Partners in Art (PIA) prides itself on its unique educational opportunities, whether visiting local galleries and studios or touring remote museums on International trips. In March 2020, when it became apparent that physical distancing was necessary to ensure one another’s safety, PIA, like many arts organizations, had to assess its upcoming plans and adapt its offerings. A month later, PIA produced its first virtual Education.
Sanctuary was an impressive group exhibition consisting of 36 Canadian and international artists exhibiting at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Ontario. Curated by Dr. Michael Chagnon, Sanctuary displayed vibrant, commissioned woven rugs from around the world, including notable artists Mona Hatoum and Brendan Fernandes. Prior to the COVID-19 global health crisis, PIA had reviewed this ambitious project and became one of its main supporters, anticipating being able to tour the exhibit in person.
On April 30th, PIA was able to virtually visit the museum and attend a guided tour of the exhibition which reflected artists’ personal responses to the idea of sanctuary — whether that meant “refuge, sacred space, place of beauty, or something entirely unique” (Dr. Michael Chagnon). The 36 artworks in the exhibition are spectacularly varied, reflecting the great diversity of the artists’ heritages, philosophies, and histories — many of which include experiences as refugees and migrants. It was remarked during the tour that PIA members felt the exhibition to be even more timely as much of the population found themselves adhering to “stay home” orders, thus seeking sanctuary (from the epidemic) themselves. Dr. Chagnon made note that the exhibition was specifically designed for interaction: with rugs placed strategically on the floor, visitors were meant to sit on the commissioned rugs and find comfort in their physical and metaphorical beauty.
PIA’s first virtual education was such a great success, with 62 members in attendance, the organization decided to continue with this successful online model. On May 13th, PIA gathered again to visit the exhibition of Kristine Moran at Daniel Faria Gallery. Highlighting Utopias Come in Waves this virtual tour consisted of a thoughtful introduction by Daniel Faria, gallery owner and director, and a studio visit with artist Kristine Moran based in Owen Sound. PIA members remarked that on a past trip they visited Moran in her studio when she was based in New York, and were excited to see how her practice evolved since then.
The artists referred to the imagery in her painting as “mad cap” or “black cap” swimmers and explained how she took up long distance swimming as a way to combat anxiety around the then upcoming American political election of 2016. The work meant to imbue narrative as well as feelings of ebbs and flows, were created as a nod to Frank Stella’s Protractor series from the late ‘60s. Utilizing a more abstract visual language, Moran also presented her new landscape series that embraced an interchangeable figure/ground relationship on a smaller scale.
Attendees also made note that the title of exhibition seemed fitting now in regards to the heightened anxieties around COVID-19, and the activities and coping mechanisms many have put in place to deal with our ever-challenging realities of 2020.