the physical space, so patrons can view the artworks online. In the future, a (for now) intangible time when we can safely gather, the Fifth Parallel gallery’s hours will return to nine to four, Monday to Friday.