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Paintbrush meets practicality

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | News | November 28th, 2005



The opportunities after graduation can be overwhelming, exhilarating and at times confusing, but one program at Fanshawe is hoping to soften the blow by preparing their students for the real world of art.

The 10 third—year Fine Arts students are spending a semester interning for local artists and at art galleries around the city. The McIntosh Gallery, Forrest City Gallery, Michael Gibson Gallery and Museum London have welcomed the Fanshawe students into their studios to teach them the more practical aspects of the art industry.

“We [see] it as an opportunity to hone our creative skills and expose ourselves to different aspects of visual arts,” said Krista Herzog, a third-year Fine Arts student who is participating in the program.

“You have to know a lot about art and its history, along with different artists and what is current in the art world, in order to bring an advanced set of standards into the work environment.”

The new practicum initiative is called “Field Studies” and was the brainchild of Professor Gary Spearin, who teaches Fine Arts at Fanshawe. The program gives students the chance to dabble with hanging and framing artwork, archiving, public relations and research, which are duties often overlooked by some arts programs.


The students have spent 50 hours of the fall semester with an artist or at one specific art gallery placement, which will count towards their studio class time.

“Being a gallery director is very complicated… organizational skills, legal responsibilities, computer skills,” Herzog said. “We've also come into a lot of knowledge about some of the politics of the art world. Contacts and who you know can be very important in the art industry.”

Spearin added that this learning experience is not only great for the students who graduate and work as gallery curators, but also for those who will work as artists so they know how galleries function.

Unlike Police Foundations, paramedic programs or apprenticeships, Fine Arts programs do not concentrate on training students for a specific job. Instead, Fine Arts students gain practical skills and knowledge in various mediums of art, which Spearin said is why many of his students go on to enroll in Bachelor of Arts programs at universities, like the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

“Artists need a practical background…college provides a smaller, more intimate environment, where students have a more friendly, open studio course,” Herzog said. “When things are on a more first name basis, and you're a small group of 30, as opposed to 200, it's easier to get creative guidance and feedback.”

Spearin said college graduates get an advanced standing at universities and Fanshawe grads, specifically, are always held in the highest esteem.

The art students have spent their last two years at Fanshawe perfecting their hands-on artistic talents in sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking and video editing. With their newly enhanced experience in the galleries, they will be considered a double threat when they hit the streets looking for employment.
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