Art as hobby, career, and passion
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Past Present Future, the Amelia Douglas Gallery’s latest exhibition, celebrates creativity from all corners of Douglas—students, employees, and artists at heart.
The in-house group show contains over 90 works by 32 artists who are current students, current employees, alumni, and retired employees of Douglas. With photography, paintings, drawings, sculptures, video installations, and more, the diversity of styles matches the diverse backgrounds and experiences within the college. The Other Press had the chance to speak with a few of the artists at the gallery’s opening reception last Thursday evening.
Joan Barnet taught in the EASL Department for 17 years, and after retiring she had the chance to pursue her lifelong hobby of ceramics.
“When I retired, I could play in the mud full time,” Barnet said in an interview with the Other Press.
Three of her ceramic fish sculptures—created using the raku firing method of pottery—are on display in Past Present Future. In addition to crafting fish, Barnet says she has also been taking lessons in music—piano, classical guitar, and voice—since retiring from teaching.
Other artists exhibiting in the show have found different ways to juggle work and art, including Marilyn Smitshoek, who teaches English Upgrading and has been at Douglas for over 20 years. She said she considered being a full-time artist when she was younger, but decided against it as a career. However, she’s now able to balance between her creative hobby and teaching, with both activities requiring a comparable level of attention, she told the Other Press.
“Whether I’m teaching, I kind of lose myself in that. When I’m doing artwork, again, I’m totally focused on what I’m doing, and the rest of the world disappears,” said Smitshoek. “It’s a nice balance to doing my job. It’s a nice escape.”
In this exhibition, she’s showcasing three vivid coloured pencil illustrations of hydrangeas, which she drew when she was off work due to surgery.
Eric Hannan, who teaches singing and directs choirs in the Music Department, also appreciates the complementarity of making music and making art. He creates stoneware pots and bowls that are both functional and pleasing to see and feel. He finds the two artistic avenues of music and pottery to be, in a sense, opposite processes; while a musical performance takes a long time to prepare for often only a single concert or two, a pot can be made far more quickly, in days or minutes, and the product can last for centuries.
In addition, Hannan often works with many people at once through his work as a choir director, whereas pottery allows him to be alone with his work.
“It’s just me and the clay, so it’s great therapy,” he said.
Carissa Chmelyk hopes to combine her creative passion and her career even more. Chmelyk is a student in the Stagecraft and Event Technology program at Douglas, where she aims to do set painting. At Past Present Future she’s exhibiting an acrylic portrait of her sister, a piece full of bold colour and movement.
Portraits like the one she’s displaying, Chmelyk said, take a lot longer, since she’s able to spend as much time as she wants on the image. Set painting, on the other hand, gets her to work a lot more quickly, as well as allowing her to use many different kinds of material, styles, and colour schemes.
She’s never exhibited in any art shows before, but when she found out about Past Present Future from seeing advertisements in the Concourse and hearing about it from an instructor, she said it seemed like a “perfect way to start.” After this, she hopes to find more shows to display her artwork in.
Past Present Future is also the first show for student Samuel Chang, who has three of his digital pieces up. Although he is studying Modern Languages at Douglas, he hopes to someday work as an illustrator.
At the reception, he said he’s been very inspired by seeing the works of fellow Douglas artists, particularly some of the incredibly detailed photography. Although he doesn’t think he’ll take up photography himself, he plans to at least imitate some of the angles in the photos on display.
Smitshoek has participated in several of the past employee and student group shows at the Amelia Douglas Gallery, and she said she always feels inspired by the range of works and talent here, especially since Douglas is not an art school but is still a place full of creativity.
Art shows like this one, she said, which bring together people from all levels of experience—in art and in life—are a great reminder that everyone needs practice to improve as an artist, and anyone with an interest should absolutely pursue it.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘I’d like to do it, but I’m no good at it.’ Well, the only way to get good at it is do it,” she said.
Past Present Future will be up in the Amelia Douglas Gallery until February 24.